By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
For a long time, my view of God and His love was skewed. If you’d asked, I probably would’ve provided an accurate description. I would’ve talked about how merciful and gentle He was, how faithful He was to remain beside us, and how He’d stop at nothing, even His own death, to draw us close.
But I lived as if He placed conditions on His affection, as if He somehow loved me more when I behaved or served Him in a certain way but grew weary of me when I messed up.
One year, a friend invited me to a women’s retreat, my first ever. I was crazy-nervous about going. It hadn’t been all that long since my oh-so-glamorous homeless period, and I was lugging around a heavy load of shame and self-loathing. In short, I felt I didn’t belong.
I didn’t want to go. The whole event felt far too intimate for a gal who plotted ways to remain in hiding. But I sensed God wanted to do something amazing and miraculous. So I packed my bags and headed to a monastery in Santa Barbara, where our retreat was held.
The first night, our leader read the account of the Samaritan woman, and Jesus invitation to her gripped me. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). He was inviting her to receive salvation, yes, but His invitation involved so much more than that. He was drawing her into an intimate, completely authentic, relationship with Himself.
The next morning, I went for a long run, processing everything from the night before. I, too, wanted to be filled, but I felt so empty, and I couldn’t understand why. I belonged to Jesus and had trusted Him for my eternal salvation. So why wasn’t my heart like a bubbling spring that welled up with eternal life?
After my run, still needing time alone, I walked the monastery grounds, hoping to hear from God.
Nothing. No words of assurance from heaven or comforting whispers to my wounded heart. Frustrated, I cried out, “Why won’t You love me?!”
His response, though not audible, came swift and clear: “You won’t let Me.”
That stunned and confused me, and I spent the next six months or so prayerfully trying to figure out what God meant. He showed me that my disconnect came not from Him but from within me. My failure to grasp the depths of His love, my continual expectation of rejection, and past wounds that left me closed in and fearful, hindered my ability to fully experience Him. I was approaching Him through a lens of hurt instead of one of grace and truth.
I realized I needed to learn how to give and receive love, and so I asked Him to teach me. Over the next ten years or so, that’s precisely what He did. He slowly but steadily healed my heart, removed my distrust, and replaced all the lies I’d melded with truth.
God is love (1 John 4:8), and His love is eternal (Psalm 136:1b). It doesn’t increase when I return it or decrease when I push Him away. Nothing, not “death or life or angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Romans 8:38-39) can separate me from His love. He loved me when I was at my worst (Romans 5:8) and will love me when I’m at my best. His love isn’t dependent on my actions nor how I feel, and He has no favorites (Romans 2:11).
That means He loves me, and you, as much as He loved the apostle Paul, who planted numerous churches and wrote a chunk of the New Testament. He loves me, and you, as much as He loves all the saints who’ve given their life for Him and the gospel. He loves me, and you, as much, and no more, than the alcoholic on the street corner and the sweet Sunday school teacher who’s never had a drop of wine.
Because His love doesn’t depend on us. The next time you’re struggling to rest in God’s love, hit pause. Ask Him to show you the cause of your disconnect and the lies you’ve embraced. Ask Him to help you replace them with truth. Ask Him to remind you of His truth again and again until it permeates your every thought, until His truth speaks louder than your deception.
Let’s talk about this! Do you ever struggle to rest in God’s love, and if so, why do you think that is? Have you ever asked God to show you the root cause behind your disconnect? What are some Scripture passages that can help, the next time you feel discarded, rejected, or perhaps unworthy of God’s affection? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook.
Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer Slattery's free emailing, filled with great content designed to entertain, equip, and encourage. You can sign up HERE. As an added bonus, all subscribers receive a free 36-lesson Bible study (in ebook form, link to download sent separately) on 1 Timothy. She also invites you to visit her blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.
Additional resources you might find helpful:
Wholly Loved's Free Bible Reading Plan:
20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.
Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you grow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.
Contact Jennifer to have her come speak to your women's groups on moving past orphan mentality in order to live deeply and fully loved. You can contact her HERE.