Is God Love–Really?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on July 7, 2014

Albert Einstein said the most important question we can ask is this: Is the universe friendly? If we asked a random sampling of people  whether they think the universe is friendly, neutral, or hostile towards us, we would probably find that some of them believe the universe is hostile or at least neutral. They would point to seemingly random earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, meteorites, and  brutal blizzards to illustrate their point.  And yet people of faith have consistently maintained that God, the Creator of the Universe, is love. Is this a cliche or is it really true?

person and sunsetWe Christians maintain it is really true that God is love. We point to the Bible as part of our proof. God revealed to Moses God’s own identity, for example, with these words: I am “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Ex. 34:6). I like that phrase “steadfast love.” In fact I liked it so much I used it as a title for one of my books! The prophet Isaiah hears these words from God: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is. 49:15). In the first letter of John we read: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).

We believe God is love also because that’s what Jesus taught us about God. He himself called the Creator of the Universe Abba, Father or Dad or even Daddy. When I looked up “fatherly” in my dictionary it said, “resembling a father in affection and care.” So even the dictionary associates the word father with love. Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son is his primary image of God as father. And what a loving and forgiving person that father is!

But many of us also believe God is love because of our own personal experience. Theologian Margaret Silf says her first witness to God’s love “is my own memory bank. There have been times in the past —maybe only a very few times, and very rare moments, but no less real and vivid ones—when I felt, with absolute clarity, the sense of God touching my life in some way.” I point to similar experiences in my own life: my gradual decision to become a nun, the unusual circumstances of my brother’s death, my interaction with individuals who are genuinely good, and my reuniting (by a strange set of coincidences) with a friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years.

In C. S. Lewis’ classic children’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a large lion named Aslan (a Christ figure in the story) appears and eventually saves four lost children and leads them home. The children first hear about Aslan from two friendly beavers. lionThe children are understandably hesitant about meeting a lion.

One of the girls asks the beavers, “Is he—quite safe?”

Mrs. Beaver says if anyone appears before Aslan without their knees knocking, “they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

The other girl asks: “Then he isn’t safe?”

Mr. Beaver says, “‘ ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

The lion Aslan is no pet. People and the other animals have no control over him. The children must press through their fear of him and trust him. They must trust him enough to climb onto his furry back and hang on for dear life, and he will take them home. What faith that takes!

Lewis may be saying that being a Christian demands a similar kind of faith in us. God, like Aslan, is not a pet. As someone once remarked, “God is not our cosmic bellboy.” When we think about the immensity of God’s universe and our precarious place in it, we may experience some understandable fear. Like the children in the story, we must press through any fear we may have of God and trust God. We too must climb onto his back and hang on for dear life. If we do, God will carry us home!

We have many things to fear in life. And we have so little control over what happens in our lives. And we cannot force God to do our bidding. But we don’t have to. For God is good and God is love. Really! Yes, really!

In your own life, have you ever had an experience where you felt with absolute certainty that God is good and God is love?

Do you ever have to work through your fear to trust God?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera July 7, 2014 at 5:22 am

Sr. Melannie,

Great reflection! Love the part of pressing through our fear and then hanging on for dear life.

Our 28 years of marriage (our anniversary is this week) have taught me that God is good. When a couple makes those vows on their wedding day, they have no idea what they are in for in years to come. Through good and bad times, God has been revealed in my life through my husband.

Kathleen

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Dear Kathleen, Happy 28th wedding anniversary to you and your husband! How lucky you both are to have each other! Sr. Melannie

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Pamela July 7, 2014 at 9:44 am

Dear Sr. Melannie-

Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration in my life. Please pray for me as a continue to struggle with an addiction in my life.

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Dear Pam, Yes, I will hold you in special prayer…Sr. Melannie

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Mary Schneider July 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

Dear Sr Melannie: Yes! God is love! The greatest comfort of all, to know I am loved so much by my creator.

Your love for the word “steadfast” has made a strong imprint on me. I ask God daily, through the Holy Spirit, to keep me steadfast in my faith. I find many aspects of my life which I seek to improve, and be steadfast in, such as seeing God in all people.

Thank you for your weekly words of love and instruction, and for all of the marvelous books you have written. I am currently re-reading “Just Because” now.

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Dear Mary, You bring up an important point: how OUR love must mirror GOD”S love! So we too must be steadfast…I’m so glad you like the books! Thanks again for writing! Sr. Melannie

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bro.Leo van de Weijer July 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Dear Melannie,

Thanks for your monday reflection.
I remember the day that I got a strong experience of God-Love on March 19 1969. I attended a meeting of a focolare group in Nijmegen when I was studying at the university. A person shared her day experience and said that she was moved by another person (Chiara Lubich) who in the midst of world war II discovered that God loved her immensely. Since that evening I as well feel that God loves me( and all other persons) immensely.
Thank you for reminding me.

Bro. Leo van de Weijer Brothers CMM

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Dear Brother Leo, I really appreciated your personal example of feeling God’s love. The fact that you remember the date means it must have been exceptionally moving for you! Thank you for sharing it with us! Melannie

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Mary Fran July 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Mel,

Great message wrapped in wonderful images.
Thanks so much for thinking this through and sharing so well.

Mary Fran

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Dear Mary Fran, I too love Lewis’ image of that lion…And thanks for giving me ideas for my blog. Next week’s topic was from one of our conversations! Melannie

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mary james July 7, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Another wonderful God gift, Melannie!..Yes-resounding Yes to both questions! asnd if you have ever made Margaret Scharf’s retreat you will know why I am commenting. Her first “conference” is entitled IN The
Beginnnig… and si all about John’s prologue and Proverbs 8 LOVE.
james

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 9, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Dear Mary James, Thanks for the additional scripture recommendations! Melannie

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David Cavilla July 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

I loved your reference to CS Lewis-his insights are second to none. Please pray for my brother who is struggling with an addiction. I’m sure the universe doesn’t seem very friendly to him at times. Thanks for the reflection!

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 10, 2014 at 8:29 am

Dear David, I agree with you about C.S. Lewis. I first encountered him in college and I’ve been a fan of his ever since…And yes, I will say a special prayer for your brother. I’m sure my readers will also join in supporting your brother in prayer. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Karleena July 13, 2014 at 1:41 am

Dear Sister Melanie,
I have struggled with fear my whole life. I have been angry at myself for having it. Feeling that it is a shameful thing…. That it is who I am.

God is walking me through my deepest fears today. Today I know that fear is a feeling and it will pass. It passes quicker if I ask God to help me be gentle with my very vulnerable little self. Remembering that God and I together are bigger than “it”.
Strangely, I am grateful for the fear because I know that my making it through this time is not “ME” doing it…. It is Him doing it with my willingness to surrender.
Story:
I was sitting outside the Neonatal nursery looking at my 2lb 14 oz baby girl and sobbing because I could not go in to see her because I had come down with a fever after the emergency c-section (toxemia). A woman came up behind my wheelchair and grabbed me by she shoulders and shook me saying(with a German accent),” I have had two of doze babies! Now they are bigger than me!!” Assuring me that All would be Well…
I never saw her again….! God provided himself “with skin on” to sober me up from my fear attack :). What a Miracle. She is attending St.Marys and is indeed Well !!! Lol 😉

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 13, 2014 at 4:21 am

Dear Karleena, What a beautiful story of fear and faith! Yes, God did seem to come to you “with skin on” at that precise moment when you needed it most. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Sr. Melannie

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