“God loves me.”
That should be easy enough. After all, anyone who has attended Sunday School has heard this many times.
So why doesn’t that take care of everything?
When things don’t go the way I would have hoped? Why doesn’t that take away the sting?
When the people in my life are hurting and struggling, why doesn’t that fix it and help them be better?
I’ve been on this Earth for 52 years, and I cannot answer those questions completely. But I can share what has helped me.
Want me to?
I went to church since I was 9 years old. I always heard that God loved me so much that He sent Jesus to take all the things I had done wrong and wipe them away. The problem is the next week, and sometimes even on the way home from church, I did something wrong again.
I learned that I just needed to ask for forgiveness. And to ask God to help me do better next time.
I wish that had fixed me. It hadn’t. I prayed at all hours, even in the dark late at night when everyone else was asleep. I wanted to be better… to be what I thought God wanted me to be. To be worth what Christ did for me and to give God everything He needed to make everything I worried about better.
I think I learned this because of humans. Humans are people. They have feelings. They get frustrated. They can be happy. They can be sad. They can be a whole lot of emotions in just one day. And sometimes, my view of myself, whether I was good or bad, was impacted by how others were feeling. So I think I began to view God that same way. He must have a whole lot of emotions every day, and if I wanted His smiles then I needed to be whatever made Him happy.
But God didn’t need me to do that at all. Some of the people around thought God did, though. They told me that He loved me, and then they told me all about the rules in the Bible. The dos and the don’ts. I don’t blame them… that’s how they saw God too.
As I grew older and hung out with God more, I came to know Him a whole lot better. It’s like that with friends. When you first meet someone on the first day of school or on the court of a new sports team practice, you see potential friends, but years later, as you get to know them better by hanging out with them, you really know them inside and out. God is like that.
He just wants to hang out with you. He already loves you.
But the greater thing is that He likes you. You bring Him joy. Just by existing, by breathing.
And the hard stuff that weighs us down, He cares about that too. He wants to hear about those things. He wants to sit in the dark with you and say, “I know a way out of this rotten feeling and into joy again. Even if those people that are making it hard do not change, I can still make it better for you inside of you.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
I always felt I needed to pray to be better.
But what I really needed was to talk with God like the friend He wants to be for me and to spend time with Him short or long, just to be with Him. I began taking time telling Him about me and learning more about Him, the way I did with people I now call close friends. And it wasn’t about being perfect or happy, not even forcing myself to look like it before I started talking to Him.
You know how when something great happens, you want to tell a friend? Let’s say it like this: You are dribbling down the court and see an opening no one is guarding, and you rush in and land a sweet layup. What do you do??? You turn around to the bench, to your friends with you on the court, and you see your joy mirrored on their faces. That’s what it’s like with God, He’s with you in you on the court of life. He wants to share the highs and lows. To celebrate and even calm the fears. And at times, He will be the One that makes it better just by being there when no one else gets it.
He loves YOU. That’s what it looks like. Not a whole bunch of “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me” prayers. Those are a tiny piece of the time He wants to share with you.
You are valuable. Your feelings matter. And God knows the plan, which switches the hard times for good. And He will hang out with you through it all, never leaving you for a second.
I love you,
Jeremiah 29:11 (NOG)
11 I know the plans that I have for you, declares Yahweh. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.
Phillipians 4:6-7 (NOG)
6 Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. 7 Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Yeshua.