I want to tell you something about myself that I think most Christians never want to admit…
Although I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, I spent many of my years in fear, feeling stressed out and wondering if my relationship with God was “right” enough. Yes, I knew how to speak all the Christian jargon, I served in church until I nearly wore myself down to the bones, and I always tried my hardest to be a “good” Christian so that God would be proud of me and bless me. But in all of that, I still carried this nagging feeling that I wasn’t enough, and perhaps God didn’t love me quite as much as He did others.
I know what you’re thinking…”Michele, you said that you’ve been a Christian for most of your life…how could you not know that God loves you?”
I’ll tell you how. Because until I began to understand who Jesus REALLY is, and all that He has done for me, I thought that God’s love for me was much like other people’s love for me - conditional on my behavior and works. And what’s amazing is that as I share this with others, so many other Christians are admitting to me that they feel exactly the same!
This world teaches you that in order to have good things happen to you, it’s necessary for you to earn your “blessings”. If you want good grades in school, you have to study for hours on end. If you want a promotion at work, you have to work hard for it. If you want your business to be successful, you have to work your fingers to the bone and be willing to sacrifice everything for it.
Saying this might cause some religious folks to get upset, but I believe that the church has taught us the very same principles. It's been ingrained in us that if we want God to bless us, then we have to obey His laws. If we don’t, then we are told that He will leave us to ourselves to fail.
Now honestly, does that sound like a God of love? It does if we believe that God operates on “phileo” love like we mere humans operate. But that is NOT the love of an “agape” Father!
One of my pet peeves is hearing people say things like “She’s just a good Christian - she loves the Lord so much!” Or, “You’ve got to show God how much you love Him!” Since when does my love for God mean so much? It’s not my love for God that saved me - it’s His love for ME!
I John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but the He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Until recently, I was never quite sure that God loved me completely, because I was too busy trying to prove to God that I loved HIM. Somehow I had kept trying to convince God that I was deserving of His goodness and favor. I have now realized that by doing so, I was working against His love and His grace. I now understand that there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to earn His favor, His blessing, His goodness toward me. Any attempts on my part to deserve anything good from God actually takes away from what Jesus did for me on the cross.
We have to come to grips with the truth that God’s love toward us is pure and complete. God is not like an angry parent, allowing us to go through hardships so that we can “learn a lesson”. He is not like a strict parent who spanks us when we misbehave, or withholds from us when we’ve messed up.
I want to challenge you with this scripture:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18).
If you are like me and sometimes experience fear in life, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, “Am I 100% sure that God loves me completely?” I can already tell you that the answer is “no”. But ask Him to reveal His love to you through Jesus. I believe that as long as we are in these bodies, this will be something we have to deal with on a daily basis. But, when we can truly understand that God’s love for us matters more than our love for Him, we will walk in more and more freedom with each day!