As I sat quietly on my bed a few mornings ago, I wondered to myself what was the most important truth that I believe about God. The answer was actually very easy – the truth that he loves me. A very simple truth, and yet one that so many Christians struggle with. I know I have.
I became a Christian many, many, years ago because of this truth. Some wonderful people told me that God loved me so much that he sent his Son to die in my place, in order for me to come into a relationship with him. I wasn’t stupid – if God, the Creator, wanted to have a relationship with me, and he had made a way for me to come into that relationship, then I was going to embrace that provision. I was not fully convinced that God even existed at that point, but I knew it had to be a possibility. Then people, very friendly nice people, told me that they had come into a friendship with God, and I could too, I considered it an opportunity not to be missed. I knew that I was not a totally good person – that is, I knew I was not good enough to enter into a place where really good people lived, heaven. So, if Jesus made it possible for me to come to God and receive forgiveness for my wrongdoings, rather than having to be perfect myself, then I figured that was worth trying. I prayed silently along the lines of “God I know that I’m selfish, please forgive me. And please come and be the boss of my life.” Then I went to sleep. The next day I felt so different! I felt loved by God. I could not understand why God would love me, but I was incredibly glad that he did.
Although I am not stupid, I have to confess that sometimes I do make some unintelligent choices. When I became a Christian, I knew that Jesus was my only hope of salvation. I knew that I could not get to heaven on my good behavior, because it was not good enough. I mean, you have to be perfect to get to heaven. Yet because God loved me so much, I was able to come into relationship with him! Wow. And if God loved me so much before I chose to give my life to him, then for sure he would continue to love me after I chose to follow him? And yet there were times when I tried to make God love me more by doing things that I thought would impress him. I never missed church on Sundays, nor the midweek prayer meeting, even though one old gentleman would always pray around the world and back again, for at least half of the allotted time. It is of course healthy to attend these gatherings, but it is not healthy if I think doing so will make God love me more.
Looking back, I believe I often had mixed motives in a lot of what I did for the Lord. I longed to serve him with my whole life, and at the right time my husband and I took our family on the mission field. We were in Switzerland in order to receive some training, and one time not long after we had arrived there, I was carrying a breakfast tray back from our room to the kitchen. My flip flop caught on the stairs and everything went flying, including me. As I was falling down the stairs I had two very clear thoughts. My first thought was that I was a missionary, so this sort of thing should not be happening to me! I felt that I had given up my home and stable income to serve the Lord, so now he owed me. He should have loved me more and protected me from tripping on my flip flop. My second thought was that I hoped I did nothing serious to myself since we did not have any health insurance.
God cannot love us any more than he already does! His love towards us is incredible. He gave his own innocent Son to die a horrific death on a cross in order that we might receive forgiveness for all the things we have, or have not, done. And as we move in relationship with him, the Father longs to pour out on us more and more of his love. I have tasted something of his love for me, and it makes me hungry to experience more.
Our circumstances do not tell us if we are loved or not – our heart tells us; the truth tells us. I can slip down the stairs and break my foot, and that tells me nothing, other than that I have broken my foot. It certainly does not tell me that God does not love me. He does love me. He loved me when I slipped, and he loves me now. I would like it if no more bad things ever happened to me, but unless I die in the next few minutes that is not likely to be the case. Being loved by God does not mean being wrapped in bubble wrap and protected against anything hurting us. It means that when things happen that can hurt us, we have One who will stand with us, be there for us, continue to love us no matter what we say or do.
And this is the most important truth that I embrace as a Christian because everything else flows out from this truth. Because I am loved by God I want to please him, I want to make him happy. I am not doing it in order to be loved, but rather because I am loved