How Would You Describe God’s Love?
Have you ever felt as if a sermon or Bible passage had been aimed directly at you? Imagine that you and a friend read or hear the same message. Almost without exception, each of you will be personally impacted by God’s love and truth in profoundly unique ways. It is no coincidence that the Bible describes the Word of God as, “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Dimensions of God’s Love
In Ephesians chapter three, we are challenged to try to grasp the “width, length, height, and depth” of God’s love. Sometimes when I read this illustration, I picture Christ as the carpenter. Carefully constructing His Church, He positions each person in their proper place, at the proper time, in the proper order. He does this so that together, we support and strengthen each other as we become vessels of God’s love in a hurting world.
But at other times, my heart and mind may gravitate to one particular aspect. Over the years, each one has seemed to jump off the page at one time or another. They serve to remind me of a specific attribute of God that speaks to my heart in my current situation. How about you?
How Do You Envision God’s Love?
- Consider length. It may remind us of God’s faithfulness. It is an awesome and humbling joy to realize that God has been, and will continue, watching over the full length of each of our lives, beginning from before we were conceived, through birth, life, death, and even beyond the grave!
- Width serves to remind us of God’s omnipresence: at any given moment, God is involved with every detail of our lives. Carefully orchestrating each one with perfect precision so that despite the difficulties, we might draw closer to the One who has loved us since before time began.
- The depth of God’s love may cause us to reflect on the fact that God knows us fully and completely, even better than we know ourselves. It may bring to mind the fact that Jesus was willing to leave His heavenly throne, suffer death on a cross, and be raised to life. As a result, He is able to meet us even in the darkest corners of our hearts.
- And lastly, height lovingly lures the mind and spirit of each one of us to bask in God’s holiness and sovereignty. To be reminded that He is above all things and yet, though He created the entire universe and everything in it, the greatest object of His affection is us.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”Ephesians 3:18 NLT
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:9 NLT
Our God Is Not a Do-Nothing God
“… casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” 1 Peter 5:7 (AMP)
“How can God just do nothing?”
This was the vulnerable and honest question I got from someone in the audience during a recent Q&A. The pain in her question was deep. The ache in her faith was real. And, gracious, do I ever understand what that feels like.
Perhaps you understand, too.
I remember feeling so disillusioned during my journey with my husband, Art, when he was unfaithful and our marriage was imploding. For years, all I could see from my vantage point was Art doing whatever he wanted with no apparent intervention by God at all. And when you’re suffering so much that each next breath seems excruciating, and the one causing the pain is seemingly thriving and prospering, it’s easy to start assuming God is doing nothing.
But we don’t serve a do-nothing God. He is always working.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He walked through years of rejection, false accusation, wrongful imprisonment and seemingly was forgotten … but with God, there is always a meanwhile. God was bringing about something only He could do with the circumstances before Joseph. He was positioning Joseph and preparing him to be used to help save the lives of millions of people during a famine that would have otherwise destroyed multiple nations.
God is always doing something.
Unlike in the Joseph story, sometimes we don’t get to see on this side of eternity how God is working in our most painful experiences. But I can let the way God worked in Joseph’s story be a reminder of His faithfulness in my story.
I’ve been able to have conversations with Art in our reconciliation now that allow me to go back and correct some of my assumptions that life was fun and incredible for him during the years he was living a lie. God was still at work in my husband even when I couldn’t see the evidence.
But even more than that, sin itself contains punishment built in. Art would tell you today he was miserable back then. He felt trapped inside of a lie that required him to put on a show, looking like he was having the time of his life. But that show required numbing substances that were killing him. It was a trap with vicious teeth dug so deeply down into his soul, he can’t talk about those years without begging others not to get caught in this same kind of nightmare.
Sin always masquerades as fun and games. But pull back the curtain of the deceived human heart, and what you’ll find hiding there will drive you to your knees to pray for that person. And maybe that’s the very reason God instructs us to pray for our enemies. Job 15:20 reminds us, “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days” (ESV). And Psalm 44:15 says “All day long my dishonor is before me And my humiliation has overwhelmed me” (NASB).
As St. Augustine, a fourth-century Christian theologian, says, sin “becomes the punishment of sin.” But never forget God is there in the midst of it all. No matter how good someone makes sinful choices seem, that isn’t the complete story. God knows the full truth. With Art, God wasn’t just trying to change his behavior. He was rescuing his soul. There was never one moment when God was doing nothing.
Oh, friend, the heartbreaks you carry are enormous. And if no one else has ever said this to you, I want to: I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Your hurt matters. Not only do I care about you, but so does God.
Don’t miss the tremendous amount of tenderness we find in our key verse today, “… casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]” (1 Peter 5:7).
Keep trusting Him. He sees you. He loves you. And He knows exactly what needs to happen in every detail of your story. You do not serve a do-nothing God.
Who Determines Your Identity?
by Kelly Givens, Crosswalk.org
One year, in between jobs, I worked as a temporary administrative assistant at a financial planning firm… during tax season. It was as challenging as you might imagine. I had no experience in taxes but suddenly found myself surrounded by tax forms, calculators and clients who expected me to have the answers to all of their tax issues. I might as well have been in a foreign country trying to communicate in a language I barely understood.
I started with grand ambitions: I told myself that I would learn all about taxes; I took an incredibly challenging online tax course, learned a ton about deductions and exemptions, and strove to be cheerful and helpful to my colleagues and our clients. Things were going great – I was exhausted but felt helpful, felt like my boss appreciated me and thought my coworkers were glad to have me around. Until the worst imaginable thing happened.
A customer claimed to have dropped off his taxes to be done, but his paperwork was nowhere to be found. All of the most important documents he owned and had trusted to us had somehow vanished. Worst of all, I had been the person handling the coming and going of most of the client’s paperwork the day it went missing, so the blame fell on me.
I was nauseous with anxiety. I felt the cold condemnation of my coworkers as they repeatedly asked me what I had done with this man’s documents. All I could say over and over was, “I don’t know. I don’t remember taking his paperwork. I am so sorry.” I listened as they whispered accusations behind my back. I felt them watching me like a hawk, seeing if I would make any more careless mistakes. Worst of all, my boss was totally stressed out and I felt the weight of everything on me.
I went home that night and cried my eyes out. I prayed fervently that God would somehow miraculously make the documents appear. I prayed for the strength I needed to face work the next day. I truly felt as David did in Psalms 55 when he prayed,
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
Oh, that I had wings of a dove!
I would flee far away and stay in the desert.
All I wanted was to run away and never face my coworkers again. And I couldn’t even think about what the client would say when he found out that all of his tax information was gone.
My husband and I went to Bible study that night, and together our small group prayed over the situation, prayed that the missing documents would be recovered, and prayed for my peace. One person’s prayer in particular stuck out to me:
Father, I pray that Kelly knows her identity is not in what she does or doesn’t do, but in what you have done for her. I pray she knows that no amount of mistakes could make her any less your daughter.
Those words were a balm to my wounded spirit. I pictured Jesus holding me, reminding me of his great love for me and that even though I had messed up, my mistakes didn’t define me, he did.
I am a daughter of the King. Being reminded that my identity rests not in my success but in Christ’s sacrifice gave me the courage I needed to face another work day. I realized I had been finding my identity in what other people thought of me and in a job well done, instead of resting in the knowledge that no matter what, I am a beloved, redeemed child of God.
The next day at work, the missing files were found. The client had dropped them off in our overnight drop-off box, and the documents were wedged at the top of the chute. While having my name cleared was a relief, I look back and am more thankful for the lesson God taught me. When it comes to my identity, it’s not what I do or don’t do that defines me, it’s what Christ has done for me.
“He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me.” –Psalm 55:18
“Joshua commanded the people, saying, ‘You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, “Shout!” Then you shall shout!’” – Joshua 6:10 NASB
Alexander the Great led his army across the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, intending to become the master of Asia. Encountering the mighty Persian army, he realized his forces were outnumbered. The Persians had several hundred thousand men while he had only about 45,000. On this day in 331 BC, he surveyed the landscape and developed a plan that he felt would lead to victory.
He instructed his soldiers to advance into battle in with speed, distraction, and unexpected maneuvers. He anticipated that the effect would cause terror among the Persians. His strategy worked, and his forces won a decisive battle.
The use of surprise tactics was not a new scheme. Silence – an unheard of strategy – had been employed with great success by Joshua at Jericho. He commanded his forces not to let their voice be heard “until the day I tell you.” They marched around Jericho in silence for six days. On the seventh day, they marched in silence six more times. Finally, on the seventh day, Joshua gave the word: “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city” (v. 16).
The Bible reminds us that to be victorious, we need the right strategies and plans, and we need to act at the right time. Remember, God can give you the wisdom you need, show you what to do, and when to do it. Commit your problems to Him. Seek His wisdom. Let Him guide you to victory.