Read these verses and ask if they match your experience of the love of God.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15 )
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (Psalm 36:5)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11)
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5b)
Notice the plentitude. Abounding. Overflowing. Fullness. Heavens. These are not words meant to convey scarcity, an occasional drip. Rooted. A tree does not grow unless it has ample soil to draw from. Fullness. How many of us can tell of feeling full of God?
Does this capture how you experience God’s love on a daily basis? A weekly basis?
Not me. If I’m honest, my experience of God’s love is more like an occasional whisper. Every few months or so, I get a glimpse. As if from a distant country, a well-phrased word from God comes to me about how well I’m doing, or how he sees my efforts, or how carefully he is handling my life. I rejoice. But it fades soon, replaced by the noise and dust of life. And the next one doesn’t come for a while.
We seem to have accepted this as normal. We expect only the infrequent dose of God’s near, full love. We call them “mountaintop experiences” and feel better because at least it sounds realistic and adult. After all, we see only through a mirror dimly.
But when I examine the Bible and its characters still inhabiting our side of the mirror, I don’t see that expectation laid out for us at all. When the Bible speaks of God’s love, it seems to expect a much fuller, stronger, and steadier phenomenon than we typically experience.
And it leaves me wondering – are we missing something? Have we settled for much less love than God is willing to give us? And why have we done so?
It could be sin. That always casts a dark cloud between us and God. It could be the shame that usually results from sin. That is Satan’s despicable one-two punch; not only does he tempt us towards sin, he then turns around and dirties our conscience before God, mocking our desire to approach him just as the Pharisees mocked, convincing us that we are unworthy. It’s all a lie. God calls us to conviction, not shame.
Perhaps we’re simply not looking for God’s love. Perhaps we’re so enamored with things of this world, so convinced that they can carry us, that we take no interest in God’s love. I don’t think I’m out of line to say that there are a number of people who simply don’t care about God’s love. They view it as a consolation prize, get irritated when it’s brought up. “I’m tired of hearing about that,” their hearts say. “Just answer my prayer.” All too often, I am that person.
Yet the overwhelming, superlative goodness of God’s love is real. David is swept off his feet by it. Paul seems blind to all else. We could dismiss them as mystics, unable to relate to us, or we could take a posture of humility and ask ourselves if they know something we don’t. Could it be that God’s love is really all we need?
Could it also be, on the flipside, that we reject God’s love because we’ve experienced so little of it, becuse we’re used to sinning, used to scraping by without it, even though God offers far more? As Francis Chan pointed out, you have to stop running to eat a donut. Maybe we need to dump the world’s donuts and start running the race again. If we knew God’s love in its fullness, just how strangely dim would those other things grow?
I am praying hard for a new and deeper revelation of God’s love this week. It seems the natural way to seek it: ask him. How many of us really do that?
And it is coming. A permeating peace, seemingly wound into the very universe around me, just a vague calm and delight. It is fleeting at the moment. I am praying the verses above, fully expecting something new. I know God doesn’t answer every prayer. But there seems to be no reason why he wouldn’t answer this one.