"God loves you."
You've heard that before. However, its repetition can make it trite. And the multitude ways in which we use the word "love" can make it almost meaningless at first glance. After all we use the word "love" in so many ways. "I love baseball." "I love lasagna." "I love my wife." And now "God loves me?"
So a good place to begin is to stop and ask a foundational question "What does it mean that 'God loves me?'"
Particularly, what does it mean to you when you fail?
1. The commandment of God I feel farthest from fulfilling is. . .
2. When I look up and see God's face after I have failed to meet that commandment, He looks. . .
3. And I think that He feels. . .
4. The first thing I think God does after I fail is. . .
Now we are faced with another problem in grasping what it means that God loves us. Not only does the triteness of the phrase minimize its impact, but also in a paradoxical way the sheer magnitude of His love also renders it difficult to appreciate. We have nothing to even begin comparing it to.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever trusts in Him shall not eternally perish but instead will be given eternal life." (John 3:16, pg. 897)
See what I mean? With a love so great that He would send His own Son to die in order to gain our forgiveness, how can we ever hope to wrap our mind around such a love? To what can we ever compare it? If only we could dissect His love and look at only one piece at a time. Maybe then we could begin to appreciate its significance.
Fortunately, there is a very familiar passage in the Bible (usually reserved for weddings) that can help us do just that:
"Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. All the special gifts and powers from God will some day come to an end, but love goes on forever."
(I Corinthians 13:4-8 as written in The Living Bible)
Unfortunately, we usually read that passage and then only lament the fact that we don't love that way and that others sure don't love us that way. However, when we apply it only to ourselves and others, we fail to unlock its greatest riches.
The above paragraph from the Bible describes God's love for you!
Consequently, you could take each of the adjectives in that passage and think about what it means in terms of how God reacts to you when you fail. "How does He look?" "How does He feel?" "What does He do?" The list below can help that process. The first one has been completed as an example. You'll get closer and closer to more fully understanding what it means that "God loves you."
Patient . . . . This means that "He never 'pushes' me!"
Kind. . . . . . This means that ________________________________
Not Jealous. . . This means that ______________________________
Not Boastful. . . This means that _____________________________
Not Rude. . . . This means that He ___________________________
Does Not Demand Its Own Way. . . This means that He ________________________
Is Not Irritable Or Touchy. . . This means that He _____________________________
It Does Not Hold Grudges . . . This means the He _____________________________
Is Never Glad About Injustice, But Rejoices Whenever Truth Wins Out. . . This means that He ___________________________
Is Loyal No Matter What The Cost. . . This means that He _____________________
Love Goes On Forever! . . . . This means that He ____________________________
Although some require quite a bit of thought, you will be greatly rewarded by taking a few minutes to complete the above statements. Since, you've probably never had anyone react to your failures in quite that manner, it's not hard to get His reactions confused with the reactions of our spouse, father, mother, or another important person in our lives. Instead of seeing God's reaction and hearing His voice, too often when we fail we only hear the recordings of past authority figures in our lives.
If you think that you'd like to do even more with this, you might try taking a piece of paper and rewriting in your own words the verses that I printed above (I Corinthians 13:4-8). I started it for you.
"Because God loves me, He is ________________________________________
________________________. . . "
Can you begin to see what a difference this perspective could make in the way you react to your own failings or the failings of others?