The Reality of God's Love
I am honestly one of those people who enjoys Valentine’s Day. I know a lot of people don’t really enjoy it because romance, big gestures, relationships are overly emphasized. But even if you don’t like those things, the chocolate is still a perk (especially when it’s on sale February 15th). If you don’t like chocolate… well, I’m not sure what to tell you.
Anyway, the reason I like Valentine’s Day is because it gives everyone an excuse to show love to one another. We get to take a day to put our differences aside and celebrate love with heart-shaped suckers. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look around and realize how many great people are in our lives.
In the light of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write about love. Not just about any love, but God’s love. While it would be impossible for me to demonstrate how vast God’s love is, I pray these words will help you realize just how precious you are in his eyes.
One of my favorite ways to think about the Bible is that it is the greatest love story of all time. That’s really simplifying it, but it is so true. From the moment God creates man to the moment he will die for mankind, he is in pursuit of the human heart. Though we constantly run away, God chases after us anyway.
There are so many verses throughout scripture that demonstrate God’s love. It is one of the biggest themes throughout God’s Word, and is incredibly hard to miss. One of the famous quotes from Jesus is this:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Many people know that verse. I bet a lot of you didn’t even have to read the entire thing to know what it was going to say. It’s so easy for us to gloss over this. I think that we get the word love hammered into our heads so much that it’s easy to forget what it means. Especially when we hear it in a church setting. It’s almost effortless to think, “I know God loves me.” and just go about our day.
A lot of you know that I have a passion for writing stories. It’s one way I connect with Jesus and with others. If you don’t mind, I would like to paint a picture for you on what God’s love really means.
Imagine you are swimming in a sea and you have been swimming for a very long time. At this point you are exhausted, you’re tired, you’re defeated, ready to just stop kicking your legs and give up. Physically, you feel your muscles giving out with no ground beneath your feet to catch you. The sun beats down on your face and head while the salty water feels heavier with every kick. Mentally, you have given up most hope, except for this lingering thought: “I just have to keep my head above water for a little longer and then I can finally stop swimming.”
You keep swimming, and in the very distance you spot something on the water. A boat? Maybe. Should you swim toward it? Should you ask for help? At this point, there’s hardly any point in contemplating those questions. You have been swimming for days, you have not slept, you have not eaten; if you keep going, alone, you will not make it.
So, with the last of your strength, you swim as hard as you can to the boat. Just when you’re beginning to understand how far it really is, you realize the boat is coming toward you. With this newly found motivation, you keep going. This boat is redemption for you, it is a beacon of hope and life.
However, when you are coming up to the side of the boat, you begin to slow down. You don’t know anyone who is in the boat. Who’s to say they won’t hurt you or make the situation worse. What if they don’t even let you on? What if they do let you on only to throw you back into the ocean? Through this fear, you realize there is no other option.
You are now at the edge of the boat. You thrust your arms out of the water and cling to the edge. As soon as you start trying to pull yourself up, you know that you just… can’t. Your muscles are made of jelly, but at the same time, your fingers are committed to holding on. At this point, you know in the back of your mind if you let go, that’s it.
So you attempt again, hoisting yourself up only a little. The rest of you feels like dead weight as you desperately try to get into the boat. The effort pushes you to tears as your heart hammers inside your chest and it becomes harder to breathe against the humidity. Your eyelids want to slam close against the harsh sun, and so you let them… and you let go.
For a brief moment, you realize that was it. You lost your shot at life. After all, it is your fault you’re in this sea--if you had done things differently, you would not be here. Drowning is what is deserved, for who could hear your trembling to come save you now?
But before you fully submerge into the water, someone grabs you by your wrists. You lift your eyes to see strong hands clasping your own. Your gaze travels up further to see a man, holding you up as if it was no effort at all. Even though he smiles at you, you are afraid. What if you grabbed you just to throw you back into the sea?
After another moment, you find that is not true. He still holds you, refusing to let you sink. His expression is full of compassion, his eyes full of something deeper than you have ever experienced. He pulls you out of the water and into his boat.
You are so tired that you just slump onto the floor of his boat, hardly having any energy to get out the words, “Thank you.” But before you can even do that, this man is on his knees beside you, hugging you. You are filthy, soaking wet, and most likely very smelly, but he doesn’t seem to mind.*
Jesus comes into our filthy, tired lives in order to pull us from the water. Jesus’s hands cover ours, never faltering in their purpose for redemption. Though we swim in a sea of our sin, God’s grace pulls us out of the water. This is love.
When we spit in Jesus’ face, he still embraces us. We are the ones who pounded those nails into his hands, but with those same hands he wipes away our tears. We messed up Eden for selfish gain and he sacrifices himself to have us again. How could Jesus pull us out of the treacherous water when we jumped ship in the first place? He has every right to throw us back into the sea. How could he save us, embrace us, feed us, hold us, lead us? How could I ask for forgiveness when I am the one who sentenced him to death?
How could we ever be worthy of God’s love when all we do is run from it?
That’s the thing, friends. God’s love is not determined by our actions. God is love. No matter how far we run or what we do, we cannot change who God is. Though our hearts change, God does not. No one could love its creation more than the Creator himself.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:8-9)
God’s love is the root of all good things: kindness, goodness, selflessness, gentleness, salvation, redemption, hope. It is so deep that it may take us eternity to fully know it. I encourage you to rest in the fact that God loved you so much he died for you. You personally. He knows everything about you, but he chose to do it anyway. And at the end of the day, His love is what will always remain.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, people’s in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:2-4)
*This story is inspired by one of Jesus’ stories! Luke 15:11-32 is a passage that is such a great reminder of the kind of love God displays for us daily. It is a great set of verses to meditate on. :)