Trials and suffering in this life can leave us questioning God’s love for us. Today, R.C. Sproul helps us root our understanding of the gospel and our love for God in the knowledge of who He is.
This is why I love the Bible, but particularly I love the Old Testament, because there the truth of God is incarnated over and over and over again in the real-life experiences of people just like you and me, who hate, who love, who kill, who commit adultery, who fight, and who sin and do all the things that human beings do.
And you look at the life of David, where David is known as a man after God’s own heart, and yet we also read of the unbelievable magnitude of his sin against God, and against Uriah, and against his family, and against the whole nation with his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba—and then when Nathan the prophet confronts David, and David is brought to repentance and David should be executed, but God spares the life of David. But what does he say? “I’m going to take the life of the baby born of this union.”
And so, what does David do? He goes into his private quarters and he rips his garments. And he goes into a fast, and he’s on his face before God weeping and begging God to spare the life of the kid. In the meantime, David’s servants are watching David through the windows and through the door, terrified that David is going to do something crazy and kill himself. And this goes on for a whole week. And David looks out and he sees his servants whispering among themselves. But David was smart. He saw them whispering, he knew what was up, and he walked out and he said, “Something happen to the baby?” And they said, “Yes, the baby died.”
And so, suddenly, David’s mourning and grief and wailing and pleading stop. Now, he gets up off the floor, anoints his head with oil, puts on fresh clothes, and what does he do? He goes into the house of the Lord and worships God, because he knew who God was.
Now, it wasn’t a question in David’s mind about whether God loved him. He knew that God loved him. He also knew that God was holy. He also knew that God was righteous. He also knew that God was sovereign. And above all, he knew that God knew what God was doing. And to be a believer in God is to trust God for tomorrow, to trust Him with your life, to trust Him with your children’s lives, to trust Him with everything you have—meaning that I’m not going to love God just as long as He does for me what I want Him to do or gives to me what I want Him to give.
Until your love for God is a love for who He is rather than for the benefits that you receive from His hand, you haven’t understood the gospel. And when you love God because of His perfection, when He withdraws a gift from you, that does not make Him any less lovely or any less worthy of your adoration and your devotion. It’s not that we adore Him only as long as He protects our children, but if He should decide to take our children, the biblical response is, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We’re allowed to mourn. We’re encouraged to mourn. Grief is a virtuous emotion. Self-pity and bitterness are sinful responses. But again, what would ever make us think that our children or ourselves are immune from suffering and death? You read the Bible, don’t you? The Bible tells us not only that we might suffer, but that we surely will suffer. And the Bible is a history of God’s allowing and deciding to take the offspring of the saints, even as He took the child of David. And David said, “I can’t bring him back, but I can go to Him,” because David understood that that brief little blip on the radar screen of time that is your life is nothing compared to the eternity that God has prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
That’s why the Apostle says that the travail and the suffering inflictions that we are called to endure in this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that God has laid up for us in heaven. Even if we have to suffer for a season, the term of it is short compared to the glory that God has prepared for us.