On my way home from work last night, I listened to someone telling the story of a man who almost canceled a business trip when his two year old son started crying. The boy realized when he saw airplanes that Daddy was leaving on a trip.
Being a dad, I completely understand how much it hurts to hear your child crying. It is often very difficult to continue on a given course of action knowing that said action is causing your child emotional pain and distress.
That said, the father went on his business trip anyway. The speaker - Joni Eareckson Tada, by the way - was making the point that the father cared about his child's hurt, and that our Heavenly Father cares about our hurt, too.
Sometimes, however, it seems a bit hard to understand how God could claim to love us and yet allow us to go through whatever it is we're going through when we have that thought. It becomes difficult to think of God as loving us when we're suffering. And when we start wondering if God really loves us, doubt can creep in, making it harder and harder to trust Him.
My mind, however, immediately jumped to a slightly different thought. It usually does. I guess my mind works differently than most. Just ask my wife.
Anyway, my first thought was, "Sure, the dad was hurting with his son, but he went on his trip anyway, knowing that it was causing the child emotional distress." As a parent, I do things nearly every day that cause my kids some level of emotional discomfort.
"Yes, you have to do your schoolwork."
"No, you can't have two desserts."
"Yes, the doctor might have to give you a shot."
If you're a parent, you can relate to all of those scenarios and more. Hopefully, even if you aren't a parent, you can understand why a parent would take all of those stands, even though they all can cause a child some level of distress.
The father in the story went on his business trip. We make our children go to the dentist and the pediatrician, we limit their intake of candy and ice cream, we make them do their homework, we make them stay well away from the street when playing... you get the idea.
So, why do parents force their children to do things the children don't want to do?
Because we know what's best. We have a fuller understanding of the situation than our children do. At least, most of us do. And so, we go on those business trips when we'd rather stay home, because we know that we have bills to pay, birthday presents to buy, and so on. We drag our children to their doctor's appointments because we know that a little discomfort now can save a significant amount of suffering later from avoiding illness.
Isn't it logical to assume, then, that God sometimes does the same thing to us? Jesus asks in Luke 11 if any father would give his child a stone instead of bread, or a serpent instead of a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg. If we, as imperfect earthly parents know how to give our children the things that are good for them, how much more does God give us the things He knows are good for us?
Maybe, God knows as much more about the situation than we do as we know more than our children do. Maybe He understands that it's better for us to have a little discomfort now in order that we avoid some larger problem later. If I'm smart enough to know that too much sugar will lead my children to pain in the dentist's chair, then maybe God is smart enough to know that whatever I'm going through today might have a purpose as well.
We might never understand why a certain something had to happen to us. But I think it's comforting to realize that even when I'm hurting, God cares, just as much as I care when my son is getting a shot of penicillin.