“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16 ESV)
Are you familiar with the sweet storybookGuess How Much I Love You? It is a favorite bedtime story for our family. Throughout its beautifully illustrated pages, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare compete to describe exactly how much they love one another. With each charming page, their descriptions of their love grows. First it is just the length between their outstretched hands, then it is as high as they can hop, until finally Big Nubrown Hare whispers to his sleeping son, “I love you all the way to the moon and back,” besting his son’s previous declaration: “I love you to the moon.” Though the son’s love for his father is genuine and enthusiastic, his father’s love is always greater.
Can you imagine playing this game with our Heavenly Father? “Dear God, guess how much I love you?” Well, the game would pretty much end right there. God would say something like, “Oh, I know exactly how much you love me. You hated me. Mocked me. In fact, you waged war against me until I lavished my love upon you and put my Spirit within you. Now my Spirit is at work, renewing your heart and mind, and causing you to trust me more with each passing day. He is causing you to love me and to enjoy my love. You now love me, because I first loved you.”
Comparison over. Contest won. We could never even begin to stack our love up against the love of the Father. What a humbling thought! Every emotion and affection we have toward the Father that even resembles love is a direct result of his wondrous grace. He is the one lavishing love upon us, not the other way around: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV)
And yet, how is it that we can still find ourselves questioning his love for us? How can it be that there are days when our attitudes, or circumstances, or the world around us tempt us to believe his love might waver or be cut off from us altogether?
Perhaps you get done with a terrible, no good, very bad day in which your attitude caused everyone around you to resent your very existence. You have done nothing good, blessed not a single person, and thought little of your precious Savior. You lay in your bed at the conclusion of the day processing all that has transpired and think, “God cannot possibly love me today. Today, I am unlovable.”
Or perhaps some incredible trial has befallen you. You lose a child, you contract a horrible disease, you lose your job, or your husband cheats on you. Certainly God does not love you in this! His love would not allow such tragedies to occur, would it? In prayers of agony you find yourself asking, “If you truly loved me God, why would you allow this pain and suffering? Do you truly love me in this?”
Or maybe you struggle to accept his promises to love you based on your experiences with human love in the past. Your parents once told you they loved you, but then the abandoned you. Your husband once swore to love and treasure you for the rest of his life, but then he began to abuse you, breaking every vow he ever uttered. When you’ve known nothing of sacrificial love in this world, it can be difficult to accept the perfect, unchanging, and free love of God.
But we must not let this be the case. We cannot allow our hearts to play guessing games with the love of God. It is too precious and he is too honest for us to question his Word. We must continually be about the business of battling the lie that God does not, cannot, or will not love us based on our circumstances, actions, or emotions. This is a lie from Satan, a lie that he victoriously sold to our first parents, Adam and Eve. It is the lie that Christ came to save us from.
If the blood of Christ was shed for you, then you can be certain that God has shown and will continueto show you the greatest love the world has ever known. His love is based upon nothing but the sacrificial work of his Son and is shown in nothing better than the sacrificial work of his Son. Consider these verses:
- 1 John 4:9: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
- Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Lamentations 3:22: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…
- John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This kind of love is incomprehensible. How could a holy God love those who are filthy and completely unlovable? How could he love us to the point of sacrificing his own beloved Son? We cannot possibly fathom this God who describes his very being as “love”. And yet, this is what he beckons us to believe. This is what his Spirit is testifying to in the depths of our souls: that God loves us and will never stop loving us.
I cannot say it any better than Name Above All Names does:
The heart of the gospel is this: in demonstration of his love, the heavenly Father sent his only Son to die on the cross in our place and for our sins… It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us–not the providential circumstances of our lives. We must not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if things are going well with us, then we can be sure of God’s love. For life can often seem dark and painful. Things do not always go well for us. Rather, we look to the sacrifice of the cross and the demonstration God gave there of his love. This is the proof I need. This is the truth I need to hear if the lie is to be dispelled.
If you ever begin to question God’s love for you, look to the cross. It is there that God stretched out his arms to describe exactly how much he loved you, but it was not the space between his hands that described the depth, height, and length of his love, it was the price: it was the death of the eternal son of God.
That is how much he loves you.