|Mix of dark clouds and sun. A storm passing through the area|
Several months ago I was telling my husband that this long season has given me a different understanding of God's love. Even talking about this topic is tricky because God can choose to reveal His love to His children in different ways during different seasons in our lives and one way isn't necessarily wrong or right. Admittedly though my journey has been a bumpy ride and I never had a "honeymoon period" after being born again. I came to God while in a long battle and the battle raged even more afterward, so this gives you an idea of where I am coming from.
In this difficult trying place, God's love has not always been tangible, but that does not mean something is wrong with me nor does it mean He does not love me. There are some things I saw while in this season, that I wanted to write about. Because of the way many teach God's love, there were labels people wanted to put on me in this season that I had to actively and purposely reject. These labels and teachings can make those who are going through these stormy seasons, seem as if they are missing out or not measuring up in some way. It's easy to see God's love when life is good, but we also need to be able to see His love when things aren't going well because we were never promised a perfect life.
Does God's Love Mean Instant Answers to our Prayers?
I often saw people associating God's love with instant answers to their prayers. This is very dangerous.
God is faithful. He hears our prayers. We can trust in that because scripture tells us in 1 John 5:14-15, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."
Sometimes God's timing and His answers to our prayers may not be what we expected or even wanted though. Therefore, if we attach God's love to immediate answers to our prayers, it WILL cause us to lose our faith and trust in God if there is a delay. I once heard a prophet say "Delays are not denials" and that is so important to settle within our hearts.
God really can be trusted even if and especially if there is a delay.
I have also seen many people link God's love with physical and emotional healing. Since I've walked this journey seeking God for healing of Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and other various chronic problems, it is absolutely the worst thing a person can do. While I agree healing is a demonstration of God's love, we cannot make it the cornerstone or the measuring stick of God's love in a person's walk. When a person has been praying, believing and asking God for healing for years and are not yet healed, it can be rather devastating to their faith, their hope and their trust in God.
We must more accurately focus attention to the cross instead of getting them to look to their healing as God's love.
Does God's Love Mean Instant Delivery From the Storms?
Some ministries suggest since God loves us so much, that He will keep the really bad things from happening to those who have "truly surrendered". But if for some reason a trial does come, then people who "know who they are in Christ" will have a quick delivery in all trials. These two teachings coupled together are very dangerous.
I walked down this path and listened to these teachings and they produced no life. It nearly made me leave the faith only a short 8 months after I was saved. The problem is as soon as a trial comes or does not leave as quickly as we thought it should, these teachings will cause a person to question everything, even God.
These teachings have bred a disdain for those who are sick, hurting or frustrated. Those who are healthy and living a great life are perceived as "spiritually healthy" and those who are in trials, sick and hurting are perceived as "spiritually sick". This is not biblical though.
We need look no further than the ministries of Jesus, Paul and the other apostles to see that this entire idea is false. Jesus himself clarified this false idea in the bible in Luke 13:4-5, when He brought up the 18 who died because the tower of Siloam fell on them. He said, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The ideas taught in some groups have left many in the midst of storms feeling hopeless and defeated. Many teach that those going through trials especially a long term trial, that there is something wrong with their relationship with God or they haven't figured out "who they are" and they are "living in the old man" and much more. There's so many catch phrases out there that it's impossible to list them all here. However the overall idea in this group is that trials should be short lived, should not cause you any distress and should be overcome with ease. These attacks made to a person's relationship with God cause them to lose hope, lose trust in God and eventually lose their faith altogether. No matter how good they sound, these teachings are misguided.
Jesus wasn't short of revelation (given that He was fully God and fully man) and He certainly did not have a bad relationship with His Father. YET He was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, which lead Him to be tempted by the devil. Jesus being put into this difficult set of temptations and trials had nothing at all to do with God's love for Him nor a lack of relationship with the Father. If you can believe this about Jesus' wilderness, then we must start believing it for other people's wildernesses as well.
God will guide us and carry us when the storms come and He will provide the way of escape during our struggles. However it may not be instant, even if we are fully surrendered and know our identity in Christ and are "living from the new man". In fact there is evidence in the scripture that says the opposite, which I'll touch upon later in this article. Sometimes there are things that God is doing in us during these storms that cannot be taught elsewhere. This isn't because of God, but is a part of our human nature. We tend to be stubborn and unable to see our own weaknesses until we go through difficult times.
Where Do We Find God's Love (No matter what)?
The demonstration of God's love is that He sent His son to die for us on the cross, even while we were lost and dead in our sin! He gave us His son Jesus Christ, so that we may be set free from sin and to be reconciled back to Him. Because of this we can now have a personal relationship with God and also have eternal life.
This is how one builds a strong foundation in God's love that will get them through the storms of life. This is the GOSPEL! For some people though this isn't enough. They have stopped preaching the Gospel and have replaced it with "revelation" that focuses on authority, power and experiences. But what good is power if it's not to preach the Gospel and God's love seen in His son? The power of God is the cross!
If you first have to see God do something for you to know His love, then you may never make it there. Settling in your heart that God's love is seen on the cross is what will actually carry you through to the other side, to the fulfillment of His promises for you.
When we build a foundation on this, our life circumstances won't destroy us and we will be able to step into the call God has for us no matter how difficult it may be. There may be trying and frustrating times in our life, however we know that we can still approach God in our time of need. Nothing can take away from the power and love demonstrated on the cross because it stands forever and ever. Even if we are sick or in poverty or being persecuted in chains! We can trust that God's love has not left us and has not faded away. God has not set Himself against us in any way when we meet obstacles and road blocks along the way. We can boldly come to God in our time of need and continue to ask God for our needs.
I am fully aware of all the scriptures that says that God will provide and God will heal and God will give us good gifts etc. Yes I understand and agree completely that God can and will bless us in our life according to His purposes. However if we need those things to know or to prove that God loves us, that is precisely the problem. It is not a stable foundation.
This is not limiting God. In times where we have nothing and in times where we have plenty, God will use it all for His purposes. We see this stated by Paul in Philippians 4:11-13.
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Paul, one of the most "anointed" men, suffered from want at various times in his ministry. So if it's OK that Paul did, then it is OK if you are too. Please understand me here. That's not to say we can't ask God for help, but nothing is spiritually wrong with you if you have a need. Nothing! Do not let any teachers convince you that you are spiritually unwell because you have sickness in your body or because you lost your job or are going through financial trouble.
Some of the teachers today may have likely told Paul that "he must not know who he is in Christ" since he suffered from need at times.
Is God's Love Always a Feeling?
The third mistake is that many believe or even teach that God's love is something that they will always "feel" or "see". There are times and seasons where God may give us an outpouring of His love and we should cherish that! Sometimes though we will go through seasons where we will not feel His love, but we know that He loves us because of what His Word tells us. If you are in one of those seasons where you are not feeling His love, do not let anyone tell you that you are less of a Christian for some reason. Do not base your walk with God on other people's experiences.
In the seasons when we do not feel His love, we stand on God's word and receive His love through His word.
When our relationship with God feels a bit distant, it's important to understand that it does not mean that God is distant. Scripture says that, He will never leave us nor forsake us. This scripture is a promise to us when we aren't feeling loved and when everything in life is a disaster. In the book of Job, even though Job did not feel God's presence during his trials, God was listening to every single word and every single cry from Job.
God is present even if we don't feel His manifest presence. This is such an important thing to remember because so many are chasing God's presence when He is always there.
If we need to see, feel and experience things to know God's love, then the enemy will use it against us so that we never make it to the fulfillment of the promises God has made to us. The enemy wants you to start questioning God's love (because of what you don't see or feel). He wants you to become discouraged and walk away from God.
It's so important in these times of our life to get in the Word and to really start reading it through on our own. If you have trouble understanding it, then every day continue to pray for God to reveal it to you, to help you understand and the Holy Spirit will come and do that. I know that I had to keep at it and then suddenly one day it was like the letters jumped out at me and everything started to make sense. And when that happens a glorious thing will take place. Instead of just regurgitating what others are saying, God will be able to lay down real foundations in your life that YOU personally live by. It won't be what "so and so says" but it will become real in your own life. It's so important to get to this place during these difficult times.
Paul Knew God's Love Despite His Hardship
As I already mentioned above, Paul went through a lot of stuff. Yet he saw God's love while in a prison, being beaten, shipwrecked and going hungry.
In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 we read about some of the hardships he was "boasting" in:
"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."
Remember in Philippians 4, Paul said that he learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself in. I hope we all can agree that God loved Paul very much and yet he went through all of these things in his life.
This helps us to realize that...
- God's love isn't based on what we are feeling.
- God's love isn't based on our life going good.
- God's love isn't based on the condition of our physical body.
- God's love does not mean instant delivery or total protection from trials.
We are to trust God during hardships and know that His great love is there because He sent His son Jesus! I have found meditating on what Jesus did on the cross can be really incredible. Think about how much God loved us to pay that kind of price. He wanted us to be reconciled back to Him!
When we come against obstacles, do not let anyone try to tell you that you are in that situation because you aren't committed enough or aren't surrendered enough or "don't know who you are in Christ" or 'are living out of the old man". It's best to just ignore them and to continue on seeking the Lord in your walk.
Scriptures of God's Love
Read these scriptures and meditate on them to understand where God wants you to see His great love.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),..." Ephesians 2:4-5
"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:2
"For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5: 7-8
"By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4: 9-10
We are Conquerors in the Trials
This next scripture takes the idea of God's love to a whole different level. All of Romans 8 is amazing, but I have found many chop this one verse in half and ignore the context in which it was made because it's such a difficult and yet powerful message.
I'm not sure about you, but this doesn't sound like the "It is Finished" "God loves you message" that is very popular right now. Paul is talking about a lot of tough situations in this scripture which are being done to the physical bodies of Christians. These are Christians in need. He is also quoting out of Psalm 44:22, which talks about how they were being killed for God's sake, not because they had turned away from God, but because they were following God.
If we quickly head over to Psalm 44:17-22 this is the context of what Paul quoted:
17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Paul was not preaching the love message that is being preached today in many groups. This scripture along with Romans 8:35-37, pretty much says, if you are following God, then you should expect trouble to come. It's not because you have turned away, but it's because you are following God.
Paul continues on that we can take courage that even while in these trials that we are overwhelmingly conquering in Christ and that nothing can separate us from His love. In some translations it says, "we are more than conquerors in Christ", so just because you are going through something does not mean you are "spiritually sick".
We must believe this, that when we see trials, even unto death, that it does not mean God does not love us or turned His back on us. For those In Christ, we are more than conquerors.
What God demonstrated in His son Jesus can not be undone. No matter what Satan or man does to us, it cannot remove us from His love. Sometimes God will call us out upon the waters like He did with Peter on the boat, but we can trust God in these places. You have been called there and that is what makes it stable. Know that God is there. He has called you here. He sees. He knows. He hears. You can feel broken, tired and weak, but God will carry you through those times. Trust in Him.
In these times, we absolutely must look to the demonstration of God's love on the cross. Things that happen to us in our life are going to call into question God's love and His goodness. If we put emphasis on how our life is going or on our feelings, then we very well may believe that we are unloved and rejected by God. If these feelings harbor long enough, one could walk away from the faith. But know if you are going through stuff, it's not because your relationship with God is bad or that God has given up on you.
I want to encourage people who feel like they lost their faith because they misunderstood God's love to come back and to recommit. God really does love you despite what you see in your life. He is calling you back today because He loves you. Tell someone the struggle you are going through and pray that God reveals His word to you in a bigger way because it will refresh you as you walk through the storms.