If you truly understood that God loves you, it would transform your life. Every area. You would never be the same again from the moment you accepted that truth. So why do so many people struggle with moving beyond “knowing” that God loves us (because, after all, that’s what the smiley faces tell us) and believing that He does? What stands between reason and faith?
God’s word is full of His promises and His declaration of undying, unconditional love for us. We read it, we hear it on the radio, and in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Other people tell us. And we even say it ourselves. But when we take a look at how we live what we believe, there is often a discrepancy between head-knowledge belief that God loves us and hearts that believe without a doubt that He does. And if we look very closely, and listen carefully, we will most likely see that while we know we should believe God loves us, and think we do, our internal dialogue tells a completely different story…
“If God really loved me, He wouldn’t let me suffer like this…”
“God must love her more than me, look how “blessed” she is while I struggle just to get by…”
“God only loves me when I get it right…”
Our thoughts are a combination of endless input from those around us, from the media, from what we read or listen to. Our "original" concepts of ourselves and of God and others may not be as original as we think they are sometimes. Do the advertisements on TV tell you that you're too fat? Did your father tell you that you were incompetent? Did your group of friends talk about the neighbor down the street at your last coffee klatch? Our minds take in so much data, and left to its own devices the mind can truly make a mess of all that information.
Our view of God as a Heavenly Father is often shaped by our experiences with our earthly fathers. If you father abandoned you, if he abused you, if he was harsh, demanding and critical, it can be hard to not think of God in the same light. Was your father loving, kind and supportive? How blessed you are! But even then, all it takes is a little seed planted at the right time and a harvest of doubt can be reaped.
lies and feelings…
There are at least two things that can get in the way of believing in your heart what your mind already knows. Lies and Feelings. Satan, who is the Father of Lies, is really good at whispering little questions in our ears…questions that get us to doubt the Truth of God’s word. "Did God really say that?” … “Is that really what He meant?” And sometimes, he’s not subtle at all…“He promised to meet all your needs, so where is He now that the mortgage is due and you don’t have the money to pay it?” Those little seeds of doubt can take root and grow into bitterness, envy, and anger at God.
Then there’s our Feelings. We’re supposed to have “childlike” faith, right? That’s what Jesus said:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15)
Receiving God’s love like a little child does not mean that we let our emotions, which are often immature, rule our decisions. We receive God’s love by believing that He loves us, just as our own children so readily believe that we love them. But, their immature emotions will often lead them to the conclusion that we don’t love them…if we don’t give them what they want or let them do something they want to do. We have the same tendencies toward God at times, too. We need to readily believe, as a child, while exercising self-control over our emotions, as adults do…or should, anyway.
When we let our childlike Feelings reason for us in difficult situations, we can also end up feeling bitter, resentful and angry toward God. We can feel like he’s being mean…just like mom is a big meanie when she tells her three year old that he can’t have cookies for breakfast. The child doesn’t understand that eating sugary, unhealthy cookies for breakfast can ruin his appetite for healthy, nourishing foods that his growing body needs to mature and to build a strong immune system to protect against illness. Mom is really looking out for his best interest, she is protecting him and showing him love – because she cares about even little things like that and because she knows something the child doesn’t. The lack of understanding on the child’s part does not change, diminish or remove the love of his mother.
take a look inside…and weed the garden
If you struggle with really believing that God loves you, take look inside for a moment. Listen to yourself as you think about the difficult situations you face…what are you saying? Is it really true? Is it a lie? Examine your feelings, too…what are they telling you? Are they ruling your thoughts and decisions, or are they under control? And, ultimately, do the thoughts and feelings you have line up with what God’s word says? If not, you need to feast upon the word and intentionally spend time with God, letting Him reveal His true character to you…which is Love.
Anything that does not agree with God’s word is a lie. It will produce fruit in your life, if you allow it to take root and grow, but that fruit will be rotten and destructive. Take time every day to pull the weeds out of your heart and mind. Ask God to show you the things you believe that are contrary to His word.
God’s love really is simple. It’s huge, it’s unconditional, it’s free. It’s ours for the receiving, if we will but just believe. Paul prayed that we would
…[be] rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:18-19
And while I believe it is impossible to fully understand, grasp and know the love of God in its entirety, I do believe it is possible to understand it as much as we are humanly capable. We define the ceiling of that understanding by what we choose to believe about God, about His love, and about ourselves.
“What a good earthly father would not do, God who is our Father would not do either; and what a good father ought to do, God who is our Father is absolutely sure to do.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith