God’s love is not simply for mankind as a mass. It is not a sentimental, vague, diffused feeling that is something like Charlie Brown’s attitude when he says, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” God really likes individual people. Jesus showed this on earth. He focused his attention on individuals, showing no partiality.
The Cross gives us the greatest sense of God’s personal love. Christ did not die simply for mankind as a mass, but, as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, Christ “loved me and gave himself for me.” Out of God’s infinite capacity to focus on each individual, Christ died for you personally and for me personally.
God draws us to himself individually. I remember so clearly how he drew me. He had been working over a period of time, giving me discontent. I had been baptized, I belonged to a church, and I was considered a good Christian, but I began to realize I didn’t know God personally. Through John 3:16 the truth that God loved me dawned as an inner light in my heart. It was personal: Jesus died for me. I let him be my Savior.
I found love defined in one dictionary as a strong personal attachment and ardent affection which includes three things: (1) sympathetic understanding, (2) good will and benevolent, kind action, and (3) delight and pleasure in the loved one. God’s love for us includes all of these.
We need sympathetic understanding, don’t we? We want to be really understood, and God provides that understanding. “How well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times” (Ephesians 1:8, LB).
Hebrews 4:12-13 relates how intimately God knows us. We don’t have to try to make him understand. He sees right down to the most personal thoughts and intentions of our hearts. He knows them before we do, and more deeply than we do. He knows every longing we have. He knows every weakness, every flaw and imperfection. He knows every sin.
That could be frightening, but two verses later we read that our Lord understands our weaknesses, or as Wuest translates it, he has “a fellow feeling with our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). We can therefore “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). God understands.
God does not expect a perfect performance from us. He knows we’re dust. He feels with us, and his heart is pained when his children go through struggles. He’s not wringing his hands, but he hurts when we hurt.
I remember going to Singapore for a missionary term a few years ago after leaving our children back in America in school, knowing we would be separated from them for two and a half years. Very soon after we arrived, my husband left on a seven-week trip. I remained in Singapore trying to get everything settled, and feeling lonely. One day when I had to go downtown I stopped in a coffee shop overlooking the harbor, and sat there and thought, Lord, it is so hard!
A phrase of Scripture in Genesis 48:19, one I hadn’t thought of for years, came back to me: “I know, my child, I know.” Over and over it went through my mind, letting me know God understands and sympathizes.
God’s love is also filled with good will and benevolent action. J. B. Phillips translates 1 Peter 5:7, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.” God really cares.
When my first husband was dying of cancer, one of the verses that kept sustaining me was Jeremiah 29:11-1 know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” How would taking my husband home at age thirty-two, leaving myself and two young children—what did this have to do with a future and a hope? It didn’t make sense to me.
But I didn’t have to understand, because I could tell him, “God, you have never lied to me. You have shown again and again that you care about me. So I thank you. Your plans are for peace and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope.”
God’s love also includes delight and pleasure in those he loves. This we often overlook. We think God is coldly condescending to take care of us, and we don’t realize how intense his feelings are and how much he is pleased when we respond to him.
By choosing to love us in an intense and personal way, God made himself vulnerable. “Through setting his love on men God has voluntarily bound up his own final happiness with theirs,” J. I. Packer writes. “He will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again until he has brought every one of them to heaven.” God’s pleasure is linked with ours. We can bring him joy, or we can grieve him.
The fact that he longs for our love is shown by the greatest commandment. What God wants first of all from us is to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Isn’t it wonderful to be that important to the Supreme Being of the universe, the most important person of all?
In Isaiah 62:5 we read,
As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.
We can sometimes be like a bride who is so busy keeping the house perfect and working for her bridegroom, she never pauses to give him her love. But he wants her. He wants a personal response. God feels this way about us.
God is our knight who goes out and fights our battles, and then returns to delight in us and serenade us. We are beautiful to him. We are his loved ones, and he wants time with us.
“Because of what Christ has done,” we read in Ephesians 1:11, “we have become gifts to God that he delights in” LB. When you turned to Christ and let him into your heart, Christ offered you to God as the gift God always wanted. We’re of great value to him.
God’s love will never fade. He won’t start being critical of us later. We did not earn his love before and we cannot earn it now, but he continues loving us. His love is perfect.
God’s love is not something that shines out as something apart from himself. God is love, and our rich experience of this is possible, as we learn in Romans 5:5, because “God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love”. LB
If we respond personally to God, his love can powerfully revolutionize our lives. Our personalities will be free to become all God designed them to be.
The more personally we receive his love the more it will change our lives. It will give us a deep sense of security and acceptance. We’ll each realize, I’m in. I’m included. I’m all right as a person in Jesus.
Romans 8:38-39 shows us why this can be a permanent sense of acceptance and security.
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us (LB).
This perfect, permanent love gives us stability. It also gives us a new attitude toward difficult circumstances. God is love, and everything he says and does expresses his love. Whatever he allows to touch our lives—and he could stop anything from touching us if he knew it was not for our good—is an expression of his love.
“Whom the Lord loves, he chastens” (Hebrews 12:6). He chastens us because he wants to draw out the beauty in us and deepen our lives. He doesn’t want to let us settle for superficial, transitory happiness.
God allows both the huge trials that rock our foundations, and the pin pricks and squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy. All are his love-gifts in disguise.
I’ve enjoyed a poem that begins,
The trials of life often cause us to let God love us, as we recognize our need and come seeking his face.
We all have a deep inner need to adore and to love someone without reservation and without disappointment. Only God fills that need. We can respond to him with total admiration and adoration and never be disappointed.
By letting God’s love meet our deepest needs, we won’t have to grasp for love anymore from other people. Grasping can give way to giving.
Just as other people can’t meet our needs for love, we also don’t have within ourselves the kind of love they need. Our human love is too puny and too fluctuating. But if we let God’s love fill us, and then understand the value he places on us, it changes our attitudes toward others. We see that God’s love for us is intensely personal, but it is not exclusive. When each of us realizes I am loved, and I am valuable because of God’s love for me, then we know this is also true of others. I am unique and special and beloved, and so is he or she.
In Romans 15:7 we are told to receive one another just as Christ received us. That means with open arms, with no reservations, accepting others just as they are.
We are called “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” in Colossians 3:12. The verse goes on to teach us that because of our being set apart this way, we are to put on a heart of love toward others—”Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Knowing who we are to God, we then can channel God’s love to others. His love saturates us and flows out to those around us.
God’s love is available to us, but it’s ours to experience only to the degree that we get involved with God. If we settle for a casual relationship we’ll block him out. Rather than a strong, settled, growing sense of his love, we’ll have only fleeting impressions.
Any close relationship takes time and teamwork. It won’t become a deep relationship if only one person is interested, while the other is indifferent or has barriers up. It takes willingness to listen and to share our hearts, and time to learn trust.
We can know God’s love better by taking time alone with him in his word and in prayer. You will not trust God in the midst of your trials, and you will not consistently allow the Holy Spirit to control you, if you neglect time alone with God and his word. The Holy Spirit has given us God’s word, and it is filled with God’s love messages. We must know what he says in order to believe and trust in his love.
This time in God’s word is also important because through the Scriptures we learn to walk the path of obedience. There are only two paths in life. One is the path of disobedience, and there are heavy clouds over it. A little bit of the light of God’s love is shining there, but the clouds make it so dim that our experience is cold and poor.
But over the path of obedience the clouds are gone, and the warm love of God shines down unhindered to meet our needs.
Many relationships are limited because of physical distance, but our relationship with God can become more ardent and more intensely enjoyed than any other because God is dwelling in us. It’s an internal relationship.
For this, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 is beautiful:
I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father—that out of his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself. (LB)
What a wonderful thought—to be filled up with God himself! It sounds like a high goal, but it’s not too high for God. Paul goes on to say in verse twenty that God “is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”
In his heart, God is intensely involved with us. Are you that involved with him?