I used to sing Jesus Loves Me when I was a skinny girl with pigtails. But, just because I knew the Bible said, “He loves me,” didn’t make me feel secure in His love.
Surely, I had to be a good girl to earn God’s love.
Surely, my bad behavior would make God love me less.
Even when I became an adult, and had glimpses of God’s perfect love for me, I couldn’t keep my heart in that place.
The subject came up when I had Lunch with Loretta. It’s been years since our conversation, but here’s an excerpt when I asked her if she struggled to believe God loved her.
“I struggle with many things,” she said, “but knowing God loves me isn’t one of them. I can’t explain it. I only know God loves me today as much as He did yesterday.”
I looked into Loretta’s calm eyes. “I wish I had your confidence, but it’s hard to believe His love for me doesn’t vary from day to day.”
“Are you saying you think God loves you less when you do something bad?”
I shrugged. “Doesn’t have to be bad. Sometimes, it’s what I don’t do. I skipped my morning prayers last week. So it seems like God would love me less than He did two weeks ago when I prayed every morning, and made dinner for a sick friend.”
Loretta raised her brows. “I’m thankful God’s love doesn’t depend on our actions or we’d all be in a fix.”
“I know in my head that God loves me,” I groaned. “But sometimes, I can’t get my heart to believe it.”
“Karen, if you want to rest in God’s love, it begins with trusting God when He says, ‘I love you.’Tweet
“But I agree that God’s love for us is so much more complete and purer than we can possibly understand.” Loretta pointed to a framed photo of her family. “I think the closest human experience we have to show God’s love is giving birth. Remember when your children were born? You loved them, right?”
“More than I’d ever thought possible,” I replied.
“And yet, they’d done nothing to earn your love except to be present.”
“True.” I thought of Jonathan, my first-born. I remembered sitting in the hospital bed studying his sweet face. As I did, an unexplainable, consuming love for him filled every fiber of my being. Nothing Jonathan did—or didn’t do—had ever kept me from loving him. Oh yes, this was the love of God. I needed to see myself this way, a babe in God’s arms with His deep love pouring out on me.
“Karen, do you want to know for certain that God’s love for you is eternal and unwavering?”
“Then you must know His character. When I was in my forties, I searched God’s Word to learn about His character . . . who He was, along with how and why He interacted with His people.
“Every time I read my Bible I drew a heart near every action that showed God’s character—like pursuing. If you only look for God’s judgement and wrath in the Bible, you’ll find it. But as I marked His actions, what stood out was how forgiving and merciful He was to such disobedient children because He loved them. Now, when I open my Bible, I see those hearts littered in the margins and I’m reminded who God is.”
“You could also draw hearts around descriptive words,” I said. “Like patient and faithful.”
Loretta nodded. “Just remember. It’s not enough to highlight God’s characteristics. We have to believe they’re true. Otherwise we won’t trust God’s love when we’re going through tough times. Or when we fail.”
I took Loretta’s advice. I drew tiny hearts next to God’s characteristics and actions that revealed His love. As I read Scripture through love-tinted lenses, God’s love seemed wider and deeper. Today, my Bible has so many tiny hearts, it resembles a Valentine’s card.
And when I mess up and fail to be a “good girl,” I’m able to rest, knowing God loves me even in this . . .
Do you struggle to believe God loves you?
According to Romans 8: 38-39, what can separate you from God’s love?
Mom/Child Photo: Jennifer Wrede