I recently viewed a clip advertising a sermon in which a pastor asked, "How do you measure God's love?" The question stirred my heart and lead me to reflect on how I have measured God's love over the years. I must admit that there were were different times that I doubted God's love a lot. There were several different reasons for the doubt I had.
First, some of the doubt was connected to traumatic events I had experienced. At the time of these doubts I believed God would want to protect someone He loved and yet there were several times I experienced trauma from which He didn't protect me.
There were times that I doubted God's love because I had prayed important prayers and God did not answer with a "yes" or "no." Instead, He seemed to go silent at the times I believed I needed Him the most. Sometimes those prayers were about difficult situations I was facing, sometimes they were about the hurt a loved one was experiencing, or they were about very difficult relationships I had and I begged God to resolve or to heal and the silence along with the hurt seemed to never end.
There were other times I believed God loved me a little, but not as much as He loved others. At the time I had a habit of comparing my life and how God worked in it to the lives of others and to the way He worked in their circumstances. I also compared the blessings I noticed God bestowing on others, but not on me. Of course I realize now that I didn't really understand a lot about God and how He relates to His people. Because of that I had developed a nice neat little box that I tried to put God in. Now, I am so thankful that He refused to operate in the limited way I thought He should.
There was also a period of time in which the Enemy had convinced me I was unloved and unlovable. He whispered that in my mind every chance He got and over time that belief became a stronghold in my life and skewed my ability to see and recognize God's love, His blessings, and His continual work in my life.
Several years ago I heard a sermon on loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, I asked God to teach me how to do that and for the next year He bombarded me with sermons, music, and unsolicited notes of encouragement all speaking to the radical love God had for me. Towards the end of that year I realized I would never be able to love God the way I wanted to without believing in His immeasurable love for me.
Not long after that I was struggling with a besetting sin and was so discouraged. I confessed that sin and remember saying something like, "Lord, I want to get rid of this sin so that you can really love me!" As I was walking and praying I was listening to Christian music and a song about the cross started playing and in my mind I saw Jesus hanging on the cross with my sins etched into His skin. My eyes filled with tears and I glanced up at His face, expecting to see the same condemnation I was feeling towards myself. But instead I saw love and compassion in His eyes. That was when the truth of Romans 5:8 moved from my head to my heart. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I began to understand that the measure of God's love wasn't found in His protection from the hard we experience in this fallen world I so badly wanted to be paradise. It wasn't found in the timeliness of answered prayers as the waits themselves were an invitation to keep pouring my heart out to Him. The measure of God's love wasn't even in what I perceived as blessings at the time. For I have since learned that there is as much blessings in the wait as there is in the prayers that are answered with a "yes" or a "no." I have also learned that blessings come in many forms. They can be material, they can be relational. They can be timely words spoken that are like honey to a hungry soul. They can be loving confrontations that redirect me back to the path that God has laid out for me. They can be the Lord's words, jumping from the page to my heart in His perfect timing. They can be prayers answered yes, prayers answered no, and they can be prayers that are met with God's silence--a silence that drives me to my knees and into deeper trust with Him.
The measure of God love was, is, and always will be the cross. While I was His enemy, steeped in sin, selfish, and unloving, He sacrificed His life, taking my, rebellion, and selfish ways in His flesh so that He could impute to me His righteousness. When I understood that truth, it totally changed how I viewed my my relationship with God. I no longer spent enormous amounts of energy trying to measure or to earn God's love. Instead, I started looking for Him and His love in every situation I encounter. If it is a happy situation I find that He is there in the midst of it celebrating with me. If it is a hard and painful situation I find Him there with me, revealing more about Himself to me and He walks me through the hard. If it is a trying time, He is there lovingly stretching me so I can walk through it with my faith strengthened, my sinful parts exposed and whittled, and my my character molded to be more like Him.
Can I encourage you today to honestly look at your thoughts, actions, and reactions to life? Then ask yourself what these things reveal to you about how you are measuring God's love. If you have distanced yourself from God, it could be a sign that you are measuring His love by a faulty measuring stick. Acknowledge the disappoints and pain you have experienced and express to Him the confusion you may have over unanswered prayers and then camp on Romans 5:8 and let the truth of it sink into your heart. Then you can view those things through the truth of a Heart-shaped lens, which will free you to live loved.