Living loved, Uncategorized

When We Can’t Feel God’s Love

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For a long time, my view of God and His love was skewed. If you’d asked, I probably would’ve provided an accurate description. I would’ve talked about how merciful and gentle He was, how faithful He was to remain beside us, and how He’d stop at nothing, even His own death, to draw us close.

But I lived as if He placed conditions on His affection, as if He somehow loved me more when I behaved or served Him in a certain way but grew weary of me when I messed up.

One year, a friend invited me to a women’s retreat, my first ever. I was crazy-nervous about going. It hadn’t been all that long since my oh-so-glamorous homeless period, and I was lugging around a heavy load of shame and self-loathing. In short, I felt I didn’t belong.

I didn’t want to go. The whole event felt far too intimate for a gal who plotted ways to remain in hiding. But I sensed God wanted to do something amazing and miraculous. So I packed my bags and headed to a monastery in Santa Barbara, where our retreat was held.

The first night, our leader read the account of the Samaritan woman, and Jesus invitation to her gripped me. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). He was inviting her to receive salvation, yes, but His invitation involved so much more than that. He was drawing her into an intimate, completely authentic, relationship with Himself.

The next morning, I went for a long run, processing everything from the night before. I, too, wanted to be filled, but I felt so empty, and I couldn’t understand why. I belonged to Jesus and had trusted Him for my eternal salvation. So why wasn’t my heart like a bubbling spring that welled up with eternal life?

After my run, still needing time alone, I walked the monastery grounds, hoping to hear from God.

Nothing. No words of assurance from heaven or comforting whispers to my wounded heart. Frustrated, I cried out, “Why won’t You love me?!”

His response, though not audible, came swift and clear: “You won’t let Me.”

That stunned and confused me, and I spent the next six months or so prayerfully trying to figure out what God meant. He showed me that my disconnect came not from Him but from within me. My failure to grasp the depths of His love, my continual expectation of rejection, and past wounds that left me closed in and fearful, hindered my ability to fully experience Him. I was approaching Him through a lens of hurt instead of one of grace and truth.

I realized I needed to learn how to give and receive love, and so I asked Him to teach me. Over the next ten years or so, that’s precisely what He did. He slowly but steadily healed my heart, removed my distrust, and replaced all the lies I’d melded with truth.

Truth like:

God is love (1 John 4:8), and His love is eternal (Psalm 136:1b). It doesn’t increase when I return it or God's love is constant on an image with a heart locketdecrease when I push Him away. Nothing, not “death or life or angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Romans 8:38-39) can separate me from His love. He loved me when I was at my worst (Romans 5:8) and will love me when I’m at my best. His love isn’t dependent on my actions nor how I feel, and He has no favorites (Romans 2:11).

That means He loves me, and you, as much as He loved the apostle Paul, who planted numerous churches and wrote a chunk of the New Testament. He loves me, and you, as much as He loves all the saints who’ve given their life for Him and the gospel. He loves me, and you, as much, and no more, than the alcoholic on the street corner and the sweet Sunday school teacher who’s never had a drop of wine.

Because His love doesn’t depend on us. The next time you’re struggling to rest in God’s love, hit pause. Ask Him to show you the cause of your disconnect and the lies you’ve embraced. Ask Him to help you replace them with truth. Ask Him to remind you of His truth again and again until it permeates your every thought, until His truth speaks louder than your deception.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever struggle to rest in God’s love, and if so, why do you think that is? Have you ever asked God to show you the root cause behind your disconnect? What are some Scripture passages that can help, the next time you feel discarded, rejected, or perhaps unworthy of God’s affection? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook.

Before you go, I have fun news. We’ve released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Living loved, Relationships, surrender

The Forgiven Forgive

There was no peace. What started as friendship ended in full out anger. We seemed to disagree about everything. There were dirty looks and silence. Those were far from our finest moments. We couldn’t let go of the small things, so they became big problems. Weary from conflict, I read a Scripture passage that pierced my soul and helped me forgive.  

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)Operating as if I hadn't needed God's forgiveness kept me from pardoning my friend. Have you been there? Click To Tweet

I realized I was withholding mercy because I forgot the full weight of grace God has afforded me every time I’ve messed up. Operating as if I hadn’t needed God’s forgiveness kept me from pardoning her. Have you been there?andreaquote1-apr29-fb

It’s much easier for me to offend with a quick retort when someone hurts me. Or self-protect when I don’t feel appreciated or others are unkind. But it’s not what God calls us to do. We are to respond like Jesus, and He doesn’t shun them with the silent treatment or cut with snide remarks. Instead, He sees their behavior as an outpouring of hurt and sin and offers love and grace to soothe their souls.

This doesn’t mean we let others abuse us. Sometimes setting healthy boundaries is the best way to love someone. But we do allow God to reign over our relationships so that we can see the way to peace.

andreaquote2-apr29-fbTo follow His lead, we must first take inventory of all the ways God has shown us mercy. What harsh words have we spoken that He’s forgiven? What poor choices has He redeemed once we confessed? Who would we be without God’s favor? As I answer those questions honestly, I realize I have no business withholding forgiveness of others because my God has taken away my sin, free of charge.

Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Click To Tweet

Paul, and early evangelist who wrote much of the New Testament, encourages us to pick wisely, saying, “so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8, ESV).

You hold the power to soothe your soul and others every time you choose love over hate and forgiveness over bitterness. Take a moment to thank God for the grace He’s shown you today and extend that line of mercy to those in your path.

 

I want to hear your thoughts about forgiveness and conflict on our FACEBOOK page. What has helped you resolve problems peacefully? What Scripture do your rely on when faced with relational conflict?

AndreaWeb47

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers. Read more from Andrea online! 

Faith, Living loved

The Unshakable Security of Christ’s Love

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Jesus should’ve given up on me long ago. I gave up on myself, especially during my teen years, when I spent more time drunk than sober, and filled with enough anger to emotionally combust.

But each day, God pursued me and lovingly drew me until, eventually, His gentle and persistent love soothed my inner angst and healed the hurt it came from. He always offers us more grace and patience than we’d ever offer ourselves, and His staying power far exceeds ours. I know this, but in moments of doubt or discouragement, or when my pride wins out over obedience, I can easily forget.

God's love for me is based on who He is, not what I've done, and my salvation rests on what He's done, not what I haven't. Click To Tweet

In Christ, I am held secure.

I never fully understood God’s heart for me, and the power and strength emerging from it, until I became a parent. But having walked beside my daughter through nearly a lifetime of good, bad, the obedient, and at times, flat-out rebellious, I’ve caught a better, deeper, picture of my Father’s heart—a heart that never lets go, never gives up, and will in no way ever turn away.

When our daughter was seven or eight, we moved across the country from Southern California to Bossier City, Louisiana, a transition she struggled with. Though initially, we were oblivious to her pain—seven-year-olds aren’t often able to express their emotions—we soon became alert to a drastic change of behavior. Our normally cheerful, affectionate little girl had become sullen and angry.

I was confused and concerned.

One afternoon, she grew quite upset with me (for reasons I can’t remember), shouted, “I hate you!” and slammed her bedroom door.

That was the first, and perhaps last, time she’d ever said something like that to me, and it broke my heart. But not for the reasons you may assume.

My heart broke because I knew hers was breaking. Beneath her anger and harsh words, I saw her pain, and in that moment, what I longed for most was to draw her near and hold her close.

Throughout my faith journey, I’ve displayed a similar response toward God as she had to me, numerous times. Like when my friend was dying, and I struggled to reconcile my circumstances with what I knew regarding God’s love, power, and sovereignty. Once my emotions settled down, guilt and fear followed. Had my anger angered God?

Had I—or would I—do something that would drive Him away for good?

But each time, not only did He remain. But He took giant, loving steps toward me.

God holds me secure, and His love will always remain. Unshakable. Immovable. Solid and sure. Click To Tweet
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How securely are your feet planted in grace? When doubts and insecurities arise regarding God’s heart for you, how might pausing to remember who He is, rather than what you have or haven’t done, help you rest in His embrace? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those wanting to learn how to more fully embrace their Christ-centered identity and rest in His grace, grab a free copy of our study, Becoming His Princess. You can do so HERE. And make sure to join us for one of our upcoming Fully Alive conferences to learn how to connect on a deeper level with your Savior and live vibrantly alive in every moment. Find out more and how to register HERE. Want us to join you for your next women’s event? Contact us for more information or to schedule a time to chat by phone HERE.

 

 

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Living loved

Listening for God

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My eyes popped open. Did anyone else hear that? To my relief, all heads were still bowed in prayer. Good thing—then no one would notice the tears that gently slid down my face as I struggled to keep it together. My heart pounded. God had just spoken to me for the first time.

I’d experienced my Heavenly Father’s magnificent voice, and I wanted more.

Because God first spoke to me in the context of worship, I anticipated that again. It made sense that I would hear from Him in church—His house, where everything was about Him, and where He had my undivided attention. However, as week after week of worship passed with no divine encounter, I began to feel discouraged.

Was that it—the one and only time I’d hear from God?

But, something deep within knew differently, and numerous verses in the Bible indicate otherwise:

“and when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”” (Isaiah 30:21)

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

And even though I was relatively new to the concepts of Christianity, I knew that God desired a relationship with me. How could I have an intimate connection with someone if we didn’t speak regularly? I have ongoing communication with family members and close friends, so why should it be any different with God?

Then, I had get painfully honest with myself. If I know someone well, I can identify them simply by their voice. Could I do that with God? The way He spoke to me the first time was undeniable, but would it always be like that? Did I know my Heavenly Father well enough, through reading and studying His Word, to be certain I’d recognize His voice again?

christa-quote-listening-7-16iIt was clear that I needed to adjust my thinking. I’d made worship the exclusive place where I could experience God, assuming I had to physically go to church to encounter His presence. My attitude was an ignorant. “Ok, God, I’m here. Talk to me”I was limiting a limitless God, expecting Him to show up when, where, and how I wanted like an actor responding to their cue. Thankfully, God is much bigger than the confines of my expectations.

I wondered how many times I’d missed opportunities to connect with my Heavenly Father, because I was too busy looking for Him elsewhere—how many times I’d drowned out His still, small voice with the clanging of my own demands.

So, I quieted my soul, let go of expectations, and asked God to speak to me. I also began to dig into my Bible. Pretty soon, I started to hear Him. Sometimes it was a clear, resonating sound within—leading, guiding, affirming, or correcting me. Other times, it was small and sweet—a whisper to remind me He was near, a verse from Scripture that jumped off the page as I read, or worship lyrics that continually ran through my head. I felt Him speak to me through creation, heard Him when others’ words sparked something inside of me, and experienced His presence in ways that are simply too difficult to articulate.

As my relationship with God blossoms, I marvel and rejoice that the Creator of heaven and earth desires for us to be in constant communion with Him. He doesn’t need us, but he wants us—to be close enough to rest assured that we are known, seen, heard, held, and above all, loved.

Let’s talk about it! Do you hear God regularly, or is it a struggle to decipher His voice above the noise of life? What can you do today to draw closer to Him and position your heart to listen?

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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Living loved

When Others Reject Us

While growing up, I was the awkward, frizzy haired kid from Podunk, Oregon. The one who came to school with a big, old feather dangling from my hair, my favorite pair of Velcro shoes on my feet, and clothes that immediately caused a stir—but not in a good way.

I had no sense of style, spent entirely too much time daydreaming, and was in no way rocking the social scene. By some miracle, midway through fifth grade I managed to wiggle and finagle my way to the fringe of the popular group, only to be completely shunned before summer hit.

Nearly two decades later, when attending “mommy-and-me” gatherings in Southern California, I felt I’d entered a time warp. It seemed I was right back in a cliquey fifth grade classroom, and I wasn’t part of the clique.

I felt insufficient and unimportant.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this—being the misfit. The odd one. The woman everyone seems to tolerate but never purposely includes. It stings.

But imagine spending your life as an outcast, the one everyone judges and condemns. Then finally receiving your invite to that long-coveted party, only to be kicked out upon arrival.

Scripture doesn’t tell us his name. In fact, we know very little about him, except he was considered to be cursed. As a blind man in ancient Palestine, he’d grown up surrounded by accusation and assumption. Everyone, even Jesus’ disciples, assumed he or his parents must have done something terrible to cause his condition.

“Rabi,” the disciples asked, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2, NIV).

This was the pervasive conclusion his peers believed, likely from the time he took his first breath. It didn’t matter if he behaved kindly to others, how long and often he prayed, or how many good things he did. Nothing could shake the judgment that followed him, because his blindness was constantly evident.

Nothing, or rather no one, but Jesus.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Him” (John 9:3, NIV).

Can you imagine the hush that must’ve fallen over the crowd, and the hope that surely bloomed within the man? To hear the respected Teacher, this Miracle Worker, validate him so publicly?

And then, Jesus put mud on the man’s eyes and told him to “wash in the pool of Siloam,” which he did, “and came home seeing.”

This created quite a stir, and soon the man was brought to the Pharisees, a group who likely had judged him most fiercely of all. Powerful men who could choose to celebrate his healing or to expel him—completely, perhaps permanently—from the temple, the center of Jewish community.

They chose the latter, as the man most likely assumed they would, if he proclaimed Christ as his healer. At that time, the Jewish leaders clearly despised the Savior and intended to excommunicate anyone who “acknowledged Jesus was the Messiah” (John 9:22, NIV).

And that’s exactly what the leaders did, openly rejecting the once-blind man, and potentially cutting him off Woman gazing into the distancefrom countless other relationships, as well. They rejected him.

But Jesus sought him out, and offered him something more enduring, more life-changing, than prestige and popularity—the gift of eternal life. And along with that gift came a friend who would never leave him, never reject him, and never turn away.

This is what Jesus does. When others abandon or mistreat us, Jesus welcomes us near with open and unyielding arms and whispers to our hearts, “Come to Me. I’ll never turn you away.”

Let’s talk about this! We’ve all faced rejection and many have developed deep wounds because of this. How might remembering Jesus’ call to come to Him help us heal and move forward? What can we do when others hurt or mistreat us to avoid allowing that past hurt to impact our present relationships? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on our Facebook page, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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