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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The suffering of love.

It's a couple of years now since my younger daughter informed my wife and me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Even if you have never been in such a situation, I am sure that most folk can at least begin to imagine the emotional turmoil that followed that announcement!  Then there were many months of tests, an operation, chemo-therapy, and radium therapy.

We managed to be with our daughter for all but one of the chemo-therapy sessions. They were the ones that she found most distressing (not, I believe, an uncommon reaction!).  How often I wanted to be able to take her place - to suffer what she was suffering, on her behalf (with her healing as the eventual outcome!).

This, of course, is the very nature of love.  But if God is love (I John 4:8, 16), and if it is the nature of love to take upon itself the burdens and sorrows of the ones it loves, then we would expect that His love would become suffering as it came into contact with the sins, and sinfulness, of the ones it loves. This is precisely what happened at the moment of creation.  As Almighty God, the Creator, prepared to create a universe, with a humanity that He knew would tear itself away from His loving grip, a Cross appeared.  It simply had to be!  If that had not taken place, then the universe would have been one giant disappointment!  

In my teaching career, I endeavoured to abide by the rules that I applied to my pupils. I dressed appropriately; I didn't leave the classroom in the middle of a class in order to go to the toilet; I ensured that I was in my classroom to welcome every class that came to me.  It is an amazing thought, but God obeys every rule that He has set for us!  This applies, especially, to the law of self-giving; of self-sacrifice; of self-surrender.  In Rev.7:17, John records: "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water; ..."  The Lamb - that same Lamb that was "... slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev.13:8) - will be their Shepherd!  That means that God rules, not only with absolute power, but also in absolute goodness.  He rules, not only from a heavenly throne, but also from a Cross!

All that He asks of us is, therefore, founded on what He does, more than on what He commands.  He not only demands love - He demonstrates it.  What He asks of us is not founded on some divine whim, but on His very character.  He not only shows me what I should do; He also shows me how to do it!

What an amazing God!  He is truly worthy of all of the love, and devotion of which feeble human hearts are capable.  And this is really just the preparation time!  John Newton got it absolutely correct:

"Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought."

Maran'atha.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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