Life is fragile.
It was a Sunday evening. We were enjoying the cool breeze when we heard a little kitten cry out. It was injured, and none of us knew what to do. Every heart on our little homestead mourned as moments later, it died.
One week later, we heard peeping and clucking. Behind some shrubs, a mother hen gathered fourteen little chicks under her feathers.
Death of an innocent. The birth of more innocents.
So close together.
The Tragedy of God’s Love
Have you ever loved a fragile thing, and then watched as that beautiful, fragile thing died?
We begin to wonder if love is worth it after all.
But remember the beginning. God loved the world and said it was good. It was beautiful.
Then, the creatures made in His image chose to go against His command, and afterwards hid from the presence of God.
Think of the sorrow our Heavenly Father had, knowing what Adam and Eve had done, and what it would mean.
Yet God still loved the world.
He loves the world even as it is. As Wendell Berry says through his character Jayber Crow, “Why else should He want it to be better than it is?”
For Him to love this world, a world created good, now filled with sin? That must be sorrow we cannot comprehend.
Sin Stretches Out After
In Genesis, God watches the people he created continually follow the allure of sin. Instead of walking with Him, they go out their own way. Remember Cain? His heart rankled when God did not accept his offering.
“The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” (Genesis 4:6-8)
The phrase translated in the ESV as “its desire is for you,” can also mean, “it is stretching out after you.” How true. Sin stretches out its claw to take us on a path away from God.
When we read the Bible, we often read it focusing on ourselves. If we can instead read it and think of God first, our perspective shifts. The Bible is a story of a Creator, Lover, Holy-Redeemer, and Judge, who chased after the people who went astray. He pursued us with love, love unto death. Even when we left Him.
After God cursed Cain for killing Abel, Scripture says, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16)
The Sorrow of God For Sin
Try to hold in your mind the love and sorrow God had as He watched Cain leave His presence with a heart so filled with resentment. Then, remember that he watched as Cain founded a city of increasingly wicked men. His great-great-grandson, Lamech, boasted after killing a man, saying, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:23b-24)
A chapter and a half later we read, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
Imagine if something you had made to be good twisted into a thing only and continually filled with evil. Imagine God’s sorrow. Imagine God’s wrath.
The Love of God For Our World
What if the story ended there? What if God chose to completely blot out mankind? He could have. But we know that He had a greater plan.
God loved the world. And because He loved it and saw that it was corrupt (Genesis 6:11), He decided to eradicate all flesh, except one family.
There was something special about Noah. He found favor in God’s eyes. And he walked with God.
Everywhere, mankind chased after sin. But Noah walked with God.
So God established a covenant with him: the first covenant. He didn’t let the story end with death.
He loved the world, even in its brokenness. He loved mankind, even in its brokenness.
I love how Jayber Crow puts it:
“All my life I had heard preachers quoting John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” They would preach on the second part of the verse, to show the easiness of being saved (“Only believe”). Where I hung now was the first part. If God loved the world, even before the event at Bethlehem, that meant He loved it as it was, with all its faults. That would be Hell itself, in part. He would be like a father with a wayward child, whom He can’t help and can’t forget. But it would be even worse than that, for He would also know the wayward child and the course of its waywardness and its suffering. That His love contains all the world does not show that the world does not matter, or that He and we do not suffer it unto death; it shows that the world is Hell only in part. But His love can contain it only by compassion and mercy, which if not Hell entirely, would be at least a crucifixion.”
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (The Way of Love, chapter 23, page 251)
His Love Stretched Down To Bring Us Home
God did not give up on the world, even when He saw the thoughts and heart of mankind were only evil continually.
Instead, He started preparing the way for Christ. And even while He prepared the way, He still loved us. He loved Noah, who walked with God. He loved Abram, whom He sent to a far country. He loved Jacob, who wrestled with God. And He loved all the other wayward children, too. He loved them, and it grieved His heart.
When we talk of God’s wrath for sin, we must remember it is wrath born of grief. The first time Scripture speaks of God reacting to mankind’s evil, it says He was grieved in His heart. He is grieved by sin because He loves the world. Because this is not the way it was made to be.
God grieves, because He loves this world. This broken, sinful world.
His Father Love
“I imagined the right name [for God] would be Father, and I imagined all that that name would imply: the love, the compassion, the taking offense, the disappointment, the anger, the bearing of wounds, the weeping of tears, the forgiveness, the suffering unto death. If love could force my own thoughts over the edge of the world and out of time, then could I not see how even divine omnipotence might by the force of its own love be swayed down into the world? Could I not see how it might, because it could know its creatures only by compassion, put on mortal flesh, become a man, and walk among us, assume our nature and our fate, suffer our faults and our death?
“Yes. And I could imagine a Father who is yet like a mother hen spreading her wings before the storm or in the dusk before the dark night for the little ones of Port William to come in under, some of whom do, and some do not.”
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (The Way of Love, chapter 23, pages 251-252)
Come Under His Wings
Do you ache, thinking of the brokenness of the world? Do you see all the sin and sorrow piling up and wonder if God cares?
Dear girl, He cares. He longs for even the ones who rebelled to come to Him.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
At my homestead, our new mother hen clucks to her little chicks, calling them to their home under her wings. She warms them, brings them to food and water, keeps them safe.
This is what our Savior longed to do for His beloved children in the days of the prophets. But He mourned, because they were not willing.
He is calling to you.
Come under His wings.
Be warmed by His love.
Bethany’s name means “bright city on a hill.” This is her mission in life, to illuminate the beautiful things and shine God’s light where there was darkness. Bethany leads The Wilting Rose Project, a ministry of encouragement for young women who feel their struggles make them worthless. She writes tales inspired by her love of the forest, where she spends many of her mornings, soaking in the uniquely Minnesotan beauty. Her blog includes more personal documentation of her journey the last few years with Lyme disease and Toxic Mold illness and the journey of healing she is now on.