Pieces Part 3: Does God Really Love Me?
Head knowledge of God's love is not the same as heart knowledge of God's love. In order to feel God's individual love for you that distance between head and heart needs to be bridged.
Pieces Part 3: Does God Really Love Me?
Was it in Children’s’ Church you first heard “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so?”
The Bible does tell us that God loves you.
Yet I have found that while the Bible helps me gain an intellectual understanding that God loves me, the feeling is elusive. We need to move the truth of God’s individual love for us from our head to our heart. I want that feeling of moment to moment intimacy, that safe place; where there is no doubt that I am loved. Our relational growth with God needs that experiential knowledge that He loves us.
As soon as we talk about feelings we move into the subjective. We leave the left side of the brain that deals with logic and move into the right side of the brain that deals with intuition, insight, awareness, and emotions. We live in a left side dependent culture; therefore the skills of the right side of the brain often tend to be underdeveloped. We have to move from what we can see, touch, smell to what we can feel. When we delve into the subjective we also move into what is unique to the individual. “We each have a distinctive emotional reaction to identical situations…” http://www.net-burst.net/love/feeling.htm “How emotional you are, flows from your personality and past experiences, not from how godly you are.” http://www.net-burst.net/love/feeling.htm Your sense of God’s love for you is going to be unique to you.
What I want to explore today is clearing out the types of thinking that will hinder your ability to feel that God loves you. I can’t guarantee that at the end of this teaching you are going to know in your heart that God loves you. What I hope for is that you will cultivate right thoughts that will help you to feel God’s love.
Let’s clear up some distortions.
“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so…” It is important to realize how the Bible reveals love to us. You know our working definition of love: love is treating everyone with respect and seeking to meet their needs as the opportunity arises. “The Bible measures love, not in tingles per second, but in putting one’s life on the line.” (Grantley Morris http://www.net-burst.net/love/feeling.htm )
1 John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears.
Love from the left side of the brain is found in observable actions. Love from the right side of the brain is found in feelings.
The first realization we need to come to is warm fuzzy feelings are not usually how God expresses His love for us. What we need to do is subjectively interpret what God is doing in our lives and translate it into the feelings of being loved.
We all have our own love languages. I refer you to Gary Chapman’s book the 5 languages of love. Chapman cites receiving and giving gifts, time, affirmation, service, and physical touch as the love languages we tend to speak in and hear that we are loved in. Still you will need to get into that underused right side of the brain, sensing, and intuiting that you are loved.
The second realization we need to come to is that our experiences with our primary caregivers have a monumental impact on our ability to experience the feelings of God’s love for us. If we had poor experiences with primary caregivers we often “emotionally experience God like their critical father, distant mother, abusive step-father, or someone else who hurt them.” (Bill Gaultiere https://vietchristian.com/lifehelps/GodLove.asp ) The more you heal from Childhood hurts the more you will be able to feel the love of God for you.
Because of my personality as I reflect back on my childhood, there was a lot of pain and confusion that made it really hard for me to feel that God actually loved me. One of the many resources that God brought into my life was a book by John Bradshaw, not to be confused with the Steeler Quarterback great Terry Bradshaw. The book “Healing the Shame that Binds You” gave me ways to deal with the ghosts of my childhood.
The third realization we need to come to is that God did not plan, allow or will, that bad thing that happened to you. Whatever it was or still is God is never the author of evil. Now why God did not intervene to stop the situation is another teaching.
Lamentations 3:33 (NIV)
For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
God is not punishing you, God is not mad at you, God has not left you. Horrible things happen because we live in a world that is broken. This whole idea requires more, a lot more, exploration than I can give it in our venue
The fourth realization we need to come to is that the folk theology of the Church may have impressed us with very unhelpful views of God. You can liken folk theology to Christian Urban legends. If you think someone’s a jerk you’re not likely to pick up on any expressions of love that are sent your way. In some teachings you can be left with the impression that God is impersonal and uncaring that God is hands-off, or maybe that God is watching but not intervening; you can take away the idea that God cares only about the big picture and doesn’t concern Himself with small stuff like you; maybe one of the worst is that a Holy God loves you only when you are good. (Thomas Jay Oord, God Can’t, pp. 55-56). None of those teachings are correct, they are blatantly wrong.
Here are a couple more wrong ideas that we tend to pick up at church.
God proves He love me when good things happen-- Prayers answered the way we desire; provision in a time of need; beautiful sunsets, delicious food, a happy family, a successful career—now it is fine as to receive these as blessings, they may make you feel that God loves you but there will also be times of loss, affliction, sorrow, grief, and huge problems. When we think God loves us because we’re in good times, does God hate us when things become more than difficult? If so, you’ve got the wrong idea about God. (Joe Thorn https://www.placefortruth.org/blog/how-do-i-know-that-god-loves-me ) So get rid of the idea that the good life means God loves you, such an objective observation (left brain), is not only wrong but blocks your ability to feel being loved (right brained).
Another of the couple more dovetails into the last. We can call it the Father-Filter. The Father-Filter is one of the most toxic concepts running around the Church. It’s basically the idea that God is in absolute control so that nothing happens to you unless it’s the will of God. God determines all of it, the good, the bad, the party, the dirge, the victory, the defeat. When something bad happens, then come the painful platitudes: God has a plan, God won’t give you more than you can handle, God’s ways aren’t our ways, God knows what‘s best. All words meant to comfort but only grind salt into wounded hearts. God is not in control of human behavior. We could even make the case that natural disasters, or getting eaten by a lion, are because of the Fall; because of the rebellion in the Garden. The Father-Filter makes God the author of both good and evil, it would be like growing up with an un-medicated bi-polar parent. When they were up things were great, when they were down you feared for your life. It’s hard to feel that Dr. Jekyll loves you when Mr. Hyde keeps popping up. Get rid of this horribly debilitating idea.
Last of the couple more is expecting a sign. If God loves me He will prove it to me then I will feel loved. Friends no sign is coming except the one that has already been given. If you have no idea what that already been given sign is to take 15 minutes and read the letter in the Bible called 1 John. If after reading 1 John you still don’t know what the already given sign is, come and ask me.
There are no supernatural zaps that are going to fill you will feelings that God loves you, don’t expect it.
So how do you learn to feel that God loves you?
A long time ago a young man meets a young woman there was a spark of attraction. Soon they were separated. Back in the day before email and text messages, they wrote letters to one another. They began to know each other better. When a phone was available, yes, this was in a time when telephones had cords attached to them. They were able to talk to one another. Through letters and phone calls, the attraction grew. Half a year went by and they were able to meet face to face. Letters, Phone calls, facetime, and a commitment was made and the two young people became one in Christ. Their love for each other grew. You might not have been able to observe it, but they certainly felt it. They learned to care for one another, doing big and little things for each other. They made time to celebrate their relationships, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, secret celebrations. They protected their relationship by doing things that would build up the relationship and refraining from behaviors that would damage the relationship. Because of the loved they shared they were able to have heart to heart talks, because is every relationship there is some fine-tuning that needs to be done to keep love alive. He felt love for her, she felt love for him, a strong feeling, an attached feeling, a in this together feeling, a safe feeling.
This love relationship didn’t happen overnight, it took time. As they continued to practice those seven things their feelings of being loved and loving the other continued to grow. Feelings of being loved take time and good relationships always require work.
This illustration serves to explain the 7 habits of a disciple:
Reading and studying the bible, that’s the letters. Prayer, that’s the phone calls, face to face is what fellowship is all about, doing for one another is service, celebration –worship; do what enhances the relationship refraining from what would hurt it is obedience. That heart to heart fine tune-up is what contemplation is all about.
It is through your daily practice of the seven habits that you encounter God. It's not about doing the habits to get the habits done for the day. It’s about meeting with God. As you meet with God you become more and more assured of His love. As you continually encounter God through reading scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience and contemplation your sense of intimacy grows, you will eventually become assured that you are loved by God because you feel it.
Here’s how you get to know that God really loves you, you the person, you the individual. Leave the dominant left side of the brain with all its analysis and logic and get into the right side of your brain where feelings and non-material perception and intuition reside. Trash all the negative notions you’ve picked up about God. Work through the issues of childhood, know that God is not the author of evil, get rid of the folk theology, the urban myths about God heard so frequently in the church, remember that just because it’s a bad time doesn’t mean God has got it out for you and a good time is not the measure of God’s love for you, jettison the Father-filter. Get rid of magical thinking, that God will just zap you into warm fuzzy feelings. Practice the 7 habits of a disciple, for it is through your encounters with God that you will learn who much you are truly loved by God. It’s in those encounters that knowledge in the head becomes feelings in the heart.
2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s patience.