Originally published in the Deseret News.
“Rest in the fact of God’s love for you. Let everything that unfolds from now be in the shadow of that fact. God loves you and nothing changes that.”
I heard these words spoken by a religious scholar on a recent podcast. The scholar, who is also an ecclesiastical leader, was asked by the host how he counsels young people who are struggling. He answered the question emphatically: “I tell them nothing can get in the way of God’s love for his children.”
I found his words comforting the first time I heard them and find them comforting now. God’s love not only extends to all, it shines brightest in times of need.
This week, I will attend a family funeral of a sister-in-law who cared for me during my adolescent years. I was the youngest child and my parents traveled the world through their retirement. That left me home alone during important, formative years. My needs were met, but I craved the care and influence of a stable, loving and wholesome family. My brother and his wife provided this for me. They welcomed me into their home and showered me with love. I’m a much better person because of their service and influence. This week I’ve reflected upon their service as an expression of God’s love.
The Gospel of Truth is a Gnostic text from the New Testament apocrypha found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The translation was completed in 1970 and includes beautiful passages of spiritual inspiration. In the Gospel of Truth we read, “Strengthen the feet of those who stumble, and reach out to those who are sick. Feed those who are hungry, and give rest to those who are weary. Raise up those who want to arise, and awaken those who sleep.”
We manifest God’s love through service, much like my sister-in-law provided me.
As I reflect upon her passing, I’m reminded of all who suffer. Many grieve the loss of a loved one — past and present. Others grieve the challenges of a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s, which takes a loved one before they pass. Others suffer because of cancer or a terminal illness. Others experience poverty or abuse. Still others battle substance abuse problems either themselves or with a loved one. We all experience a measure of pain in our lives.
C.S. Lewis wrote a memorable treatise on what he called “The Problem of Pain.” In it, Lewis said, “We were made not primarily that we may love God … but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest well pleased.”
I love the way this passage ends — “well pleased.” God’s love isn’t a burden for him. It’s a source of joy. He gives it freely and abundantly and often through others. It’s a natural extension of the Father’s love for his children. And, it’s most powerful during times of suffering.
Our suffering or brokenness may be temporary or it may be long term. It may be something from our past or it may be something we feel in the present. It may even be a feeling of fear about the future.
I take comfort in knowing that being broken is part of who we are. We are all in process. And God loves us right now.
In the same podcast where the religious scholar expressed God’s unqualified love, the scholar said, “(God) doesn’t love the image that you have of you in your mind. He loves the actual flesh and bone, struggling, sinning, complex, paradoxical (person) sitting here right now.”
Our lives will be forever changed if we recognize, accept and focus on God’s love for us. We must recognize this love comes both directly from God and through others. We too are providers of this love. Our personal shortcomings should not get in the way. We are all “in process.” Be an extension of God’s love for others and find peace in God’s love for you.