Before I became a Christian, God’s law showed me I needed a Savior. I had fallen far short of God’s requirements. But my sins also made me afraid to face Him. It was God’s love that melted me and drew me.
God loved us before we knew Him: “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). While we were yet sinners, Romans 5:8 says, Christ died for us. He didn’t wait until we had our act together to show love to us or to die for us. Hosea 11:4 says God drew His own with “cords of kindness, with the bands of love.” “In love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17). When the man we know as the “rich young ruler” came to Jesus, naively claiming he had kept all the commandments, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21). Then Jesus, in love, pointed out to the young man his main flaw. The young man walked away sorrowing, unwilling to give up his idol. But my hope is that he eventually did come to faith in Christ.
Does God still love me when I fail? After I became a Christian, when I failed yet again, when I allowed something back in my life that I had sworn I was done with, I was afraid to face Him. I feared punishment like sudden lightning. I dreaded profoundly disappointing Him.
Yet He loved me still. I had to learn that the love that saved me would also keep me and that sanctification (growing more Christlike) was a lifelong endeavor.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:8-14).
Does this catastrophe mean God doesn’t love me? When various trials and testings came into my life, I wondered what I had done wrong to merit them. I did not yet know that God has many reasons for suffering, that He allows them to do work in our lives that can’t be accomplished in other ways. As Joni Eareckson Tada so often says, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
Does God really want the best for me? Sometimes I’d hear people say that God works everything out for our good and His glory (probably based on Romans 8:28). Occasionally I would think, “His glory, yes. But our good?” Scripture shows over and over again God going to extreme measures to show His love for His wayward people. Even though it might not feel like it in the moment, yes, He works everything together for our good.
Maybe this too-frequent tendency to forget or doubt God’s love is one reason why Paul prayed this for the Ephesians:
“. . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19), emphasis mine).
Paul follows up this stunning prayer with the statement that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (verse 20). We tend to pull this verse out when we have Really Big Prayer Requests to reassure ourselves that God is able to answer them. But Paul applied it to his prayer in verses 14-19.
“To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” How can we know something that surpasses knowledge, that is beyond knowing fully?
One commentary at the bottom of the Bible Hub page on this verse says it partly means that we “may always go on from faith to faith, from knowledge to knowledge, and yet find new depths still to be fathomed.” Another says, “As the breeze fills the sails and bears forward the ship, so the love of Christ fills the soul and moves it in the direction of God’s will. But in its fullness it passeth knowledge; it is infinite, not to be grasped by mortal man, and therefore always presenting new fields to be explored, new depths to be fathomed.”
God’s goodness (another subject for another time) and God’s love are the two guardrail truths that keep me steady when things happen that I can’t understand. God will always do right, and His love for us is unshakeable.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
When we become fully assured of God’s love, we can rest in Him and quiet our fears.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
In addition to these verses, hymns grounded in Biblical truth are rich reminders and assurances of God’s love. Here are a few of my favorites, with a sample stanza or two of each:
From “Jesus, I Am Resting, resting” by Jean Sophia Pigott:
Oh, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea:
Oh, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart,
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings,
Thine is love indeed.
From “I Am His and He Is Mine” by George Robinson, 1876:
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine;
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.
From “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” by George Matheson, 1882:
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee.
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.
From “The Love of God” by Frederick Martin Lehman:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
From “Here Is Love” by William Reese:
On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God’s mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
poured incessant from above,
and heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.
There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
These verses and hymns are just small samples of the vast riches of a study of God’s love. What verses or hymns especially speak to you of God’s love?
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)