One of my grandchildren recently developed a serious, but treatable, health condition. Suddenly, I found myself experiencing all the same feelings of apprehension and anxiety that I had for my children when they were young and encountered trouble. Not only was I hurting for my grandchild, but I felt the stress that my daughter must be feeling, just as if it was happening to me.
Then, I recalled Matthew 25:40:
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Matt. 25:40 RSV
While I’ve read this passage many times, I think I’ve unconsciously considered God as dispassionately laying down a moral principle. My current experience has given me a new insight into the Father’s love. He cares for each of his little ones with a fervent love and experiences our suffering in a personal way.
What would it mean to me for someone to walk by and ignore my daughter or grandchild in their need; to treat them as if they and their situation meant nothing? Surely it would arouse some powerful emotions! Yet, when I treat others this way, saying “It’s not my concern” or “I’m too busy,” am I not acting toward the Father’s child in the same way? I fall to my knees, convicted.
At the same time, such knowledge should give us incredible hope! Our Father in Heaven is not impassive or detached when we experience trials and suffering. One thing we can never say is that He does not care nor understand. After all, He gave up His Son to torture and death! Multiply our fatherly or motherly pain by billions, and you have a pain that no mortal could possibly bear. No. While we may not understand why we must endure painful things, we can never claim “God does not care” or “God does not love me.”
Am I trying to humanize the Divine by comparing it to our human experience? Perhaps. Rather than think of God’s love as imitating my own, however, I believe that the love I have as a father is a reflection of God’s life within me, having created me in His image. He is Love itself, and what we know of love has come from our Father in Heaven. May God be praised!