Journal Entry ~ 10/04/17

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble 
3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.  - Psalm 107:1-3

Focusing on his steadfast love today...we were all created with a deep inner need to be loved, especially when we’re walking through heavy times. Steadfast love is an unshakable, unmovable love that pursues us and never gives up. No matter what we do or how we return that love, He doesn’t let go. I think that’s the thing that finally gets many of us in our journey through life, as we start to figure out the meaning and purpose of it all, as we search for whether or not there is a God, I think for many of us it comes down to discovering our deep need for His unconditional acceptance and unwavering love of us no matter who we are. We were all created with that inner desire to be loved deeply, and though many of us put up a front and appear to be independent, building a wall of protection around our heart, working hard to show we don’t need anybody else, when we’re quiet and alone, and we stand in front of our fears and our sins, every single one of us knows we need that unconditional love that never gives up. 

The psalmist reminds us of this truth multiple times through this psalm because God knows how often we need to hear this truth. Many of us are walking through a difficult situation - some of us through a challenging diagnosis, some of us in financial struggles, some of us in a loveless marriages, some of us struggling with overwhelming fear and anxiety, some of us with spiraling depression or consuming loneliness. You are loved.  No matter where you are or what you are facing, you are loved with an unconditional love. Pause and meditate on that kind love for a moment. God accepts you and loves you no matter who you are or what you have done. He is deeply concerned about what you are facing, and wants to meet you right where you are. He doesn’t care how other people see you. He just wants to pour out His blessing on you. That is the kind of love that can set you free from the captivity of an isolated, self-focused world. 

I think the reason it’s so hard for many of us to accept the genuine and unconditional nature of God’s unmovable love for us is because we live in a world dominated by conditional love. People love us conditionally. Think about it - when you are prompted to say “I love you” to someone, what is the emotion or circumstance that immediately precedes your statement?  The majority of the time, they just did something to make you feel good about yourself, or they did something kind or generous for you. When we say “I love you,” we are often saying “I love the way you make me feel.”  It’s a self-focused and selfish love based on what makes me feel good. If we’re being honest, we surround ourselves with people who make us feel good about ourselves - that's who we love. Since this is what we know of love, we tend to place those attributes on God. Our natural inclination is to think God loves us conditionally based on what we do. But His love is an agape love - it has absolutely nothing to do with what we do, but everything to do with Him. An agape love is a sacrificial love, it’s a “you before me” love. It’s the kind of love that says “I love you” when you’ve just been asked to do something really hard for someone that interferes with what you want to do, it’s the kind of love that understands a harsh word from your spouse because they’ve had a hard day, it’s the kind of love that continues to reach out to that difficult person in your life with a kind gesture, despite the fact that your hand has been slapped multiple times. I love you before me. 

God’s plan for this world is that we would know His love so intimately that we would have the capacity to pass that love on to others. That’s how He created this world and all of us to work together. Oh, to live in a world of unconditional love!  Our pastor challenges us as believers in Christ that we should be the most loving person that the people in our lives know. All the people. This one always gets me. I want to be that person, but I’m pretty certain that if you were to ask every single person in my life, you might find a few who disagree. I’m working on it.  I still have so far to go, but He’s growing me with this diagnosis into a more loving person, a person more sensitive to the needs of others, and a person more willing to say, “I love you before me.” I want to live my life in such a way that the people in my life who don’t know the unconditional love of God come to know His love intimately because they know me. 

I need the reminder today that He loves me as I walk through the next few days. I’ve counseled several women through cancer diagnoses - some have gotten bitter, and some have gotten more tender. I understand why that happens on a more intimate level now. We not only need to know how deeply He loves us and how very much He cares for us when we walk through these kind of trials, but we also need to learn to accept and trust that love in our lives.  If we don’t, we end up building walls around our heart and pushing out the love that is so freely given to us. But when we are tenderized by His love for us, we love others well. That’s His plan. 

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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