We live in a world which places a lot of weight on the individual. Personal preferences and feelings tend to reign in most situations. This emphasis on the individual naturally carries over into our Christian walk.
Many of us who call ourselves Christians often find ourselves asking whether or not we felt God’s love or presence in our lives that day or in that moment, and then, if the answer is no, we are often tempted to feel like failures.
If you’re like me, your inner dialogue may sound something like this: Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in Scripture enough, maybe it’s because I skipped church on Sunday, or maybe I just need to share my faith more.
This kind of self-talk can be exhausting because it places all the pressure to be assured of God’s love on our feelings, which are often fickle things.
I remember at about age 13 when I first began truly understanding what it meant to have faith in Jesus and to be one of His followers. I began consistently reading Scripture, praying, and developing habits of a healthy Christian walk with God. I remember learning so much so quickly and being so exhilarated by every new thing I learned about God, the Bible, faith, and my part in it.
Now, looking back, I recognize that this time in my life of being a new believer and experiencing such exponential growth is common for many Christians. But also, similar to the experience of most Christians, it didn’t last. Even to this day I sometimes find myself longing for that time when it seemed I could feel God’s love and presence so strongly.
In his article titled “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” for John Piper’s Desiring God website, Greg Morse offers some encouragement for Christians who may be basing their understanding of God’s love only on their feelings.
Morse recounts an assignment he and his classmates were given in a Christian Love and Marriage class. The students were asked to "Draw what you think of when you envision the love of God."
Think about that for a moment. What would you draw?
Most of Morse’s classmates ended up drawing happy images such as meadows with butterflies, a teddy bear, red hearts, smiley faces, and a number of other pictures that evoke warm, fuzzy feelings.
Morse’s picture of God’s love, however, was in stark contrast to these images: He used a black crayon to draw a picture of the hill on which Jesus died. He drew Jesus on the cross, shouldering the sins of the world. It was a dark picture, but it showed God’s love like none of the others could.
How often, though, do we, like Morse’s classmates, think of God’s love based on how it makes us feel? And if we think of God’s love based on how it makes us feel, that means God’s love for us can shift and change with life circumstances, our emotions, and the events of any given day.
“This life is utterly exhausting. It may not be legalism, but feelism is just as tyrannical,” writes Morse.
But, as James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (emphasis added).
Too often, we view God’s love like the old game of picking petals off flowers, intoning “He loves me, He loves me not,” and hoping the last petal ends up on “He loves me.”
But God’s love is not fickle, although our hearts and emotions may be.
Instead, Scripture gives us a firm foundation to know that God loves us no matter what. Just a few of the Scripture passages which showcase this are John 3:16, Philippians 2:6-7, Romans 8:32, and Isaiah 53.
After reading each of these Scripture passages, we can repeat to ourselves “He loves me” and know that it is not wishful thinking, but a truth proclaimed to us by the God who does not lie (Titus 1:2).
Morse concludes: “As Christians, we no longer look to the drooping flower of our own love for God, peeling away petal by petal, muttering frantically to ourselves: He loves me, he loves me not.
Instead, we sing,
When Satan tempts us to despair,
Reminding of the lack within,
Upwards we look and see him there,
Who proved his love by conquering sin."
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Annie Spratt
Publication date: November 2, 2017
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com
Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the outdoors, or reading, she can be found mostly in Richmond, VA writing primarily about nature, nostalgia, faith, family, and Jane Austen.