“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
The picture above is of my beloved Great Pyrenees, Duke, and a litter of foster puppies who raided his personal food bowl one afternoon. Duke, as you can see, was patient despite their poor judgment. Weighing just eight ounces shy of 150 pounds, Duke is immensely strong. The Pyrenees breed was created to protect flocks by being strong enough to kill any predator, even a bear. The massive chest, the powerful jaws, the legs as thick as bricks all point to an alpha male that can take down any opponent. Which is why I love watching Duke with those little puppies. Those fluffballs regard Duke as a living playground. They climb and claw and bite. Duke lets them disturb his naps, steal from his food bowl, and run away with his toys. I’ve seen them nibble on his nose and his ears, and Duke will only sigh and occasionally groan at their misdeeds.
Their foolish youthful indiscretions should put their lives in great danger. After all, Duke was bred for massive strength. Yet it is precisely Duke’s strength that keeps the puppies safe. His massive power gives the puppies a lot of leeway in their behavior. His strength gives them freedom. He is so big, and so strong, that he is not threatened when they growl or jump or bite. They can hurt him, but they can’t wound him. He is patient with them, because he’s not just powerful; he’s kind.
Yet when I sit down to pray to my heavenly Father, as I contemplate His massive power, sometimes I get nervous. My chest feels tight. My jaw muscles tense, I shift my weight in my chair. My body tenses as if to run; how can an all-powerful God be completely good? How can I trust so much power? Isn’t power similar to anger?
No. It’s not. If we’ve seen too many Hollywood movies, or if we grew up in a dysfunctional home, we may have forgotten that power and anger are worlds apart. God is powerful, but He is good. He is kind. That’s hard for me to grasp, and I’m thankful that every prayer is a baby-step to understanding God’s big, beautiful heart of love. Each prayer is a little invitation to see great power demonstrated through love. Mighty strength displayed in kindness.
Scripture tells us that this is how He wants to answer our every prayer. Psalm 119 is one of many passages that tells us God answers our prayers according to His loving kindness. Let me say that again: He will answer you with love plus kindness. Whatever you pray for today, His answer will be love. Plus kindness. If you eat past 5, if you spend past your budget, if you’ve betrayed a friend or you’re struggling with shame and regrets, His answer to you is love. Plus kindness.
Sometimes when I pray, I like to write my prayers down as if I am writing a letter to a friend. I may describe a situation or problem then ask on paper, “What is the most loving thing that could happen here? What would be the kindest thing?” When I am confronted with an action I must take, I ask, “What would love do? How would kindness act?”
I pray for everything and about everything. I have only begun to understand and believe that Love and Kindness are always the answer. Every problem and every failure needs both, and God knows we are weak. He knows we often use poor judgment, and that what we desperately need is what He has already promised. He is ready and willing to love us, exactly as and where we are. His enormous power and strength are demonstrated in His love and kindness toward our weakness. We are free to approach Him with confidence, and even boldness, because He delights in revealing how His love and kindness can transform our worst moments into His greatest miracles.
What About You?
When you pray, what do you expect? Do you fear punishment or expect love? What does your expectation tell you about your beliefs?
Think of your greatest problem or battle today. What is the most loving thing you could do? What would a great kindness be?
Can obedience be a form of kindness to yourself? When you submit to God’s ways, do you experience a freedom and joy that seem closely related to kindness and love?