A famous Jewish phrase appears in this week's portion, "As a father chastises his son, so God chastises us" (Deut. 8:5). The idea of God as our "Father in Heaven" is one that we Jews shared with the world.
It was once pointed out to me that God is a Father in Heaven, not a grandfather in Heaven. Grandparents come bearing gifts and are happy to look after their grandchildren when the going is good. But as soon as the kids get tired or start misbehaving, they hand them back to the parents to sort out. Grandparents love their grandchildren, but do not take the same degree of responsibility as parents do.
And that's no small difference.
Taking responsibility for someone's success and happiness is consistent with the greatest levels of love. Marriage, in theory, is an example; we take responsibility for another person's happiness. If my wife is not happy, it's my problem just as much as it is hers. As a great rabbi once said when visiting the doctor with his wife, "My wife's foot is hurting us." The greatest level of love requires us to commit to the other person such that his pain is our pain and his problems are our problems.
Parents most often feel this with children. Spouses sometimes feel this with each other. It is very difficult for unmarried people to feel this. But God? God feels this way unequivocally, unconditionally and without exception about each and every one of us - His children.
Judaism tells us that God is committed to not only the physical, but also the spiritual, wellbeing of his children. And if spiritual and physical priorities come into conflict, the spiritual will always take priority - because it is more valuable and more permanent.
God is not a grandfather. He doesn't walk away frustrated when we are misbehaving. He stands by us and tries to guide us to a better way of living. His guidance might sometimes require us to endure hardship, but it is always done out of love. Parents sometimes put their children through painful experiences - I had to pull out my daughter's wobbly tooth last week and she thought I was Tomas de Torquemada himself - but from my perspective it was done with love.
God too, always does what He does with love. It might not always be so easy to see, but our Father in Heaven guides our lives with a level of love and care that is far greater than even the greatest of parents.