We know this to be the case if we think of a relationship between a parent and their child.
I love my kids unconditionally. They could become criminals and land themselves in jail, but as their father, I would love them unconditionally.
But how much or how little I have input into their lives is on them. That’s because love is a two-way street. A relationship by definition involves two parties. This speaks to the conditional side of love. If my kids love me, meaning, if we have a relationship, then I can actually have input in their lives. If I love them unconditionally and they reject me, then I have no say in their lives. They are essentially on their own and I am relegated into the role of a waiting father. But if I love them and they love me in return, then I have a chance of working for their good.
As a father, I don’t want them to remain as they are. Elijah is a baby-zilla, he is hungry and as soon as he gets in the car, he starts grunting because he sees the bag of cereal that I have in the car, just for him because he can’t wait until we get home 5 minutes away. And he sees the cereal and he wants it. That’s fine for a 1 year old, but I wouldn’t want him to be an adult and still be driven by his appetites.
As their father, my love for my children comes attached with a certain picture of who I hope they will one day become. It doesn’t matter what school they go to, or how much money they make. But what matters to me is the kind of person they become, their character, are they mature, are they sacrificial, are they thankful, do the have compassion for others?
My unconditional love is there to accept them as they are; for my love to make a difference in their lives, they have to love me back.
Again, how much or how little I have input in their lives depends on their response to me.
When a child is born, they are not quite human yet. They are closer to other mammals in the animal kingdom because we adults are not able to communicate with the species called infants. Infants are totally useless if you think about it. They can’t take care of themselves, much less do anything for their parents. Yet, as parents, we love our kids unconditionally, even when they are infants. In return, all we get is crying and pooping. This highlights the unconditional love of a parent for their child.
Up until recently, Elijah was a beast because we couldn’t communicate and all he could do was yell and scream. So try as I may, I couldn’t get through to him or know exactly what was wrong. Now, he is kind of evolving into a human being. He can’t talk yet but if he starts crying, I can do a multiple choice test with him now. Do you want milk? Water? Cereal? And when I get it right, he laughs. Cheese stick? Hehehe. We actually have a relationship now. When he sees me, , he actually recognizes me, he smiles and says, Ahbah (which means daddy in korean).
And because he is a human now, I can actually speak into his life because he allows for that input. As a result, I have a chance to work for Elijah’s good by offering advice or guidance. Elijah, get down from there or you are going to hurt yourself. And because we have a relationship now, Elijah has a choice to take my advice or leave it. His first instinct, of course, is to ignore my advice because he is a sinner like the rest of us and needs to learn the hard way. So he falls and hurts himself. Elijah, see, you should have listened and I try to teach him so that he will listen to me the next time.
Of course, this analogy breaks down a bit because we are not God and we can’t work all things for the good of our children. We try our best, but we can’t guarantee their health, their future, their salvation, we can’t protect them against tragedy.
We are flawed so we may think we have our kids’ best interest in mind but the best we can offer is some guidance or advice. But God is our heavenly Father and he is not limited in any way. He is sovereign, He is in control, He is omniscient, He knows the future, He knows all things and so when he says, I work all things for your good, He has the power to make good on his promises.
Therefore, we can give God a blanket trust. If we love God, we will trust that He will always work out all things for our good.
If we love God and we give God a blanket trust, then this becomes our lens to view our past, our present, our future.
So when good things happens to someone who loves God, we thank him because He is good to us. And when bad things happen, we trust that God will somehow make something good out of the mess we are in because we love God and we give him that blanket trust. And if we make mistakes, as long as we continue to love God, He will guide us, He will correct us, and hopefully, we will learn from our mistakes.
Let’s say we don’t love God and we don’t give him this blanket trust, then we will always question God. Why did this happen? And doubt creeps into our heart. For this to happen, God must not be out for my good. And people get bitter at God. They blame him for letting them down. God doesn’t love me and that’s why my marriage is falling apart and my kids are rebellious and I lost my job.
And since we don’t give God this blanket trust, we put God into a position where He has to keep proving himself to us. You know people like that. You are on their good side, but as soon as you make one mistake, you lose their trust, and from that point on, they question your every intention. And for the rest of their lives, you have to tiptoe around them.
If you don’t love God, then God could be trying so hard to work for your good, orchestrating events and sending people into your life, but you end up constantly questioning him, constantly doubting him and he needs to keep proving himself to you and earn back your trust.
Our responsibility is to confess our love for God each day. And we give him a blanket trust. We give him a huge benefit of the doubt. Then from there, it’s all on God. He is sovereign. He will work all things for our good. Even trials and suffering, God allows because he is working on our character, he is building us into a people who long to see him, he wants us be people who can persevere under trials and who continue to place our hope in him in all circumstances.
God wants to work for our good, but do we love him?
I love my kids so recently there was a Thanksgiving luncheon and Jeremiah volunteered me to cook the turkey for his class. But I refused because I am retired now. It’s cute, though, because the point is, Jeremiah was proud to have his dad show up to his class. I hope that this will still be the case 10-20 years from now, but at least for now, he wants his dad around.
And right before the lunch, they performed a skit and each person had their lines. Jeremiah is actually very shy but he promised that this year he would not be shy and do his lines. So he memorized every kid’s lines and he had his one line. And there were 15-20 other kids, but the whole time, my eyes were on Jeremiah. Because he’s my boy. Doesn’t matter how cute and talented the other kids are. They are not my kids.
That’s how it is for those who love God. God loves us. We are his children and his eyes are fixed on us. The rest of the world is on their own, but as people who love God, we have the unique privilege of God’s gaze locked in on us at all times.
In conclusion, God is sovereign and he works for the good of those who love him. That means, if we love God, there are no accidents. Every single thing that happens to us, every good thing, every bad thing, is ultimately for our good. We might not be able to see the good while we are in the midst of hardship or difficulty, but looking back, we can say, God masterfully orchestrated every event, every encounter, every hardship and trial for our good. We are his children and out of everyone in the world, His eyes are fixed on us.
So don’t give up. Maybe this past year was a rough one for you. You might be in a season of life when things are hard. You might feel like throwing in the towel in some area of your life. You might not be able to see the good right now, but our job is to focus on loving God. God is sovereign. He has our back. And if we love him no matter what, he will in all things work for the good of those who love him. Do you and I love God? That’s the only question that we really need to struggle with. God will work all things for our good on the condition that we love him. That’s his promise. And we can give him a blanket trust because He has ultimate power to make good on his promises.