In December, my third daughter was born. The birth of a child is such a surreal experience. I’m amazed every time I witness the birth of one of my children. You would think it might become ordinary, but it never has for me. On the one hand, I know what to expect, but, on the other hand, the exertion required to care for a new baby always feels like joining the Polar Bear Club. What makes it all worth it–the late nights, the crying, the potty training, the exhaustion–is the love between father and child. It’s a love that children grow to understand more as they marry and have their own children.
As a first time father, I wondered what having two children would be like. How could this expansive, deep love I felt for this child be duplicated toward another child? My heart felt so full. It felt like there was no room to grow. But now onto my third and inexplicably I feel that same deep love for each of my children. The heart it seems is a flexible muscle.
It’s no surprise that God describes His love for us in terms of the father-child relationship. There’s something deep and wide, something mysterious about that kind of love. If you do a quick search for the terms “love” and “Father,” it’s instructive how many times these words show up side my side in the New Testament, often describing the Father’s love for the Son and those united with Christ.
But living in a fallen world makes feeling that love difficult. We often know the truth God is love and nothing can separate us from His love, but living in those truths isn’t always easy. That’s the beauty of the laments in the Psalms. David expresses this tension masterfully. We live in a fallen world and it’s difficult to understand God’s love, but God has spoken and assured us of his hesed (covenant love).
“We are not necessarily doubting,” C. S. Lewis says, ”that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” C. S. Lewis just nails the tension discussed above. We often know God loves us, but we wonder how painful that love might be.
At this point, we must steadfastly gaze on Jesus Christ. Apart from His life, death, and resurrection, the pain we experience would seem to exclude God’s love, but once we view our struggle through gospel-shaped spectacles we see that “God loves the world so much that He sent His Son to die for those who would believe” (John 3:16). God’s covenant love only makes sense when Jesus Christ sits at the center of our theology.
Paul digs into this tension ever further. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). These verses follow Paul describing the gospel in creative terms as seeing God through the face of Jesus Christ (vv. 1-6). He describes the suffering experienced by the Corinthians (vv. 7-11). And somehow in the end when we see Jesus face to face all of the struggles, pain, and suffering we experienced now will seem light.
Let that truth sink in. Let the depth of God’s love overwhelm you. We know and understand so little of God’s love, but someday we will know it fully because we will see Jesus Christ. He makes the differences between professed faith that’s shipwrecked by the troubles of this world and faith that lasts until the end. Faith that sees the love of God now and longs to know more of it. How in the world can God’s love be so great that our affliction is considered light and momentary? God only knows, but we will know soon enough.