Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Comprehending His Love

If I were to take a poll, I would guess that love and acceptance would be on the top of the list of things people seek in their life. Isn't that the ultimate feeling of satisfaction...to be loved and accepted? We can search the earth all over and we will never find the kind of love that our soul earnestly seeks. The love for which we long can only be found in God. However, God did create us with emotions and feelings. He created us to desire relationships and therefore to desire human love. That is good and well but that love will not satisfy us fully until we accept and embrace the love of Jesus.

If that is hard to comprehend at this season in your life, you're not alone. I know that my heart wants to be fully satisfied in Christ's love alone. Truth be told there are still certain human and relational loves that I still seek, even knowing Christ should be enough for me.

In chapter eight of Lisa's book, we examine how we are completely loved and accepted by God. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1. Lavished. That's not a sprinkle, a dash, a spritz, nor a smidgen. That's a big ol' lavish! That's more than we could ever feel, know, or understand.

Lisa so poignantly wrote at the beginning of this chapter something my heart has felt as of late but didn't realize until I read her words. Listen to this: "the depths of God's love for us is hard to comprehend. So are the height, the width, and the breadth of His love. Our human minds will not allow us to process the greatness of the love of our Father because we are programmed by the world's view of love, which has great limitations." When I read her words this past weekend, I captured my instant thoughts in the margin: This is so true. If I could comprehend His love, I think things would be easier for me...easier for me to understand the things in my life. The world teaches us to define love in fallible ways based on conditions and expectations, sometimes unknowingly. The only true love that never fails is from God. It is hard to comprehend God's love because we do not experience it from any other source. Relationships have conditions and expectations that we try so hard to meet. God does not condition His love nor does He have requirements He expects us to fulfill for us to receive His love and acceptance. When we have never experienced free unconditional love, it makes it difficult to understand how anyone, including this huge and great God, could love us so.

I shared with Lisa how I struggle with finding my identity solely in my relationship with God and His love. Instead, I look to the roles and relationships I lack. I try to measure my life on the typical life of an American: husband, children, dog, white picket fence, grandkids (okay, not grandkids...I am only 34 ya know). My identity and love should not be wrapped up in what I lack compared to what is sociably the norm. Lisa shared with me something very encouraging to my heart when I needed it. I want to pass that along to you: "It's my belief that in times like those He looks at us, not in judgment of what we SHOULD believe, but with eyes of love and grace for us to see how our life can be rich and full without anyone or anything but Him."

Lisa spoke of a story about a man and wife visiting an orphanage to adopt a child. They had much to offer the child. However, the boy declined if that was all they had he'd rather just stay put. They were puzzled and asked him what in the world else could he want. Listen: The boy replied, "I just want someone to love me." Oh, how those words pricked my heart. At this season in my life, I feel that is what my heart is screaming. I find myself envying more and more those marriages of longevity. To have a lifelong spouse of 10-15-20-30 years. Wow...what that would feel like. Lisa says: "...we long to feel the warm embrace of love wrapped around us." Oh yes. She goes on to say: "Even the best of our earthly relationships with the strongest bonds of earthly love cannot quench the insatiable thirst of our souls for a deeper connection...so much so that we're not even sure anymore that it really exists." I know this to be true. My head knows but my heart is a little behind...slow at catching up. I do have the love of the One so why am I still wanting earthly love, a love that can never quench that thirst? The love of a particular one but really the love of anyone. I feel I'm missing out not only being loved but to give love...someone with which to share this journey of life...someone with which to share all the marvelous revelations of Christ that I learn.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians. 3:17-19

Unlike human love, God's love is without conditions and limits. We limit our love with hidden expectations, conditions and unforgiveness. I believe many times we don't even realize when conditions and limits are placed on love until a relationship is put to test and the conditions are revealed. We can say we love unconditionally but that's hard to believe and rare to see. Human love within itself is limited but when we invite Jesus into the relationship and it's a circle of three, there is no limit, no power we can't utilize. A circle of three could be any relationship...spouse, friends, relatives, parents, children. Any time we invite Christ to truly be present and ask Him and His power to reign, the possibilities are limitless.

I love how Lisa pointed out that basically we can place the feelings we have about our worldly relationships onto God. Listen to what she says: "The truth is we never totally feel accepted every day by anyone on this earth, even the people who love and care for us the very most. We often feel judged and compromised by the people around us, and we just can't seem to shake the feeling that God also somehow reserves His opinion of us, depending upon how we behave or what we say and do." Have you felt that? I sure have. We cannot place God in the same category of how others may or may not treat us. God does not judge His love and acceptance based on our actions. Otherwise, we could earn His love and that is not possible. We can earn His favor and blessings. Maybe we mix up His favor and blessings with His love and acceptance.

Lisa shared seven verses revealing God's deep concern toward us and His acceptance of us. Two of them are ones written on my heart.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5

At times my flesh can rationalize that God wrote verses in general and to everyone yet somehow not personally and specifically for me. He formed everyone so my flesh says what makes, me Paula, different? Yet my heart knows it is. He did it all just for me, even if there were no one else. Yes, He formed Sally and Bob and Missy before they were born and He also formed Paula and set me apart. I know God has adopted me as His child for I am a believer and follower of His Son. I also know that He has accepted me completely. Yet, I struggle with whether my life, thoughts, and actions please Him. He accepts me as I am and who I am but am I a pleasing aroma to Him? I can say I'm accepted by Him because of His character but I can still stink at times.

God shows His love for us all the time but we have to look for it. I shared a couple weeks ago in this post about how I was angry with God yet He reacted by reassuring me of His presence in my life. In short, I was mowing the yard and vocalized my anger at God for not seeing His Hand working in my life. Rather, I had felt His abandonment and punishment. That is not what He was/is doing. I still am not quite sure what it is but He's not punishing or abandoning me. He showed me that same evening that He's working but it's in His time and His way. The entire incident has remained with me. It has grown into even more of a mark in time calling me to remember. Remember He has not forgotten me but rather He is doing His own thing, in His own way, in His own time. My flesh tries to equate my lack of understanding things to God not caring about me, my desires, wants, or needs. Instead, my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view.

Lisa challenged us to consider whether we most need to know if we are completely loved by God or accepted completely by God. I would say I need to know I'm completely loved by God. To be completely loved by someone means to be completely accepted in my mind. To be completely loved means I would be taken care of, my needs fulfilled, my best at heart. I don't know how God sees it but I feel when we truly love someone we also accept them for who they are.

The way I see it...
To love is to be forgiven.
To love is to be accepted.
To love is to be cared for.
To love is to be put first.
To love is to be given the best.

What do you need most from God? His love or His acceptance?

I had to smile when Lisa said "God already knows that He accepts us just as we are...with all of our failures and faults and insecurities, but He wants us to know that--to really know that." Do you really know that?

Seeking to Comprehend His Love,

To see other thoughts on this subject click here.

23 comments:

nothingcanseparateme said...

Paula,
I have God's love and acceptance all rolled up together in my mind. May be they should be separate but for me it is amazing that he accepts me (stinky me) as he does and loves me (stinky me)too!

You wrote: "My flesh tries to equate my lack of understanding things to God not caring about me, my desires, wants, or needs. Instead, my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view."

His love is just so beyond our understanding. It truly is all that gets me through the day sometimes.

Hoping that his love continues to heal your broken heart.

hugs,
Kim

KMTM1970 said...

Paula,

I too have gone through a time in my life when I was angry with God. I thought how can God want me to call him "Father" when He doesn't care enough to answer my prayers or show me where I'm suppose to be because I was more than willing to follow and be in His will. You've heard the saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees?" When I was in the depth of my anger and depression, I couldn't see how God was working in my life, but others could. God never left me and still loved me even when I ranted like a lunatic. Getting back into my quiet time, exercising, eating right and doing the things I was suppose to be doing got me moving in the right direction. A month later, the door that God had been preparing me and my husband for opened. Two weeks after that we were chosen by our birth parents and four months from that point of anger, I was in the delivery room watching my daughter being born.

I say this to encourage you. Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us when we can't tell it or don't know it. He will lead you to the place where you are suppose to be in His timing. Patience isn't the easiest virtue for me.

My prayer for you is a song: Waiting on you, waiting on you, I'm patiently waiting on you. I ain't worried about the time. Lord, I seem to find strength while I'm waiting on you.

Clint Brown Ministries -- "Waiting on You" (song)

Thank you for sharing your heart,

Kristy

Amy L Brooke said...

Thanks for sharing so eloquently.

I was really touched by the story about the boy in the orphanage as well. With all the world has to offer, what we really want is love. Amazingly, we keep going back to the world over and over and over thinking we will find it. We only find it with God.

Runner Mom said...

Oh, Paula! I love how you just pured out your heart in this post. This chapter was great--I'm almost through!!! The insights that God gave you made me slow down and really think.

My fav was this: "I can say I'm accepted by Him because of His character but I can still stink at times." Girlfriend, we all need a bubblebath at times!! Not just you!

You are precious!
Hugs,
Susan

Angie said...

Paula...this is amazing...and I sit here knowing exactly what you mean here..."my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view."
Our minds cannot possibly understand what is going on...and now the election has been counted.
My vote was cast many years ago when I chose to follow Christ and make Him my ALL. My vote changes not today. No matter. I still follow my Life LEADER. Jesus Christ.

I love what you have posted here. You touch the core of us all.

Cindy said...

Paula,
During my years of inferility I too thought God was angry with me and punishing me for not being perfect.
You are many years ahead of me in your healing walk.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on God's love and acceptance. You are doing well.
Cindy

valerie said...

I just watched Beth Moore on Life Today - Wednesdays With Beth... and she had such a good lesson on God's love and loving others. I think you can watch her lessons on the internet if you're not able to get it on television.

I have a friend whose 35 year marriage ended this past year & she has been dealing with her ill mother for the past several months. Her mom passed away Monday. I would like for you to pray for her. She told another friend "I don't know what I've done to make God mad at me." That statement broke my heart and yet I think it's a very real feeling others have when one thing after another piles up. We know in our hearts (and she does too) that's very far from the truth. God is the ONE who loves us and never stops loving us.

I keep praying for you Paula. God is going to keep you in perfect peace. Keep on choosing to seek Him like you've never done before.
Keep the faith! I know God has awesome things in store for your life.

Love,
Valerie

Cheri Bunch said...

Dear Paula~

You are so real! Thank you for revealing your broken heart.

I LOVE the word "lavish". Oh to understand the reality of the Lord's amazing love that he lavishes on us. Not because we are worthy or deserving, but because He loves to love us! While we were yet sinners He chose us and Christ died for us. That is lavish love at its best.

Hurting seasons pass and they give us a mantle of strength that we would not otherwise possess.

My dear sister, this too shall pass. He will prove His love to you through all of this. You will soon appreciate His faithfulness at a new level.

When all other lovers forsake us, the Lord will take us up.

I have known Him to be faithful in the loneliest of times. We long for human affection, embrace, assurance, and affirmation but it is not always available to us.

I love a quote by Leonard Ravenhill, "We don't know that Christ is all we need until He is all we have."

I am praying for you with a love He has given me for you.

Your testimony is bringing about a healing in many hearts and I believe it will continue to do so.

Bless you with everlasting blessings!

Much love,
Cheri

Anne said...

You are so real and true in all you write. And at times I think you are writing so I can read out loud what I'm thinking inside.

My thoughts are with you.
Anne

On Purpose said...

Yes I know that..and what is so precious about our Father...is He will pull us closer to Himself and remind us...because He loves us and cares for us!

Pamela (MrsJoeB) said...

I cannot even imagine the magnitude of our God...I can't wait to fully understand Him!! Until then, like you, I am drawing nearer to Him....

In His Graces~Pamela

Pat said...

Paula,
The process of healing that allowed this truth to really settled in my heart was the turning point in my life. For me, it came through healing from my past abortion. I had believed God's "acceptance" at my salvation, but the true depth of His LOVE came with the realization that He knew ALL of me!
Bless you friend,
Pat

JnL4God said...

Paula,
I agree it is really hard to fully realize the Love that God has for each of us.. in and through the good and the bad of our lives. It also makes sense what you said about we have a hard time with it because all we know is the limited relationship we have here on earth that have nothing compared to what God can offer us.
Nice post. The book sounds good.
Hope all is well with you. Hugs my friend.
Lynn

andi said...

Great post Paula. Thanks for your kind comment...peace girl is what I lacked. I am thankful that I took the opportunity to do as Elisabeth Elliot says, "do the next thing." My car being cleaned out helped me get my head on straight. I stayed home tonight and didn't go to church, but I am so thankful. I had a very peaceful evening. I am going to bed early in hopes of rising to a sweet time with Jesus. If you think of it, will you pray for this.
Peace to you sister as the very God of Creation hugs you tonight. May you sense His Spirit and be comforted.

Laura said...

Paula,
I too struggle with being fully satisfied in Christ alone at times. You are so vulnerable right now, sweetie. I am just picturing God holding you in His arms. The name of your blog says it all, does it not? Our feeble minds are not capable of grasping His greatness. When I accepted that these things have not explaining in "human" terms, it was a big step in my faith. But I still have trouble sometimes. And He is always there to help me through.
I pray for you regularly, dear friend. I have not been online much lately because of another project I'm working on, but I do not forget you! YOu have become very dear to me. Your heart is precious, and I just know God smiles when He looks upon it. Can't you just see Him--reading our hearts like a book?
Sending hugs,
Laura

Lisa said...

Hi Paula!
I love what I read here...I love to hear you wading through these truths of God's love and acceptance. It is truly what I wanted the women in this study to do -- look at something we already know in our heads but search our hearts to see if it's made it's way there yet or not. I can just picture God extending His open arms to you and desiring to have you walk into them. He sees you, Paula, and knows of your desire to be loved in the most intimate of ways. I know it's always on your mind, and please know that it's also always on His.

I love how you plucked the word "lavish" out of the verse. You're right -- that is an EXTRAVAGANT and extreme word there and His love IS extravagant and extreme. I think that's why Brennan Manning's story meant so much to me. God wants to love us much more intensely than we can even imagine. We set the limits on that, not Him.

I pray that His love will be LAVISHED upon you this week, Paula, in such a tangible way. Don't ever let up on walking in truth...it is lifechanging, isn't it?

Much love to you, my friend.
Lisa :)

Natalie said...

Paula, this was such a vulnerable post. To expose ones heart takes much courage. Bless you, my friend.

Carol said...

Paula,

Once again you bring it right straight to the heart. God is awesome, and I can relate to the feeling of wanting that earthly love, even knowing that God's love is more than I'll ever need.

When you wrote this "We cannot place God in the same category of how others may or may not treat us. God does not judge His love and acceptance based on our actions. Otherwise, we could earn His love and that is not possible. We can earn His favor and blessings. Maybe we mix up His favor and blessings with His love and acceptance."

That really hit me. Am I mixing up the love and acceptance. Really gave me something to think over.

Girlfriend, your are just awesome. Off to read some more of your posts, because I've been laxed lately.

Love you bunches,
Carol

By the way I mentioned to hubby that you said we should move east toward you. Hey he didn't say no. Who knows where God will lead us.

Dianne said...

I have done many things over the years that warranted a withdrawl of God's love and acceptance, but it did not happne, it just took me years to understand that he didn't.

I know I don't comment often (or at all) but I have been inspired by your posts. Thank you for your efforts with these posts, you touch many lives.

Sharon said...

Paula,
Wow have you gotten the wheels turning in this head of mine, and my heart well sometimes it feels like it's missing something too.
But it does amaze me that he has accepted me even after all I have done in my life, that how could he love someone like me, there are so many others out there that are (kinda perfect)~~at least more than I.
I know I use to beat myself up and think that God did not like me, he was mad at me, he was getting even with me for all the bad things I did as a kid, and early teenage years, and so thats why I thought I wasn't aloud to have children. I cried every month, I use to get so mad at him, I blamed him for it all. Brad, 9yrs ago sat with me while I had one of my crying fits, and said "God Loves You!" don't you know this, and as he started talking to me explaining, I finally then realized my life is what he planned for me and everything I thought I didn't have, I HAD! Including his Love.
I love this that you wrote. "I just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view.
Wowwwwwww Amen,amen

I Love You Paula, and once again you have opened my heart with inspiration, reminded me of his Love he has for me. Great post!

HUUUUUGGSSSS to you girlfriend!
Have a great weekend.
Blessings

Carol said...

Hi Paula,

Hey I wanted you to know I left you a little something on my blog. Love ya friend.

Carol

P.s. I'm writing you another novel of an email.

Amy said...

As you already know, I too, have had my times of being angry with God. And He is so patient with me. With every one. This particular year in my life has been a difficult one. I am still having some days that I really struggle physically, and it affects me spiritually. I am very limited in what I can "physically" do, and there are days that I get so discouraged. But then, I start thinking of all the things that I can do, and my focus begins to shift. Like you, I don't understand, most of the time, God's ways, but at the end of the day, I understand Him, and that is all that matters.

He loves me. His will is best. And just because I do not always see it that clearly, does not make it any less true.

I'm praying for you, Paula!
Big hugs to you,
Amy:)

Kim said...

Hey Paula,

I have been reading your posts for quite some time but I've never commented before. This post spoke volumes to me today. I too have been in a place where I feel like God is punishing me for things I've done even though He has reassured me time and time again that I am forgiven. I know that I have to forgive myself and sometimes that's the hardest thing to do.

I pray that you will continue to submit your will to His and let Him do an amazing work in your life.

Love,

Kim