“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
I’ve been in Jamaica for nearly two months now. There are countless things to “write home” about in this lovely country. Majestic mountains, pristine beaches. You’ve seen the commercials.
But let me tell you about my little friend, Luna, pictured below with her loving father. Luna and I are friends. Every afternoon when she takes a walk through the small community where my wife and I are staying another few days, she greets me with a smile and a wave of the hand. I sing to her in Spanish and she takes a little bow. All is right with the world.
Is it too great a stretch to think God might see us in similar ways? I don’t think so, though many in society seem to hold a different view.
It’s nothing new for me to write that fatherhood has taken a beating these last four or five decades. We see it readily enough through media portrayals of characters with “daddy issues” or just raw anger toward men in general. Nor is it any news flash for me to write that most people’s conceptions of God are drawn in large part from their experiences with their earthly fathers, most of whom have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. It is harsh to say but true: Many fathers are missing in action these days. They’ve gone AWOL.
And I will tell you the truth. I admit to having felt that way sometimes about God.
In speaking of a heavenly Father, whom millions address each day as they pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” we are in much the same breath speaking about his dear Son, who “learned obedience through the things he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). This Son died at the age of 33, or thereabouts, executed on the outskirts of Jerusalem, abandoned, so it might seem, by his Father. Jesus put up a brave front on that old, rugged cross, looking after the needs of his Mother and asking his Father to forgive those who had engineered his death. But ultimately, the dam broke, and the wounded, bloodied Lamb of God cried out these haunting words from Psalm 22: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” And in those awful moments as his life ebbed away, the Son of God heard in reply… nothing.
I daresay something similar will happen to each of us at some point in our lifetime. Perhaps it will happen multiple times. We will feel abandoned by God, left in the lurch. And it will feel like a betrayal of the worst kind. It will feel like a betrayal because he is our heavenly Father. “I was an obedient son or daughter,” you might say. “I followed the rules. I kept the faith. Why am I being abandoned? If God, indeed, knows my frame, where is his love in the midst of my agony?”
In answer, I would offer something I have been meditating on for forty-plus years. I don’t often talk about it. Even now, a part of me hesitates to write it down. It sounds like crazy talk. But it’s not crazy. It’s a prayer. A prayer I took from Scripture early in my Christian walk. The words are from the Apostle Paul. “That I may know him,” wrote the apostle, “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
The power of his resurrection is one thing, but the fellowship of his sufferings? You’re going to pray for that? Yes, I am. And it has been one prayer of mine I believe God has most certainly answered.
When Daniel, my firstborn, was little, he used to ask me how much I loved him. I would extend my arms as far as I could to either side and say, “More, much more than this!” The little fellow would smile with satisfaction. He knew beyond any doubt his father loved him.
But don’t you know, it’s not often a straight line between here and heaven, and love will be tested to determine its worth.
When Daniel reached his mid-teens and began going through an ever-deepening mental health crisis, I found myself asking God how much he loved me. I’ll be honest, things got to a point where I came to feel God didn’t love me at all. I felt abandoned. I had barraged heaven with prayers for my son’s healing, and his condition had only grown worse. One thing after another began falling apart in my life. “How much did you say you loved me, God?” I asked in bitterness of soul, adding after a pregnant pause, “I can’t hear you!!!”
The feelings of despair and betrayal didn’t last, of course. How could they? Like a good psalmist, I found myself circling back to high praises for the Almighty. I never have been good at holding grudges, I guess, nor choosing utter darkness over a flickering light.
You know the old story about footprints in the sand, right? The writer had a dream in which he could only see one set of footprints, which marked the most difficult times of his life. Recrimination toward God followed: “Why did you leave me when I needed you most?” he asked.
The Lord replied: “My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
I hope that says something to you, my friend. Don’t be deceived by appearances. God knows our frame. He remembers we are dust. If suffering is at work in your life, he surely has a purpose in it. I will venture to say its purpose is to make you more like his Son. Christ on the cross is part of the gospel. You and me on the cross is part of the Christian life. But that’s not the end of the story, friends. From that place of death and horror, we move to glory and resurrection where all things become new! Please watch this video to give you some added perspective on my part. And please watch our film when it has its worldwide premiere this May 24! Details to follow in subsequent emails.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).
Happy Easter, dear friends!
We have just been informed that Let Me Have My Son has placed second in the feature film category at this year’s New Delhi Film Festival. 630 films and screenplays were entered from 46 countries.