“Yes,” we would be quick to answer. After all:
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
But how do we know God loves us? There are a host of other reasons, but here are 2 from Scripture, one we would expect and maybe one we wouldn’t.
The first reason is this: the cross. The death of Christ is a fact, regardless of what you might believe its implications are. This is also the demonstration of God’s love for us. In the cross, we don’t have the words, “I love you,” but we have the action of God that validates his words. Jesus died, and no one can wonder about the nature of God’s love for us.
But here’s another reason, one that seems counterintuitive at first: We know God loves us because of His discipline. Check out these paradigm-shifting words from the book of Hebrews:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”[a]
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
It’s our natural tendency when we have a good job, perfect health, and trophy wives (husbands) to think to ourselves, “God loves me.” But when we get the pink slip, the diagnosis, the accident, or other bad news, we begin to question the proven love of God. We wonder if He’s really up there, or if He is, if He sympathizes with us or cares about what we’re going through.
But Hebrews says that these difficulties aren’t evidence of God’s absence; they’re instead evidence of His loving fatherhood. Believe me, that’s a difficult one to stomach, and yet when we look back on the trials of life, we have to honestly admit that God has brought redemption from them, don’t we? Don’t we have to say that we can see the hand of God busily moving and working behind the scenes?
Love is not the absence of trouble. Love is not unbridled prosperity. Love is wanting the absolute best for someone else, even if it means great personal cost to yourself. It is through these difficulties that we are shaped into the image of Jesus. It is through them that our Dad weans us off of the fleeting stuff of life and points us to greater satisfaction in Him. And that’s the best. That’s love.