Last year, while participating in a once a week fast during Lent season with some others from my church, I set out on my first fasting day early in the morning to seek the Lord. I was stunned when He spoke to my heart that He didn’t want me to do a total fast that day, just a fast from sugar. It seemed too easy, especially since I don’t take in a lot of sugar anyway. And it was out of character for the way I saw God. You see, somewhere along life’s way I got the idea that God likes to make people squirm, likes to make things hard for us. Though I wouldn’t have said so, it’s almost like I saw Him as having a bit of a cruel side to Him.
Probably the one place we might justify God being hard on us is when we have acted out against Him. But He is not even desirous of bringing pain to us there – just look at the story of the Prodigal Son in Scripture. Jesus often gave stories to help us understand God, and in the Prodigal Son we see a God of great kindness. In the story, when the young son insisted on his own way, the father let him go. He didn’t want to let him go; he didn’t want to release him to all of the pain and sorrow that would await him ahead because of his choices. And when the pain came and left the young man destitute, his father, who had been looking for him every day since he left welcomed him with open arms and threw him a party.
Our God is the one who said to His people Israel (who were so insistent on their own way that He had to remove His blessing for a time), “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:10-11, NIV). No, our God is not a cruel God at all, but very kind, always wanting the best for us. This is peace for my heart during times when I am feeling pain because I know God doesn’t like it either, but is leading me to good.
In that “easy” fasting day God had something wonderful He wanted to teach me. He wanted to correct my wrong thinking about Him and draw my heart ever closer to Him. And the next week? The lesson was over, so I didn’t get off the hook. But I now know, whether in pain or at ease, He is taking me ever deeper into His great love, and that is a wonderful gift from a very kind God who loves me immeasurably!