I was reading a book and it asked the question, “Do you love God?” I answered in the affirmative immediately. (I pretty much always answer the questions in books or articles.) It then asked, “Do you know that God loves you? Do you truly believe He loves you?” I answered in the affirmative again.
Then I started really pondering the question and thinking deeply about love. Did I, Lee Ann, believe that God truly and deeply loved me? I knew that He did in the moments when I was spending time with Him. I knew that He did when I was seeking His will for my life on my face before Him. But, did I think He loved me when I lied to protect myself? Did I think He loved me when I let my unrighteous anger burst from my heart? What about when I let words to ignite lust in a man drip from lips? Did I believe that God loved that Lee Ann? I did not.
I realized that I viewed God as a dictator. I followed His commandments because I feared His wrath. I did not follow His commandments because it broke my heart not to do so. I was terrified of letting Him down, because I was terrified of being banished to hell. Do you know how well that worked out for me? Well I will tell you how it worked out,
not so well.
In fact, after this deep thinking, I avoided my quiet time with Him. I knew that these questions were raised by Him. I knew that He wanted to do a work in my heart, and I was terrified. I was scared to know His love on that deep of a level. The vulnerability it takes to allow someone to love you at your worst is not something I have ever allowed myself to experience.
I grabbed a snack, I turned on the television, I perused Instagram, I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees (truthfully), I washed everything that wasn’t nailed down in the house, I read a book – I was doing anything to avoid answering His call. It bothered me to think that my world was about to be flipped upside down.
I sat down and prayed. I was honest with God about what I was thinking and feeling. I opened my Bible, not even sure where to begin. I happened to flip to 1 John. I started reading and writing. I got to 1 John 4. Verses 7 through 21 in my bible are paraphrased as “God is love”. Do you know what it says smack dab in the middle of that page?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18-19)
He took exactly what I was thinking and feeling and showed it to me in His word. His love is perfect! I am not perfect – not even close. I have always feared His punishment and His wrath. I had never let the love of God replace my fear. I had not allowed myself to be perfected in love. I had not allowed myself to be perfected in God. God is love! I cannot be full of God and trust that He is good if I am not full of His love and doubt His love. I never outwardly doubted His love and would not have admitted to it. To answer the questions I posed a few paragraphs above: Did I believe God loved that Lee Ann? No, I did not. Does He love that Lee Ann? Yes, He does!
God’s love for me does not waver based on my actions. Yes – I have said this to countless women and I have meant it. But, I didn’t truly believe it in my own heart. Not when sin was rising up. This became the first step in not giving in to sin. I could not resist the strongest of temptations I was up against. I didn’t believe God loved the wretched sinner Lee Ann as much as He loved the redeemed Lee Ann. I felt His love was strongest when I was praying or in His word, because I was not sinning in those moments. The minute I stepped out of my prayer closet, I felt His love lessened. I felt like each sinful thought or even temptation lessened His love for me. So, when a strong, familiar, comfortable temptation came my way, I gave in. I gave it because it did not feel alien to me; it was, in a warped sense, comforting to me.
My sin “loved” me, but I doubted my God did.
I am not a girl who easily changes her mind based on feelings. I can feel God’s love all day, but I need proof. I like facts, and I like them written. Once I searched His Word and allowed it to enter my heart, He showed me my answer. Isn’t that just like my God, who loves me so deeply? He met me in my comfort zone, so that He could break down the safety tape and lead me on a journey of learning who He is.
Maybe you are struggling today with balancing a healthy fear of God and the love of God. We should fear and reverence Him. But, we also MUST know that He loves us. He loves us broken, bloody, bruised, and scarred. He loves us. We are His creation. In what way Has God showed His deep, unwavering, unchanging, perfect love for you?