There are two crucial moments in the life of a believer that one is tempted to question/doubt God’s love. When we fall into sin, the default question we ask ourselves is whether God isn’t mad at us. The second scenario is when tragedy comes our way, this triggers the question as to whether God truly loves us, and if He does, why does he allow us to go through such pain/difficulty. Does He care?
Author Jerry Bridges tackles these questions brilliantly below:
“The apostle John wrote: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).
I often say, “If you want to see the love of God, look first at the Cross,” because that is the preeminent display of His love. It was to the cross that God sent His only Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation, though a good Bible word, is seldom understood by today’s Christians. Perhaps the best way to think of it is that it is the act of Jesus bearing on the cross the full brunt of the just and holy wrath of God that we should have borne.
All of us deserve the wrath of God because of our sin — not only the sin of our days as unbelievers but also the sin we commit everyday as believers. But if we have trusted in Christ, we will never experience one drop from the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank the cup in our place as our substitute. And John tells us that God, in His love, sent Jesus to do that for us.
There are primarily two occasions when committed Christians tend to doubt God’s love. The most common is when we are, for some reason, deeply aware of our sinfulness. Perhaps it is some persistent sin pattern in our lives or maybe the overall sinfulness of our whole being. At such times we tend to think, “How could God possibly love someone as sinful as I?”
In either instance, we need to look again at the Cross and see Jesus bearing those very sins that make us feel so guilty. And then we need to remind ourselves that “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). God took our sin — even that which causes such immediate distress — and charged it to Christ, and He took His perfect righteousness and credited it to us. God did this not because we were loveable but because of His own self-generated love. As John said in the above text, it was “not that we have loved God but that He loved us.”
The second common occasion that tempts us to doubt God’s love is in times of adversity. We might think: “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t allow this to happen to me.” At such times of doubt, we need to look again at the Cross and see God giving up His Son to die in our place (Rom. 8:32). After all, it was in that context that Paul asked the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And a few sentences later he answers his own question with a ringing affirmation that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35–39).
The great Puritan John Owen once wrote, “The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him is not to believe that He loves you.” We might have expected Owen to say that the greatest sorrow you could lay on the Father is to commit some scandalous sin that dishonors His name. Surely sin does grieve God, but Owen tells us that doubting His love grieves Him even more.
So when you are tempted to question God’s love either because of your sin or your difficult circumstances, look at the Cross, and remind yourself that on the Cross God proved His love to you beyond all doubt. In fact, don’t wait for those hard times. Take a good look at the Cross everyday to fortify yourself against those times of doubt and discouragement.”