December eNews: Can God Love Someone Like Me?
Can God love someone like me? Does this question ever trouble you? Perhaps it comes up in those quiet moments when you’re all alone. Maybe there was a time—in your childhood years perhaps—when you could believe that God really did love you. But that was… before thoughts of God were overrun by the alluring pleasures and entertainments or athletic ambitions the world offered you… before the molestation… before that first sexual tryst in high school or college… before the abortion… before pornography became an obsession… before secret sin took over and began to dominate your life… before you crossed lines and engaged in things you swore you’d never do. Whatever IT was that happened, it’s now a mountain between you and God. If He ever loved you, it seems impossible to believe He could now.
A Personal Conflict
I remember all too well being in that place. My carefully constructed life was demolished in quick fashion when my secret sexual behaviors came to light. I lost my job in ministry, lost my treasured pristine reputation, severely damaged my marriage and wound up exiled to a program for sexual addicts in rural Kentucky. I wasn’t just lost; I was a 38-year-old Loser at the lowest point of my life. Years of self-love had left me hardened outwardly and hollow inwardly.
One day, shortly after my unceremonious arrival at the Pure Life Ministries Residential Program, I took a walk out on the ridge, to the place where a hand-hewn wooden cross stands amidst a small grove of cedar trees, and sat down on the bench overlooking the cross. I began to pray. I told God how miserable and wretched I was. I confessed sexual sins, sins of deception, sins against others, sins against Him, sins too shameful to speak of here. I told Him how wrong I was; how sad I was; how lonely I was; how I felt like a failure my whole life; how nobody really loved me and I couldn’t blame them.
I lost track of time but I’m sure I spent at least 30 minutes babbling on and on, admitting to God precisely how disgusting, vile and wretched I was. At some point, a vague memory of some preacher saying I shouldn’t do all the talking but should allow God opportunity to speak when I’m praying came to mind. So I paused in pouring out my heart to God and said, “Sorry Lord; I’ve been doing all the talking.” (In my thinking, this was just one more failure to add to the list.) “Do You have anything You want to say to me?”
It’s hard to put into words what happened when I asked that question. But somehow, I felt—in a very literal way—the arms of God Himself draw me into a hugging embrace, and I heard Him say with perfect clarity in my heart, “I love you.”
That was it for me. He won my heart. I had just spent a good half-hour or more telling the Lord all the reasons why no one could possibly love me, why He shouldn’t love me or even have anything to do with me. And how did He respond? What did He want to say to me about all of this? “I love you.”
Friend, that’s what He wanted me to know above all else. To be sure, He fully intended to deal with my sin, my selfishness, my pride and self-righteousness, my unfaithfulness, my utter lack of respect for His Word. But first, I needed to know a very, very vital piece of the puzzle that I had long been overlooking: He loves me.
Because of God’s Love…
There’s a story in Genesis that helps to make the love of God come alive for me. Perhaps you remember how Jacob deceived Isaac and stole his brother’s inheritance, then fled to the distant home of his mother’s relatives. In exile, Jacob wound up agreeing to tend the flocks of his Uncle Laban. He also happened to fall in love with Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter. Soon enough, the arrangement was made that he would work for Laban for seven years, at the end of which time Rachel would become his wife. Here’s how the Scriptures summarize Jacob’s years of toil: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” (Genesis 29:20)
Wow! “…and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Can you imagine love like that?
There are two sides to consider from this profound statement about love.
Our Love for God While it’s easy to sing “I love you Lord” while participating in the congregational hymns and worship songs of the church, and perhaps even to utter the words in prayer now and again, the truth for most of us is that we do not love God—at least, not like we ought to. Not like Jacob loved Rachel. If we did, then years of serving Him would seem as nothing more than a few days to us. He would truly be the center of our affections. Doing what we know would be pleasing to Him, wouldn’t be such a struggle. Obeying Him wouldn’t seem burdensome or restrictive. It would be exhilarating!
If you spent time studying Scripture about what it means to truly love God, you just might discover that your love for Him is pretty weak and superficial. If that is the case, the best response is to begin by confessing the truth to God. Be honest. Be sincere. Pour your heart out to Him. He can handle the truth. And He can help you change.
God's Love for Us There’s another side to this divine portrait of love between Jacob and Rachel. This passage also provides great insight into the Father’s love. God does love you. What if it meant serving seven years for you? Would He do it? Yes, He’s willing. And He proved it by coming as the Servant-of-All for us. (Mark 10:44-45) Would He serve seven years? I suspect He would serve seventy-times-seven years. In fact, He would give His whole life. He did give His whole life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Let these familiar words become full of new meaning to you.
Ed Buch is Director of Counseling for Pure Life Ministries. He previously worked as a counselor in a nationally known drug & alcohol addiction ministry, and holds a Master’s in Religion from Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has served at the Ministry since 2005.
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