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.

Faith, fear, God's Will, Hardships and Trials, obedience, Uncategorized

Training for Our Heavenly Race

By Jessica Brodie

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It was harder than I imagined. There I was on the side of the lake, face beet-red and lungs about to explode, not to mention sweat dripping off every inch of my frame. I’d convinced myself I could jog the length of the dam, only my body was far more accustomed to race-walking and circuit training than a nonstop pounding run.

“How do people do this?” I asked my sister breathlessly.

“You just have to train,” she replied. “Few people can just lace up and run a 5K out of nowhere. You have to build up, little by little.”

I followed her advice. Every day, I’d start by walking, then I’d run—first just a few minutes before shifting back to a fast walk, then increasing my run time. Soon I was doing far more running than walking. By the morning of the 5K, I’d trained enough. I completed the 3.10686 miles out of breath but victorious. I’d persevered! I’d run the race! And now I could celebrate.

In our earthly lives, we know perseverance—resolve, tenacity, determination—pays off, and not just when it comes to running. We persevere in studying hard for our final exams so we can achieve good grades. Through difficulties in our jobs so we can remain employed and advance our careers. Through troubles in our relationships, fighting for a healthy family.

And when it comes to our spiritual lives, perseverance is critical.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, #perseverance is critical. Click To Tweet

When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. But sometimes our faith is sorely tested. We face trials and temptations. We pray for health, only to receive a scary diagnosis. We hope for relief, only to experience the devastation of a hurricane. We love others well, and get rejected. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith.

Sometimes our #faith is sorely tested. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith. That’s when we need to hold fast and press on. #holdon #jesus Click To Tweet

But Scripture tells us to hold fast and press on. In the Book of Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are to model ourselves after Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” who ran the race with perseverance. “For the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV).

Jesus encountered much difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes on God and did God’s will. He persevered because the future goodness outweighed the present suffering. He taught and healed, and He died for us so that we, too, may be saved for eternal life.

#Jesus encountered much #difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a #cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes… Click To Tweet

When we set our sights on God despite opposition, we will follow Jesus and be victorious in our trials. How do we do that? We train ourselves to pray, to focus on God’s Word the Bible, to follow Him, to put Him first, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When we set our sights on God despite #opposition, we will follow #Jesus and be #victorious in our trials. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the race gets hard. Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, when we keep our eyes on the prize (eternal life in heaven!), our perseverance will pay off.

Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our #faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, our #perseverance will pay off. #nevergiveup Click To Tweet

What is holding you down? What hardship seems too big to overcome? Little by little, lace up your sneakers by turning your heart toward God and make Him a priority. Build up your muscles and lungs by reading God’s Word. With Jesus, you will persevere and run the race.

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian author, journalist, editor, and writing coach with a faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.

Hardships and Trials, Uncategorized

Trusting God When Rejected

All of us have been rejected at one time or another. The question is what do we do with that rejection–will it destroy us; will it weaken our faith or strengthen it? Let me share my story. With my out-going and strong personality, I was a big change for this country church who’d hired me as their first paid youth pastor.

As with marriage, most jobs and especially church positions have a “getting-to-know-you-stage” where everyone offers a lot of grace. My grace-period lingered well into the spring and early summer like the fragrance of the orange blossoms surrounding our close-knit community.

Soon I settled into a routine, and I began inviting kids from the neighborhood to join us at youth group. I also sought ways to meet the needs of a few families living within eyesight of the church. I thought this was “what all good youth pastors do,” but that wasn’t what they thought. Little did I know, my honeymoon was nearly over. Innocently, I had pulled the pins on a few grenades that would later explode, rupturing a hole in my tiny piece of paradise.

That first summer was difficult. The youth were very close to their previous volunteer youth director. She was a wonderful person but had a different style from mine. I reasoned, she was a lot more lenient than I could be because she knew them, and they knew her. That’s hard when others expect you to follow in someone else’s steps instead of creating your own. Then there was the boundary testing all children and youth apply to a new authority figure. I just need to give them time to develop a relationship with me, I determined, trying not to get too discouraged about the constant tug-of-war.

Quickly, I realized what I thought were simple tests were actually war games of military precision aimed at my elimination. I began receiving calls from parents questioning my rules and what they saw as favoritism. They wondered why I was correcting ‘their child’ when ‘those children,’ referring to the street kids I brought in, who needed so much more discipline.

Around this time, the unhappy teens formed an alternative group, exclusive and closely guarded, meeting the same time as the church youth program. How can this happen at a church? I wondered as my isolation grew.

Mayberry, it turned out, was a great place for those who belonged, but I was an outsider with outsider ideas. For months the battles continued as I struggled to do what God sent me there to do—serve the youth and children of this community. Then, just when I thought the situation couldn’t get worse, Sunday mornings ushered in a new slight. This growing group of warrior teens refused to walk on the same sidewalk as I did or sit on the same side of the sanctuary.

Within sixteen months, my dream job had turned into a nightmare. Every day I went into my office at the church, sat at my desk, and cried. The rejection was intense, the abandonment real. Where was God? Why was He allowing this to happen to me?

Perhaps you’ve asked those same questions. As I sought answers in my Bible, it became clear that almost everyone in Scripture experienced rejection and asked God why. Jesus promised that “If you are of the world, the world will love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world will hate you” (John 15:19 ESV).

Years after this church mess, I was still struggling with pain from what I’d endured and I shared my story with an elder in my church. When I asked the rhetorical question of why God would allow this to happen to me, my wise counselor asked, “Why not you?”

I was stunned. He went on to point out that Jesus—God in the flesh—was “troubled in His spirit” as he foretold of Judas (John 13:21). Think about it. He had just washed the guy’s feet a few verses earlier, symbolizing the laying down of His life for him. Then Peter, who professed his love and commitment to Jesus more ardently than any other, rejected even an association with Him in a matter of hours. Sudden, total, heartbreaking rejection. So what made me think I would be spared? I had to admit, that was a fair question.

Then my wise counselor took me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 in which Paul says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” Why? Because our Lord knows what rejection feels like. Jesus willingly put Himself in a place where His Father in Heaven “turned His face away” as He took our sin and hung on the cross. Why? Because he wanted to redeem us from eternal rejection.

Rejection is still difficult to handle, but now I know that while I’m suffering, I have Jesus who understands walking through it with me. He feels my pain, and he cradles my broken spirit. And I trust I will not be crushed, I may be struck down, but I will not be destroyed, and the same power that rose Christ from the dead is alive in me. I will be lifted up, and I am forever redeemed from eternal rejection because of God’s deep love and acceptance of me.

If you are feeling rejected, write out 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 and add your name into the verse like this: I _____ am hard pressed on every side, but ______ is not crushed; ______ is perplexed, but ______ is not in despair; ______ is persecuted, but _______ is not abandoned; _______ is struck down, but ______ is not destroyed.”

I challenge you the next time you ask the ‘Why’ question, dare to ask ‘Why not’ in return and allow God to heal your heart as He shows you how He will use your suffering for His glory.

Faith, obedience, Uncategorized

Do I Trust Myself More Than God?

Do I Trust Myself More than God

Sometimes I put trust in dangerous places.

One day, my husband informed me he wanted to return to the Navy. I’d talked him out of this decision before and felt certain I could again. After all, he was pursuing his college degree, and going back into the military meant saying goodbye to nearly half our income and a comfortable civilian life. Nothing about it made sense, and I told him so.

But then God captured my attention. Has God ever grabbed yours?

When I relayed the situation to our pastor’s wife, she asked if I had prayed about it. Her words—more likely God speaking through her—shook me. I hadn’t. I trusted myself and my logic more than God.

However, seemingly obvious answers aren’t always fueled by God Almighty.

His ways are higher than ours, according to Isaiah 55:8-9. Wisdom finds us seeking our Father’s counsel.

Wisdom finds us seeking our Father's counsel. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

After that divinely-led conversation, I went home and prayed. My strong-willed, rational self intentionally transferred trust to God in that moment. I asked the Lord to show me if He was behind Tony’s decision and to make His will undoubtedly clear.

God responded to that prayer within days.

The answer? Navy.

Day after day, those four letters grabbed my attention from their mount on buildings, signs, and vehicles. It was the wildest thing. Everywhere I turned, “navy” found me.

Soon after, Tony rejoined the Navy. In fact, he made a career of it, retiring in 2013. The Lord showed us much and crossed our paths with many wonderful people during those years. We wouldn’t exchange the journey for anything. God knew best after all!

Relying on ourselves, logical thinking, or statistics looks good on the outside, and trust set there often makes sense at first glance. But God’s ways are higher than ours. He woos and encourages us to rely on Him—the Maker of heaven and earth.

God's ways are higher than ours. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Proverbs 3:5-6 challenges us to trust in the Lord versus our own understanding. The Bible prompts us to acknowledge God, knowing He—not man—will make our paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 challenges us to trust in the Lord versus our own understanding. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

When we find ourselves placing confidence in ourselves or others, why not turn to our Father instead? What situations are you facing today that’d be safer set in prayer, relying on God versus man?

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join our discussion in our Facebook group!
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Uncategorized

When Love Feels Hard — Guest Blogger

mirachellequote1-apr8-fb

What happens when we’re called to forgive our enemy? Surely some acts, even some people, are unforgiveable, right?

Carolyn was the last person I wanted to forgive. The event I experienced because of her was so traumatic I’d blocked it from my mind for thirteen years.

I met Carolyn at a public pool when I was eleven. She was tall and pretty. We instantly hit it off, but my parents didn’t know she had a troubled home life. She was also friends with another girl with mental problems. They were best friends until I was put in the middle. One night, when I no longer wanted to be a part of their dysfunctional antics, I told Carolyn I didn’t want to be friends anymore. She begged me to take one last adventure with her and visit the roof of her high-rise apartment. I obliged, though terrified of heights.

The roof was dark, cold, and windy. I didn’t want to go to the edge, but Carolyn encouraged me. A few feet away, I gingerly peered over into the abyss. Carolyn gripped the back of my shirt. She pushed me closer to the rail and delivered her ultimatum, “Say you’ll be friends with me forever or you’ll go over the side.”

I hated her, but I’d buried the fear she’d instilled deep inside. I thank God people rescued me from her physical clutches, but I still needed Jesus to heal me from the mental one. As an adult, I had to confront the past, but I didn’t have the power to unlock the door. Jesus showed me my mental prison, the truth about my worthless warden, and the key to breaking out.

Choosing to love the person we most fear or hate is difficult. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, even His enemies. Conquering all sin and rebellion, his sacrifice demonstrated the greatest act of love that was won with the greatest weapon: Forgiveness. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV) and we choose to forgive because we are forgiven (Eph.4:32).

Following Jesus’s example of unconditional love enabled me to forgive Carolyn. It was by no means an easy task, but I know now it was a necessary one.Following Jesus’s example of unconditional love enabled me to forgive. It was by no means an easy task, but I know now it was a necessary one. Click To Tweet One week after I prayed to love and forgive her, I received an email to an account I rarely used. The subject: Do you remember me?

It was from Carolyn. She was married with kids and had recently found old photos of us. She remembered my name, which recalled happy emotions, but because of childhood trauma she couldn’t remember any events before high school. She wanted to know what I remembered about her so I chose to be honest. She was so mortified by my experience that she asked to talk to me over the phone. By the loving mercy of God, it was an hour-long conversation that set two once-tormented little girls free.

Love is a choice. Forgiveness is priceless. Both are the keys to freedom.mirachellequote2-apr8-fb

Perhaps you struggling to forgive someone today. What will take for you to choose God’s love in order to forgive?

Love is a choice. Forgiveness is priceless. Both are the keys to freedom. Click To Tweet

Get to know Mirachelle!

Mirachelle's author photoMirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

Connect with Mirachelle at:

her Website  on Facebook,  Twitter, and  Instagram.