Jesus Loves Me…So what?
What does it mean to be loved by God? I mean truly loved by God. I grew up singing Jesus Loves Me. I believe it, but is it just a fact that I know to be true, or a radical truth that actually changes my life? Shouldn’t it be the latter?
What impression does the word love evoke? Who or what else do we love? Be honest; we know God loves us and we love God, but we’ve also said things like I love pizza (or name your favorite food), right? So what’s the difference between God’s love for us and our love for pizza? Is it even fair to use the same word?
I’ve been a believer for decades and I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t thought deeply on this topic. I’ve known it’s true and am thankful for that fact. I’ve clung to the promises connected to God’s love, but I was never wowed by it.
Think about a person who you fell head-over-heels-in-love-with; it radically changed your life. How? You could wreck your car and still sigh with contentment because, you know, he loves you. That’s all that mattered. The glass was always half-full rather than half-empty. Problems seemed like molehills because having the love of someone you cared deeply about was enough. It satisfied, for a while, at least. My point is that love – true love – impacts us significantly. It affects how we feel, how we respond, how we think. It’s life-altering.
Does Jesus’ love impact you the same way? More than the above example? Or less? Does it matter to you at all, or has it just become so mundane and familiar that you take it for granted? I’ve recently been challenged to meditate on God’s love. My list is by no means exhaustive, but consider the following. According to the Bible, God’s love…
- Endures forever (I Chronicles 16:34)
- Is priceless and unfailing (Psalm 36:7)
- Is better than life (Psalm 63:3)
- Is abounding (Psalm 86:15)
- Won’t be shaken (Isaiah 54:10)
- Is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3)
- Is sacrificial (John 3:16)
- Has been poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5)
- Is permanent and powerful (Romans 8:35-59)
- Is wide, long, high, deep and surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18)
- Is great (I John 3:1)
- Shields me, lifts my head high, sustains and delivers me (Psalm 3)
- Protects me (Lamentations 3:22-23
- Redeems me (Romans 5:8)
Because of God’s love, we can enjoy the following:
- Satisfaction (Psalm 63:3)
- The presence of the Lord (Psalm 5:7)
- God’s compassion (Lamentations 3:22-23)
- God rejoicing over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17) (It’s not just about us singing to Him!)
- Assurance that God is working for our good (Romans 8:28)
- Adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5)
- Forgiveness and grace (Ephesians 1:7-8)
- Being alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)
- Being filled to the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18)
- Being a child of God (I John 3:1)
- Having all fear removed (I John 4:18)
When we are loved well by someone, we can enjoy their physical presence, like looking into their eyes, receiving their smile or look of approval, or experiencing the power of touch, as well as the emotional connection that we so enjoy. Who in your life has loved you the most? Review the lists above and ask yourself, which of those qualities were implemented well in your relationships? For example,
- Did he love you forever without fault or error?
- Did the love ever get shaken?
- Did he protect you satisfactorily?
- Were you fully satisfied as a result of being loved?
- Did his love provide eternal qualities in your life?
- Were forgiveness and grace always showered upon you without hesitation?
- Were you ever fearful in your relationship?
I hope you can see with only a few questions that the human love we enjoy, while it can be wonderful at times, still falls way short compared to God’s love. Paul had a very specific prayer for the Ephesians: “I pray that you…may have power…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.”
I have to admit; it sounds really impressive to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”, however, I have absolutely no idea what that means! But I want to know. I feel like this scripture draws out the truth that my current knowledge of God’s love merely scratches the surface, but there is so much more to learn.
Stop and think about the above prayer. Paul longs for believers to understand the immensity of God’s love. Psalm 103:11 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.” Is there even an end to the heavens that lay above or around the earth? What does that mean to have that much love lavished upon us? Shouldn’t that be life-changing? Radically impactful? Thoroughly inspirational? Is that what is meant by being “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”?
If we dare to answer yes to any of those questions, are those truths demonstrated in our lives? Only you can answer for yourself. I’ve been challenged to meditate on this more. If I’m not knocked off my rocker thinking about this, I’m not even coming close to grasping the enormity of God’s love. I could pick just one attribute and focus on that and realize how I’ve missed the mark.
God’s love provides satisfaction
Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us…with your unfailing love.” To satisfy means to meet the expectations, needs, or desires of another. I think we’d have to agree that God’s love is big enough to satisfy (in theory), but the challenge to me is, “Do I let God’s love satisfy?” If I don’t, I continue to look to others to fill that felt need. What that means is, if I’m struggling with a low self-esteem or feeling unloved, I probably haven’t surrendered myself to God fully. If I haven’t, maybe it’s because I’m not completely convinced of this truth. It’s like I’m saying, “I know you love me, God, after all, you died for me. But I really long to be loved by (fill in the blank) in addition to you in order to be truly happy.”
What did I just say? God is not enough?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pushing the idea that we don’t need people, community, or relationships with others. Of course we do. My point is that when we don’t let God satisfy us fully, then we wrongly look to others for the type of satisfaction that only God can provide. The satisfaction of human love is sometimes momentary and fleeting, because even our best friends cannot satisfy us 100% of the time. But if our need for satisfaction is fully met by receiving God’s love, then we are free to enjoy the love of others, and extend grace when they’re not very loving, because we’re not relying on those relationships to meet our true underlying needs. Our connection with God enables us to have healthy connections with others.
To develop this a bit more, when we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships, we can easily get stuck, feeling unworthy of anyone’s love. This can unfortunately keep us in a cycle of abuse, trying desperately to earn the love of our abuser. However, when our sense of worth comes from the truth of scripture that tells us about the immensity of God’s love, we no longer have an unhealthy felt need to earn the love of someone who will never love us. Instead, we are empowered to be able to draw boundaries, or step away altogether, because we are no longer tied to that person in co-dependency. Living in the truth of God’s love brings clarity to all of our relationships.
In addition, allowing God to meet those needs equips us to fully love others. We can only love because He first loved us (I John 4:19). If our love for others is powered by God’s love, we love well. If it’s not, then we act loving toward others only to meet the need of feeling loved by the recipient of our (pretend) love. Powered by God’s never-ending love, we can truly love others with no strings attached.
Will you join me in this journey of love? Take some time to go through each quality listed. Ask the penetrating questions – What does this mean? How have I seen it displayed in my life? What difference does it make to me? How would life be different if that quality of love did not exist? Go deep. Invite God to reveal His love – I’m sure that’s one prayer that he would love to answer (pun intended).
By Karolyn Dekker