If God Really Loved Me . . .

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For several reasons, I detest talking/writing about myself and I avoid it like poison ivy. Driven by a yearning to do everything in my power to help you, however, I have forced myself to make an exception below but I still find myself worrying about it. I donít need a three digit IQ to know most readers couldnít care less about Godís opinion of me. My focus is on Godís opinion of you, and I mention myself only because, other than the parts indicating my stupidity, it applies to you.

I know about the ďIf God really loved me . . .Ē mentality, because I let it happen to me. Though I continued to serve God with total devotion, it pushed me deeper and deeper into depression until, after several years of self-inflamed agony, I finally came to my senses by applying biblical truth I already knew. In fact, I have fallen into this hole more than once and the latest bout was quite recent.

Even though what I craved and let erode my faith in my importance to God differed each time, the potential to cripple my walk with God was equally real. The first time it happened I had let myself feel divinely overlooked by being envious of the spiritual experiences God was giving everyone around me, except me. The more I ached for such divine encounters as signs of Godís love and went to extremes in trying to position myself to receive them and to twist Godís arm to give them to me, the more receiving nothing magnified my doubts about how much God cared about me. I now look back and marvel at Godís love and wisdom in refusing to pander to my misconception. I would be unable to write this webpage, and several others, had my long-suffering Lord given into my attempts at emotionally blackmailing him. Instead, I would be telling you the lie that nagging God and trying to act super-spiritual is how you get proof of Godís love.

Now for the latest instance. I was deeply troubled that despite all my prayer and sacrifice, God was not doing the little it would take an omnipotent Lord to cause my ministry to reach more people. I foolishly began feeding the thought that this could only mean God must not think much of me. Thankfully, having fallen for a similar lie before, this time the voice of experience snapped me out of my delusion fairly quickly.

Telling you of my anguish is likely to leave you unmoved. Since it was my pain, not yours, it will probably seem a trifle compared to whatever is tormenting you. But this is no competition. What matters is whether you let your own inner screams drown out what God is saying in his Word about how special you are to him.

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Recently, I had a mundane experience that illustrates how we can be certain we are following the Word of God to the letter and yet still lose our way and end up precariously close to falling into unbelief.

Having carefully studied a map before setting off, I knew it would be easy to miss a particular turn off. I was so vigilant not to make that mistake that I still do not know how it happened. Certain that I could not possibly have missed that turn Ė even though I had Ė I kept driving on and on until I was so hopelessly lost that I could not even find my way back.

The only way out of my confusion was to locate a street name and, despite my perplexing experience with that map, force myself to ignore the strong emotions writhing within me and choose to believe in a map that had seemed to have let me down and again attempt to follow it.

It worked.

My bewilderment and exasperation were still raw but putting that out of my mind was not foolish escapism; it was the smartest thing I could ever have done. It was choosing to believe in the integrity of a carefully produced map, rather than in my own sense of direction which, despite being easily bamboozled by twisty roads, had the annoying habit of acting like a loud-mouthed know-all.

I long to put you out of your misery by ending this story but the truth is that, even after all of that, I made at least one more wrong turn. The narrow roads provided few places where I could stop and check the map. This meant I was often not going by the actual map but by my poor memory of the map. Nevertheless, for as long as I kept treating the map Ė and not my memory Ė as infallible, and kept returning to the map as often as I could, I was always going to make it, even though the saga turned out far more prolonged and stressful than I ever expected.

Once we have veered off without realizing it, we will misread a map because we will be sure we are at one point on the map when we are actually at another. No matter how good the map, it cannot help us as long as we keep misinterpreting it according to our misconceptions. Everything will seem fine for a while and suddenly nothing will make sense. Only when we accept that one of our presumptions must have been wrong and continue to put our faith in the map can the map start helping us again.

All of this applies to biblical truth. Just as there are many different ways of getting lost despite trying to follow a reliable map, so it is with the Bible. It will save us from going astray only if we keep accepting its accuracy and refuse to foster false presumptions that cause us to unknowingly misread it.

Too often we think we are at point A, where circumstances make Godís love obvious; when we are actually at point B, where nothing will make sense to our puny brains. Thatís when it is vital to keep trusting what God says in his Word. It will always turn out that it is our presumptions, not biblical truth, that have let us down. Our only hope is to push aside false presumptions that seem undeniably true, and proceed by raw faith in Godís Word.

Imagining that faith in God will lead to instant blessing will eventually land each of us in a spiritually precarious position. It is vital to understand that faithís goal is not about getting what you imagine is best, when that means settling for less than Godís best. The genuineness of your faith is proved not by you getting your own way but by rejoicing in God having his way.

You might have prayed and fasted and done every conceivable thing to get God to give you a dream job or the relationship of your fantasies or healing or a special feeling or spiritual sign or whatever, but you will end up hopelessly lost unless you realize that everything on your wish list Ė even if to you they seem absolute necessities Ė are but trinkets compared with the unfathomable riches that are yours in accepting by sheer faith what God says in his Word about how he feels about you.

In his stubborn love, God refused to let me settle for trinkets nor to be distracted by them. Perhaps his loving wisdom will compel him to treat you similarly. Stop hoping to erect your faith on the superficial and, instead, found it solely on the Word of God.

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Within a couple of days of deciding to stop feeding on the ďIf God really loved me . . .Ē poison and instead take by stubborn faith that he really does love me no matter what my brain tells me, the transformation within me was staggering. Beyond all expectation, anguish and turmoil were vanquished by inner peace. Yet there has been no great revelation or spiritual experience.

I am still as mystified as ever as to why God is not getting my writings to more people. If I chose to dwell on it, the logic would be as compelling as before that God must have a low view of my ministry Ė and hence of me. Nevertheless, I refuse to let my mind slip down that destructive slope. Iím content to leave it as a mystery, rather than be so foolish as to exalt my puny mind above what God says in his Word about his love.

My inability to see any loving reason behind the way things are at present makes no difference to the fact that God must have a loving reason.

It was only as I was writing this, resigned to resolutely keep on believing despite having no explanation, that the following paragraph came to me, and with it I suddenly have a huge chunk of the understanding that until now had eluded me. Here it is:

No matter how much all of this remains inexplicable to me, it is enough to know that God would rather that there be a growth in my faith in his love for me than in the number of people I reach. That must mean that I am more valuable to him than all my desperate attempts to serve him.

Now that my focus has changed, I see that my spiritual welfare is more important to my Lord than all the help I could be giving others. With him, I will never be lost in the crowd. No matter how stupendously important the needs of others are to him, I never slip in his priorities.

Viewed correctly Ė through the lens of faith in Godís Word Ė what had seemed conclusive proof that God cares little about me, actually turns out to be proof of how special I am to him. And, no matter how many doubts rage within, you are equally special to him.

It is no new revelation to me that God treasures me for who I am, not merely for what I do. I have even written about this before. Through this latest test, however Ė this new opportunity to stretch my faith Ė this truth has snuggled still deeper into my heart.

But note the journey: I reached this level of reassurance only by refusing to trust what my mind said was compelling logic, and by putting my faith exclusively in Godís Word.

To grow in faith we need practical learning opportunities. It is only when we see no answer that we can learn to walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Not until I was determined to believe without ever having an answer, had my faith grown enough that I no longer needed this opportunity for my faith to grow. Only then was it wise for God to let me have an answer.

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Do you think it weird that God only let me have feelings of peace after I reached the point of no longer needing those feelings? Even though Iíve never in my life touched alcohol, it is the best way I know to illustrate why God acts this way. The greater oneís craving for alcohol, the greater the danger of abusing it or even ending up an alcoholic. The more someone yearns for it, the more important it is that he not be given it. So it is with feeling loved of God: our Lord knows that the more we crave these feelings, the more likely it is that receiving them will end up with us becoming dangerously addicted to them.

What makes this so alarming is that the enemy of our souls is the deceiver. He can do nothing to lessen Godís love for you, nor reduce the power of the cross. All he can do is mess with our feelings or our minds, or sometimes even our circumstances, in the hope that we might slip into believing them rather than God. For as long as we look to such things for confirmation of spiritual truth, we remain perilously vulnerable to deception.

Someone coined the saying, Faith leads, feelings follow. By their very nature, truth and feelings are as different as concrete and cotton candy; as bedrock and water. Truth is constant; feelings flood, and feelings evaporate. Truth is a razor; it cuts a straight line. Feelings are fluid and mushy. Far too weak to forge into new territory, feelings are easily diverted and end up wandering willy-nilly.

Feelings can only follow. They need a determined trailblazer to cut a channel for them to follow.

To put oneís faith in feelings, letting them lead, is as absurd as surrendering control of your destiny to fickle winds. When faith, like a pathetic lost puppy, follows feelings, it ends up going nowhere. But when faith seizes biblical truth, everything clicks into place and faith becomes that resolute trailblazer that feelings need.

I have found that the faith leads truism usually applies to intellectual understanding as well. There are biblical truths that now make complete sense to me but I only reached that point of understanding long after choosing to believe those truths when everything within my mind and heart protested that they were nonsensical and could not possibly be true.

The faith first principle also often applies to circumstances and to spiritual experiences that scream that God has abandoned us or does not care.

The spiritually lazy side of us would like confirmation before choosing to believe but in his wisdom God usually insists that it be the other way around. Although God often gives baby Christians a push start, it is vital that as soon as possible each of us be weaned off looking to feelings or circumstances or intellect to confirm spiritual truth.

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Hereís something relevant I wrote years ago.
Basking In Infinite Love

Embraced by divine love, your life will be tinged with mystery but aglow with glory

Tucked in the heart of Scripture sleeps a tiny psalm of precious truth (Psalm 131). The singer confessed that as a mother denies her baby access to her milk when itís time for her darling to be weaned, so God sometimes denies us things we crave. Yet as a weaned infant lies warm and secure in its motherís bosom, our soul can nestle into God, not knowing why we have been denied that which we have clamored for, but content to draw love and comfort from the Fatherís heart.

As the heavens soar far above us, high and unreachable, so is Godís wisdom (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 139:6; 147:5; Romans 11:33-34;
Job 11:7-9)
. Our tiny minds may understand the Fatherís ways no more than a babe understands its mother, yet still we can rest in Him, bathed in the certainty that when the omnipotent, omniscient Lord lets the inexplicable touch a child of his, it is a manifestation of unfathomable love. In the hands of the One who wouldnít so much as break a damaged reed or snuff a smoking wick, you are safe (Matthew 12:20).

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Permit me to close by repeating what I said in the previous webpage:

Will you let temporary disappointments rob you of eternal joy? Should you let them trick you into twisting Scripture to fit a twisted view of life?

When the inexplicable happens, will you allow things beyond your understanding corrupt your interpretation of Godís sacred words? Will you bow down to adverse circumstances, letting them bully you into pushing God aside and worshiping unpleasant things as your source of truth? Or will you stand up to the bully by exalting God and making the truth of his Word the standard by which you judge everything life throws at you?

Will you let the tears in your eyes blind you to biblical truth or will you let biblical truth dry your tears?