Recently, a very good friend passed away—somewhat unexpectedly. She was a part of a community I love and participate in, and we are all a bit shocked and saddened.
God has pressed upon my heart to write a few things I have learned about the nature of God, us, and His relationship with us, and share it with you.
Jesus taught us that God is Love. He didn’t say God has love. He didn’t say God is love sometimes. He simply said: God is Love.
Jesus was a master teacher, and He often used analogies to make His points. One analogy He used was our relationship with our children to bring understanding to God’s relationship to us. Since God is love, it stands to reason that He loves us, and His primary teaching is to teach us how to love. In fact, Jesus taught that the two great commandments were for us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The only way for God to teach us to love is to create an environment where we can love—or not—because without choice, love is not love.
If I force my children to love me, they are not free to love me, and any expression of love that is forced is not love at all. So for love to exist at all, it must have freedom as an environment.
We live on the planet of free choice. That freedom of choice also extends to our freedom to make mistakes and to fail. Often, when someone suffers a misfortune, we might say, “If God was a loving God, He wouldn’t have allowed such and such to happen.” But because He loves us, and because He wants us to learn to love, He allows us to make mistakes and to suffer injuries to our earthly bodies. To not allow us to make our choices and to suffer the consequences of those choices would not be love at all!
Have you ever had a well-intentioned friend tell you, uninvited, how to solve a problem you might have? I have, and I don’t like it. It feels like they think I’m not smart or mature enough to handle my own life. To further the analogy, imagine that, as a parent, you decided your child would never get bullied, mugged, suffer humiliation at school, fail a class, get run over, or any number of other calamities that happen to people as they go through life. “I know,” you might say, “I’ll just lock them in the basement. I will feed them on a regular basis. I will require them to exercise the appropriate amount each day. I will make them tell me they love me. I will never let them leave the house so bad things will never happen to them.”
This would be the worse form of parenting imaginable. It would be child abuse, and children raised in such an environment would be freaks.
Likewise, our Father in Heaven does not wish for our pain, but because He loves us, he allows us the freedom to live, love, make our mistakes and suffer the consequences. We often suffer the consequences of others’ mistakes, as well, and get to learn to love some more. He doesn’t lock us in the basement, so to speak. He lets us out into the big, bad world and lets us live! And so, our capacity to love continues to expand.
Finally, sometimes we get angry at God because we have lost someone we love due to an illness. Their earthly body has failed them. One of the key teachings of Jesus is that everything you see and hear is temporary. He said, “Love not the world nor the things of the world.” He taught that all earthly things must pass away. And He told us to focus on those things that are eternal; to store up treasures in Heaven. When one’s earthly body fails and stops working, our earthly time is up, but we continue to live as eternal beings. From God’s point of view, we haven’t died. We have only changed the form we live in.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t feel sadness when we lose someone we love?
Of course not.
The Bible teaches that when Lazarus died, Jesus wept, even though He subsequently raised him from the dead.
To mourn those who have passed on is very human. But if we know Him in this life, we have hope of seeing our loved ones in the next life.
When Mom passed away last spring, I was, of course, sad and upset. I loved my mother and admired her greatly. She was, in my view, the epitome of love. And even now I would give a lot just to sit down with her in a park somewhere, and hold her hand and watch birds and people, as we used to do.
But something else occurred when she passed.
I had the privilege of seeing her take her last breath, and it was no less a miracle then watching two of my daughters, DeAnna and Tiffany, take their first breaths. Death was as much a part of life as birth was. Something much more important than my grief awakened. As I examined her life, and mine, I could see what she contributed to me. I could see what I had mastered of her teachings, and what I still needed to work on. It was an opportunity to take measure of my own life and examine what I was teaching my own children through my example and what I was teaching my community through my example, as well. We are always teaching, you know. And as a result of that process, I became closer to my mother than ever before, and she lives in my heart in a very real way.
And so it is with those we love. God wants us happy, joyous, and free.
Keep seeking Him, and all will be well.