I bet if you were being honest, you would admit you think God loves you more when you’ve been on your best behavior and less when you’ve made a mistake. You would probably never say it out loud, but I bet sometimes you think bad things happen to you because God is punishing you, and you pat yourself on the back when something good happens in your life, thinking it’s God’s stamp of approval.

Here’s the problem: thinking this way causes you to believe you can control God. It starts out innocently enough, but it eventually turns into you trying to bribe God with your morality. Before you realize it, you start deciding whether or not God loves you by the events in your life.

Ultimately, you’re trying to be good so God will love you, because if God loves you, He will give you what you want.

There is a bizarre story in the Bible where some of Jesus’ friends need something from him. These are really close friends of Jesus that He loves very much. Knowing one of your best friends has the power to do anything must have been a pretty incredible feeling. In this passage, Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus, who is also Jesus’ friend, is very sick and about to die. They know if Jesus will come, Lazarus will not die. When they sent word to Him they expected he would come, and why not? They had seen him perform miracles for everyone else; surely He would do one for his friends.

Then verses 5 and 6 ruin what they, and we, thought we believed about God.

John 11:5-6
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

So If I can paraphrase, it’s something like, “ Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, so when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was and didn’t do anything.”

That doesn’t sound like love, does it? If He loved them, why didn’t He leave and do something about it?

God’s response to our prayers is not an indication of how much He loves us.

God had a bigger purpose. His bigger plan wasn’t a consolation to Martha and Mary; they wanted to know why Jesus had let their brother die. But God does what is best for God, and when He does what’s best for Him, it’s always what’s best for us.

So the question we must answer is, “If what I want is not what God wants, do I still want it?”

Fortunately for Martha and Mary, their story ends with Jesus raising their brother from the dead, but it didn’t end that way for my mom, and it hasn’t ended that way for many of my friends who have been in similar situations.

How the situations in our lives work out doesn’t change the facts: God loves you.

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