“He loves me. . . he loves me not. He loves me. . . he loves me not” Did you ever play this childhood game? Plucking the petals from a daisy to determine the feelings of a childish sweetheart, the outcome dependent upon whether the flower had an even or odd number of petals. Silly, right? What does the number of petals on any given flower have to do with the intentions of the heart?

And yet, is this the narrative that plays in your mind when suffering comes? Do you pluck from the circumstances sent by our heavenly Father to determine whether he loves you? Some circumstances feel loving, others don’t. When he makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters (Ps. 23:2), do you sing, “he loves me!”? When he calls you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), does your heart whisper, “he loves me not”?

Suffering forces us to face what we truly believe. Do we believe that God loves us and that he is working all things—even hard things—for our good? When trials come—and they will: disaster, disease, depression, death—which narrative will be our default? When faced with pain, what is the first thought, and then the next, and the next, that enters our minds?

The Bible is clear that God allows hardships, trials, and even tragedies into the lives of his children for a purpose. He doesn’t merely allow them; he ordains them. And all God’s purposes for his children are holy and good and motivated by his love. This is the argument Paul makes in Romans chapter 8 where we find God’s good purpose for all that he ordains for his children:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28–29).

When I read this passage, I often pause to remind myself that “all things” means “all things, or all of them.” And all that God ordains for me is according to his definition of what is good for me, not mine. In his great wisdom God knows that becoming more like Christ is the best good that he could ordain, that it will take a lot of pruning, molding, and dross burning to accomplish, and that I would never choose the pain of his sanctifying work over my own comfort.

But why does God seek our good through all the things which he sends our way? Why does he conform us to the image of his Son? Paul’s thought in Romans 8 flows from God’s sovereign working and purpose in our sanctification to the attitude he holds toward us as he works out his purposes in us. God is for us (8:31). God is graciously generous to us (8:32). God justifies rather than condemns us (8:33–34; echoing 8:1).

Then, as we follow this flow of thought, we reach the love of God which binds us inseparably to him:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 37–39).

God seeks the best good for us because he loves us! The love of God in Christ is not only not absent from us when we go through trials and afflictions: it is inseparable from us. Whether our suffering is a result of the discipline of our heavenly Father for the children he loves (Heb. 12:5–11), has been granted to us to be co-sufferers with Christ and for his sake (Phil. 1:29), is sent to refine our faith and bring glory to Jesus (1 Peter 1:6–7), or is for indiscernible reasons known only to God (the entire book of Job), he is with us through it all. When God calls us to walk through the valley, we can walk fearlessly and find comfort in the biblical truth—the fact—that he walks every step of the way with us (Ps. 23:4). For God’s love for us is a fact, not a feeling.

What we know to be true in the green pastures and beside the still waters is still true when the Lord leads us through the dark valleys. So, beloved child of God, when trials come, and the narrative that God doesn’t love you starts playing in your mind, fight back the darkness with the truth that:

God is for you.

God has been and still is graciously generous to you.

God does not condemn, but rather has justified you in Christ Jesus.

And nothing, nobody, or nothing can or will ever separate you from God’s love for you in Christ.

Psalm 23 begins with the LORD our Shepherd bringing us to the green pastures and still waters, in the middle shows us that he walks with us through every dark valley, and ends with the certainty of this comforting promise:

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 23:6).

Let this song of truth be the narrative through your every trial.

About the Author:

Barbaranne Kelly

Barbaranne Kelly is a reader, writer, retreat speaker, and hospitality enthusiast. She and her husband Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas where she serves on the women’s ministry team and leads women’s Bible studies. She has been blogging ever since she accidentally registered for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s post and figured, “Why not?” She now writes for her own blog, Grateful, and for Women of Purpose, the women’s ministry blog of CPC. God has blessed Barbaranne and Jim with five fascinating children, two awesome sons-in-law, two amazing daughters-in-law, and four delightful grandsons. In all her roles it is Barbaranne’s sincere hope that she and those to whom she ministers may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.