Does God Like You?

 

Today, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

 

“In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteenfold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.” 

 

Italy has shut down all travel in and out of the country and many other countries are implementing travel restrictions and are banning all large gatherings of people. Sporting events are being cancelled or being played without the fans present. Factory production in China and many other places has ground to a halt as workers have been told to stay home. The National Guard has been called out in New Rochelle, New York, to contain the virus.

 

Clearly, this is nothing to be taken lightly. We are advised to take this threat seriously, but not to panic.

 

Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, keep your hands off your face, but do not panic.

 

Despite those admonitions against panic, we hear of people emptying the shelves of their local super-centers of bottled water, face masks, paper towels, soap, pantry items and yes, even toilet paper. I saw a video recently of people loading toilet paper into their shopping carts as if this were Venezuela. 

 

Meanwhile, the stock market is bouncing around like a dodge ball at the mercy of a pack of over-zealous fifth-graders and the price of oil has fallen into the abyss as Russia and Saudi Arabia are having an epic spitting match. 

 

SRN News reported on Kinship Christian Radio that a New York hardware store was being charged with price-gouging because they were selling bottles of hand sanitizer for $80 each.

 

And if you were ever thinking of taking a cruise on a big, fancy ship, I’ll bet you a roll of toilet paper you’re not thinking of it now.

 

At the same time, the mainstream media seems to be relishing the advent of an inevitable global apocalypse.

 

So from where I sit right now,  humanity doesn’t seem very likable at all. 

 

But please, allow me to drastically switch gears if I may:

 

I have a friend and sister in Christ who has absolutely dedicated her life to pleasing God. She prays and fasts and tries to do her absolute best to be a person who will bring a smile to God’s face.

 

But recently, she fell short of the goal and it was devastating to her.

 

I tried to encourage her and lift her spirits, reminding her that no one is perfect. After many words, I told her that I was certain God still loved her.

 

Her reply was, “But God loves everybody.”

 

How could I argue with that? God does indeed love everyone and so, for my friend, their was little consolation in that. God loves people who absolutely hate Him. He desires that all would be saved, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. (1 Timothy 2:4)

 

And then, as I was reading “Abba’s Child” the author, Brennan Manning, made the absolutely astonishing claim that God likes people. Individual people. Nasty, panic-ridden, irrational, toilet paper-hoarding people. He writes:

 

“How would you respond if I asked you the question, “Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?”

 

He goes on:

 

“Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and the heart of God is defined by tenderness. “By the tender mercy (compassion) of our God who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79).”

 

Manning follows this with a Richard Foster quote in which he says that even that cold cup of water given to the least of one of these brings tears to the eyes of God. “Like the proud mother who is thrilled to receive a wilted bouquet of dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.”

 

Manning says that, if you could answer with gut-level honesty that your God not only loves you, but indeed likes you, “…you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness.”

 

And oh, how we could use that tenderness right now. 

 

When we strive and struggle and worry, we forget that He is the good shepherd. We forget that tender, compassionate, merciful shepherd who makes sure we have all we need, that leads us to green pastures and still waters. He does restore our souls and lead us in paths of righteousness to the glory of His name. And even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is no evil we need fear, for His mighty power is indeed there to comfort us.

 

With that knowledge, with the glorious assurance of the tenderness and compassion of a God who not only loves us, but indeed likes us, there is nothing to fear and no need at all for panic.

 

Not even from fear-mongering, price-gouging, toilet paper hoarders.

 

 

Today’s Praise

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.  (Psalm 23:5-6 ESV)

 

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