Sometimes God's Love seems more like a punch to the gut than a gentle embrace.
Sometimes it seems more like the 'hate' of rejection, the sting of mockery, or the stab wound of betrayal. Unemployment, marital infidelity, natural disaster, troublesome teens, violent crime, or an impersonal, and morally decaying society, all seem from the hand of God.
But this would also seem true if you were the sword being pounded into perfection by the hammer and the fire. This would also seem true if you were the carbon being pounded off to reveal diamonds. This would also be true if you were a brand new boot camp recruit systematically broken down to be rebuilt as a United States Marine. This would also seem true if you were a fighter, trained by a determined coach, pushed and challenged by the best sparring partners. This would also seem true if you were the muscles attached to a flabby body, burning from the exercised desire of a mind seeking health.
This would appear, at first glance, to be what happened to the mocked, beaten, tortured, whipped, and Crucified Nazarene.
But like the daddy's spanking, and the mommy's 'no' in the face of danger, Love necessitates wars and 'dark nights' of the soul. Mature love, moreover, demands purgation as the perfect sword demands the fire and the hammer. And, like the muscle of the fit person, hypertrophy (growth) of the spirit demands both exercise and personal sacrifice.
Suffering, therefore, can be the ultimate gift from the Loving God.
Think of it. Our attachments, our 'loves,' our desires, can sometimes kill us. Our riches bring pride and greed. Our tastes bring lust and envy. Our pursuits bring competitiveness and pettiness, if not avarice. Our pleasures make us soft, comfy, and compliant. They addict us to what kills us. Bad little children don't understand when a parent lovingly separates them from what harms them.
We are all those bad little children.
Ironically, death can be the greatest gift of God's Love. Christ's death on the Cross, though seemingly the worst crime ever committed, is the greatest act of Love ever to pierce the clouds of human history. And our many 'deaths' in life are a participation in this Divine Blessing. Through little acts of mortification, detachment, fasting, prayer, and little acts of penance and charity, we become the habit of obedience we practice. We allow the hammer and fire of God's Love to pound virtue into our heart. When we repent, the door is open to change. But this change can seem like a 'dark night' and a war. Therefore, we must always remember the Cross as the Love of the Resurrection.
Christianity, therefore, is the practice of the 'post-mortem' life. Living in the grace of the Resurrection through the many paradoxical deaths given us by our Loving Father in Heaven.