At the end of the movie, Deep Impact, as a massive comet is on a collision course for Earth, one family is stuck in traffic, trying to flee a city where the comet's impact will be felt most deeply. The family had hoped to find refuge in an underground bunker by allowing their teenage daughter to marry her boyfriend who was already on the list of people to be taken to safety, but that plan didn't work. Finally, the teenage husband is able to return for his new wife and finds the family by weaving in and out of traffic on a dirt-bike. The girl's parents immediately put their teenager and her infant sister on the bike and tell her to leave. She refuses to go. She doesn't want to leave her family behind. They love her, but in order to save her, they insist that she leave, knowing she will be hurt by the loss of her family but hoping she will survive the coming disaster. They intentionally cause her pain, not because they hate her, but because they love her.
Too many people have fallen under the assumption that loving somebody means you never do anything that will cause that person pain. These people would be wrong. Numbers 14:18 tells us, The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation (HCSB). Upon first looking at this verse, one can see a possible contradiction within it: God is forgiving but doesn't leave the guilty unpunished? Doesn't forgiving mean that you don't punish someone? Absolutely not.
As a father, there are times my children do things that are wrong, things for which I can forgive them. But as a father, I also love them enough that I want to teach them not to make the same mistakes again. So, even though I have forgiven them for what they have done wrong, I still discipline them, not because I am angry with them or because I hate them but specifically because I love them and I want them to learn. Forgiveness doesn't mean consequences shouldn't occur and love doesn't mean that you avoid causing pain at all costs. Some lessons can only be learned through pain and sometimes love means allowing people to face painful consequences so that they will learn. Sometimes the only way to save someone involves allowing something painful to occur. You don't like the pain, but you accept it because it will eventually bring about something good.
Some of us are going through some painful circumstances and wondering if God really loves us because of the pain we are experiencing. I would like to encourage you with a brief paraphrase of Romans 8:38-39: there is no amount of pain you can endure that will separate you from the love of God. Pain is never pleasant, but it sometimes accompanies things that are necessary and good. If you are struggling with how to respond to someone, don't base your decisions on whether or not someone will be hurt but on what is best for them. Don't ever inflict unnecessary pain, but don't let the possibility of pain keep you from doing what needs to be done.
Pain is a necessary part of life. Don't avoid it. Keep it in the proper perspective.