Today as we consume our heart-shaped chocolates and candy kisses, dream of our pursuits for love or grieve the loss of a great loved one, I encourage you to consider your place in the greatest love story of all time. Read John 3:16.
We have done nothing to deserve this love from Christ, – it's freely given due to our mere existence – yet we are called to accept this love from Him, and to love ourselves, as we are made in the image and likeness of Christ. But this can be difficult at times. Why do you think that is?
Here is my take on why it can be hard for us to accept God’s love for us:
1. The world
1 John 4: 4 “He who is in you is stronger than he who is in the world.“
Society tries to tell us to be perfect and sets unrealistic expectations for us. It can create insecurity and impatience with ourselves. Our dangerous obsession with perfection can be associated with our self-worth; are we worthy of being loved so greatly? However, as imperfect beings, seeking perfection is unattainable. We should celebrate the joy of imperfection in everyday living and loving!
Perfection won’t bring happiness. The search for happiness in earthly things is futile because we’re made for happiness with God. John 17 says “Be in the world, not of it” - rest in God’s love and there we find peace.
Lisa Brenninkmeyer from Walking with Purpose says “God wants us to pursue holiness. Holiness, not perfection. And the measure of holiness is how we love. God wants all of our decisions – the small ones and the big ones – to be filtered through this lens. Which choice is going to help me love God better? Which one will help me love others as Christ loved?” - Imagine the impact this perspective could have on your decision making.
1 John 4: 18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”
Instead of looking at the challenges we face or the cause of our fear, we can choose to shift our gaze to God and contemplate His love for us.
How do we typically respond when trials come our way? Do we get angry with God for allowing us to hurt, or do we take the opportunity to lean into Him for help?
One of my favorite sayings is “When life is too hard to stand, kneel.” We need to stop relying on ourselves or the world to bring peace, and instead turn to Him. Fear is not from God.
We can count on Him. He has the best mind to help us, as He goes before us to clear the path for us.
3. Hardened hearts
1 John 4: 19-21 “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Hurt can harden our hearts. We can build a wall around our hearts when we are trying to protect ourselves from being hurt. Can you identify with that?
Ask the Holy Spirit to bring any significant memories that need God’s healing touch. He has always been there.
Henri Nouwen wrote in Life of the Beloved: “The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.”
Perhaps we’re afraid to let God into our heart or we think it’s too messy? He doesn’t ask us to get our heart cleaned up before He moves in. He wants us “as is.” Seek His mercy and forgiveness rather than carrying hurt or sin with you. The Holy Spirit is always at work and unconfessed sin can cloud that reality.
Lent is just around the corner; we can use that time to examine our conscience and begin fresh.
In the meantime, pray with me “Come Holy Spirit, make my heart be Your Home.”
1 John 4: 9-12 “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”
We all encounter challenges in our lives. Trying to solve every problem in the world or thinking every solution lies within us alone will cause us to wander in the wrong direction and likely become discouraged when we fail to produce the desired results.
How do we respond when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we would like? Do we get upset with Him and demand better treatment? Or in humility, do we believe that God is for us and only does what is ultimately in our best interest?
Jesus sacrificed everything so we could experience God’s love. May we be filled with humility, in awe of the sacrifice Jesus made to bring us closer to the Father.
Pray for help to truly contemplate Jesus on the cross. To look at our own disappointments different, accepting them from Him. When things don’t go as we want, seek a “spirit of expectancy” that believes something better is around the corner.
Luke 22:42 “Not my will, but your will be done...”
1 John 14:16 “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
Sometimes the challenges in life can create a state of seclusion as we try to figure out a solution to the problem. However, we, in our humanity, are simply not enough for many of our challenges. We do not solely hold the key.
It’s a lie to think it‘s all up to us. Jesus can empathize because He lived among us, suffered and died...and then He rose! He is always with us and His love for each of us is out of this world. We must trust that we are never alone. ***
Mother Teresa once said “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God Who is sending a love letter to the world.”
As we work on full acceptance of God’s love for us, let’s use this day, which brings our minds into full focus on the blessings in our life, as a springboard to assess how we will continue to show our love for others beyond February 14 - Family, friends, neighbors and strangers, alike.
Don’t let tomorrow come and go without doing something to share God’s love. For it is in giving that we receive!