Struggling with God’s Love
The love of God is best seen and learned through the life of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal and explain the Father to us. I love what Bruxy Cavey said, “The life of Jesus is like God pausing from teaching us lessons & saying ‘Here’s what I mean – watch this.’” God is just like Jesus and always has been like Jesus. We haven’t always known that, but we do now.. Jesus’ life reveals the Father’s heart and love for humanity to us.
To get over our misunderstanding of God we must see Him as love. We must understand His love for humanity. His message to us is, “I love you. I want to be with you. You are valuable to me. I would rather die than to be without you.” That’s a very powerful thought, that God (Jesus) would rather die than to be without us. Because we couldn’t fix the problem, God the Father took it up Himself to fix the broken relationship problem between Himself and humanity. He loves us more than we can ever fathom.
As Christ-followers we sing about His love, and we preach and testify about His love, but when it comes to our daily lives many of us do not live like God is love. We live like God is angry and always in a bad mood waiting to strike us down for some minor offense. Why do we struggle to believe that God is love? I believe that there are several reasons:
Our definition of love is messed up. Because God is love we will define Him by how we define love. If we do not understand what true and genuine love is, then we will always misunderstand God. We must seek God to give us an understanding of what real love is. We can begin to get that understanding by reading 1 Corinthians 13. Whenever the word love is used, replace it with God and you will begin to see how God really is.
We live in a fallen, selfish world where love is used or withheld in order to get something. The majority of us have been raised to “earn” someone’s love: be it a parent, a spouse, a child, a lover, a boss, etc. We’ve learned to satisfy someone else’s desires in order to feel loved. But that is not real love. We carry this over into our relationship with God whereby we try to earn His love by “keeping the rules” or modifying our behavior or doing all the right Christian things that we believe He demands from us.
We see ourselves as unlovable. Many people struggle with this, and for numerous reasons. Some of us didn’t have the right parental environment where we were taught unconditional love. Some people have been abandoned by their parents: the very ones who were to teach the child how loveable they really are. Others may have been rejected at school or have been rejected by a spouse. Rejection always tries to tell us that we are unlovable; that somehow we are not good enough and do not measure up. As a pastor for over 20 years, I have seen a lot of people deal with this issue of feeling unlovable. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with my own issues of feeling unlovable.
We see ourselves (and have been told) that we are objects of God’s wrath because of our sin. We believe this because we don’t believe that Jesus has already dealt with the sin problem at the cross of Calvary. Some Christians believe that every bad thing that happens, every natural disaster is a judgment of God for sin in their lives or in the country. Yet, John 3:17 tells us that God didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn the world. He wants to save the world. I don’t believe that God is up in heaven so angry that He is just waiting to unleash His wrath on America or any other country. I believe that God loves people and is constantly wooing them to turn to Him. Does God get angry? Yes, of course He does and we have examples of that in the Bible. But we are not objects of God’s wrath if we have put our trust in Christ. We are the righteousness of Christ. We can stop worrying about getting out of God’s will and worrying about sinning. We can just rest in the finished work of Christ and know that all is well between us and God. NOTE: this doesn’t give us a license to sin. We just need to quit being so sin-conscious and instead rest in the love of God.
Our parents didn’t represent God well. The first image a child has of God is through its parents. When a parent doesn’t parent with grace and mercy then we begin to see God in the same light. When a parent is a strict disciplinarian, then we believe that God is the same way. When our parents reject us or walk out of our lives, we will see that in God. I know this first hand because my dad walked out of my life when I was 15. I felt rejected and abandoned. I reasoned that if my own dad didn’t want anything to do with me, why would God? So I spent a lot of years trying to get God’s attention and show Him that I was loveable. I spent many years on the “treadmill of performance” always trying to go faster and harder to prove myself to God.
Parents, realize that you are teaching your children what God is like by the way that you love them and by the way you give or withhold mercy and grace. This one has been a tough one for me as I am still raising my children. I haven’t always done the best job or representing my Father in heaven to my children, but I do recognize that fact that they are learning about God through me.
We have faulty theology. I have both contributed to this problem and been affected by this problem. Many Christians have a wrong concept and misunderstanding of God because of things that the Church has erroneously taught. We have all had good intentions; it’s just that we have not read the Bible through the lens of Jesus. We read the Bible trying to figure out what God wants or we are trying to live our Christian life from an Old Covenant mindset. We need to read our Bibles to see Jesus, not to see how to become a better Christian. Everything in the Bible points to Jesus and Jesus points us to God the Father. Everything we know about God needs to be seen in the life of Jesus. He came to reveal and explain Him to us.
God is love and we must look and understand Him through the framework of love. I love the way that Brennan Manning put it, “Put bluntly, God is sheer Being-in-Love and there was never a time when God was not love. The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is the originating Lover, the Son who is the full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit who is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love, drawing the created universe into itself.” (The Furious Longing of God).
So, do you struggle to believe that God is love? As you read through my list, did you identify with any of them? Do you have anything to add to the list? I would love to hear your comments and dialogue further.