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?
We 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. The 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?