God loves you.
That’s probably the most used phrase in all of Christian history. To be fair, it’s a central truth in much of Jesus’ teachings, and you would be hard pressed to find a more valuable phrase in all of the Bible. Like many popular phrases however, this tiny declaration has been used so much that it’s lost some of its meaning and its punch.
So, what does it mean that God loves us?
I believe that God’s love isn’t just an emotional warmth that I can feel when I am receptive to it. Also, is not simply a fact that I carry around intellectually. It is a truth that must be experienced. God’s love is an active, aggressive process that engages my thoughts and emotions. It provokes me to see the world differently and to act in ways that I would not normally act. It is disruptive, healing, and unpredictable. His love seems to push and pull, challenge, and at times even appears to ignore. I can never take His love for granted because I never know how it will manifest itself at any given moment.
That lead us to another honest question: What difference is that supposed to make in our lives?
Think back to someone in your life who has loved you well. (Hopefully, you have a few to choose from.) You enjoyed being around that person because of the way that their love made you feel. But it didn’t stop there. The love the person gave you changed the way you understood yourself. You became more confident when you were around them. You laughed more. Your stress seemed lighter. What enabled their love to make such a difference in your life?
You believed them.
You believed that they valued you, and therefore, you began to trust that you had value. You trusted that they were right about you.
The same is true of our relationship with God. “God loves you” is simple to understand but difficult to believe. We struggle to trust that God is right about us. So, we explain away his love for us as a nice platitude and fail to feel it’s full impact. When we believe that God loves us and trust how he sees us, it changes how we see ourselves and how we see the world around us. Our lives become an unpredictable adventure. You may be minding your own business when God sits you next to most chatty person in history at the coffee shop or behind an exhausted mother with three screaming children in line at the grocery store. Instead of seeing this person as an impediment to your day. You see them with fascination, as a person to be valued. When we are secure in God’s love and the value that he ascribes to us, we no longer need this person to be anything other than what they are. When God loves us, we are set free to care for others, no strings attached.
I was taught a song in church when I was a child. We would sing of God’s love as a “fountain flowing deep and wide”. I didn’t fully understand it then, but I see now that being loved by God is a lot like being carried downstream. The stream of his love is deep so my feet can’t reach the ground to try to control it. It’s wide, so I can’t reach to the side and escape it. It bruises me, frustrates me, cleans me, and calms me. It’s constantly changing me and in the end, I will be in a very different place because of it.
May God’s love carry you downstream and leave you clean and full of hope.