I have a feeling I’m not alone. Growing up in a Christian home, I heard often the message of God’s love for me. In ministry, I proclaim with sincerity this same message to others. Yet there are moments. maybe even days or weeks, when I cannot fully grasp the implications of God’s genuine love and concern for me. I know it intellectually. but I fail to internalize the truth that would set me free from emotional havoc. Not feeling good enough, living under guilt and fear, allowing an undue anxiety over what others think of me, and fostering a lack of trust in God are just some of the ways that I display my inability to understand His incredibly deep love for me. I forget that I do not have to DO anything to impress God, to earn his love. I wind up feeling tired and weary of the journey. What we share in a “normal” day of ministry – ~God loves you!” -never becomes a comforting reality in our personal lives.
I am on a pilgrimage, looking for a way to truly personalize what I present as truth to others – that God loves ME too! I was shocked recently to read in Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) a penetrating perspective on God’s intimate, loving concern for my well being. This verse tells us “the Lord your God is with you…” Even when we cannot ‘~feel” His presence near us, in faith we can cling to the promise that He IS with us and I-Ic knows everything that affects us.
It amazed me to read on – ~He will take great delight in you…” God will take delight in ME? How can that be’? I am sure my most frequent encounters with God only leave him frustrated, discouraged, or at least slapping his forehead in dismay! Then it dawned on me how God’s love is similar to a parent’s love for their child. The do not seek opportunities to publicly proclaim the failures and shortcomings of their child. On the contrary, they jump at opportunities to share what their child has successfully accomplished – a baseball game won, a spelling test conquered. But even beyond that, I have heard parents simply relish the dynamic of WHO their child IS. They want people to know about the cute gesture or comment that the child came up with, or how they responded when the dog was injured – all in an effort to let people know the child’s qualities and characteristics. The parents DELIGHT in the child. God does the same with you and me. He delights in who we are!
The Father not only enjoys us and cherishes who we are, but He knows what is upsetting and overwhelming to us. “I-Ic will quid you with his love… Living in a fallen world is enough to make anyone shudder and fret from time to time! However, we often overdo it. As humans, we get wrapped up in all sorts of issues – financial, relational, spiritual, social, familial – over which we ultimately do not have control. (In some cases, there are positive steps we can take to HELP situations we encounter, but we cannot CONTROL the outcome.) As servants in ministry, at times we led that “if I was living closer to God” or “if I just prayed more…” that situations would more easily be controlled. This is a fallacy. The effort to DO more (“keeping up appearances”) only puts us back into the vicious cycle of perfectionism that wears us down. The encouraging side of this dilemma is that God is in control. Just as a little child runs to a parent when they are hurting or confused, we can run to Him. He knows the whole situation, from beginning to end.
While He may not remove us from the troubling circumstance, He is available to QUIET us with His love. Have you ever seen a child who is distraught for some reason? Maybe they are lost in the store and when they see their parent, they run with abandon to be embraced by the one who can adequately comfort their trembling heart. Perhaps the child has lost something very dear to them (a pet, a friend) and they are grieved. Who do they normally turn to during such an unsettling time? The hug of a trusted loved one is the best remedy for such dire emotional needs. God offers that to us. He wants to quiet us with His love.
The Father goes one step further. i-fe will rejoice over you with singing. “ When we succeed, when we learn more about who He is, when we grasp a new level of trust, when we live relaxed in his love – He rejoices! He breaks into song and laughter. He sighs and says, “She finally GOT it!” I have known parents who make up individual little songs (most often silly and nonsensical) that they sing to each of their children. It is an affectionate gesture, usually done in light-hearted moments to reinforce to that child their uniqueness. I have never known a child to forget “their song.” It becomes special to them, a valued memory of their childhood. 1 wonder what song God sings for me? for you? Can you imagine God sitting back and releasing a heart, joyous laugh in the moments when we are able to grasp just how much he cares for us? How he wants us to move the truth of His intense love for us from the intellect (knowledge) to the heart (emotions/will.) I think Paul prayed well in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through filth. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (3:16-l9, NIV)
I come back again to my original premise. I have a feeling I am not alone in this struggle to understand and grasp that God really loves me. It is one thing to proclaim this message in ministry and another to internalize it. However, this somewhat obscure passage from Zephaniah has reminded me: God is WITH me, He DELIGHTS in me. He will QUIET me, and He REJOICES over me with singing. Join me in the journey, will you? The Father is waiting to embrace you and show you the full extent of His stubborn, but tender love!
Esther Tipton is a former missionary on the Texas-Mexican Border and in Papua New Guinea.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.