Dear Church Family,
I love each and every one of you. I am confident that you love me and that you love each and every member, attender and visitor at our church. And I am certain that our words and actions are sincere. Even more important than our love for one another is this truth: Jesus loves you. Our Triune God loves you. The love which we have for one another cannot compare with the love God has for us.
But while we all profess that God loves us, and we love each other, if I were to ask you, do you know that God loves you? Do you believe that God loves you? Are you experiencing the love of God for you? You might not be able to answer each of these questions in the affirmative. I know one counselor who asked over 100 people if they knew that God loved them, and only one of them looker her in the eye and said with confidence, “Absolutely, God loves me!” The rest hesitated. I feel for them.
I want to address a few of the illegitimate ways in which we try to deal with the feeling of distance from God, and then consider some Biblical teachings on the issue. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
I just read a book by a professing Christian who tried to explain the so-called ‘dark night of the soul’. I must confess that I have never encountered this philosophy or terminology before. The author seemed to be looking for the answer to how to relate with God when we do not feel loved by Him. His answer would fit nicely in a Buddhist manual (he claims as much), but is in contradiction with the scriptures on several points. Here are a few of his errant points which some of us may also be tempted to believe:
- We find God when we look deep within ourselves. (The Bible teaches that the heart is wicked and deceitful! [Jeremiah 17:9] We find God in the scriptures!)
- The enlightened soul relinquishes such strict beliefs as ‘all who are not Christians are going to hell’. (Jesus said that he is the only way of salvation [John 14:6], and Paul made it clear that no one can be saved who has not heard the gospel and responded in faith [Romans 10:13-17].)
- All mankind is basically good, for our souls are one with God containing the divine. (The Bible teaches that we were made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27], but that we fell in Adam and our natures became corrupt from birth. We are born enemies of God, children of wrath, and in need of a Savior [Ephesians 2:3-5].)
- Knowledge of God is rooted in subjective, personal experience; meditation, introspection, and hearing directly from God. (The Bible teaches that we know God through Jesus Christ alone [John 14:7], and we know Jesus Christ through the scriptures alone [I John 1:1-4, Matthew 11:27]. Satan works through religious experience, wrapping a lie in some truth, appearing as an angel of light, but leads us to bondage, death and destruction [2 Corinthians 11:14-15].)
So how do we know that God loves us? Where does the Bible point us when we cannot feel the love of God for us?
One place we may go for help when we do not feel loved by God is Romans 8. Paul urges us to seek the love of Christ in the Biblical account of the work of Jesus. He does not urge us to look inward, to find god within us, or to empty our minds in some sort of meditation. Rather, he reminds us of the proof of God’s love for us. “If God did not spare his own son for us, how will he not also graciously give us all things” (v. 32) He reminds us of our former state and how God has forgiven and cleansed us. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” He does not tell us to look inward for evidence of this fact, but testifies that “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (vs. 9-11) So what should we do when we do not feel loved by God?
We don’t minimize our sin, hiding our guilt and shame. We do not look for spiritual experiences or emotional assurances. We place our faith firmly in Jesus Christ. We meditate on the promises of God in the scriptures. We ponder the deep, deep love of Jesus whose love for us was far more than a feeling, it was an act, he humbled himself and became a lowly servant man, and submitted to the shameful death of a criminal on a tortuous cross, because that’s what it took to pay for our sins. When we see our sins for what they are, deserving of the wrath of God, and then believe the truth that Jesus took that wrath in our place and took away our shame and reproach by cleansing us and making us children of God, then the joy and thanksgiving may be restored. We can call upon Jesus in prayer and ask to be saved, and he saves us! (Romans 10:13) We who choose to place our faith in Jesus Christ can also choose to be thankful and to rejoice! We are not subject to our emotions, for we know the truth, and “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)!
My prayer for you today is Ephesians 3:14-21:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”