“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” – Psalm 6:4
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” – John 15:9
“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, …” – 1 Thessalonians 1:4
I walk on the beach many evenings and some mornings each week and, for the last few weeks, God has been giving me scallop shells. At least one per day. All colors and sizes. Now, I really like scallop shells. The colors and design are very appealing to me and I look forward to finding whatever Jesus puts in my path when I walk on the beach.
Saturday morning as I started my walk on the beach, BANG, right out of the box, within a few steps, there in front of me was a scallop shell. Almost as a reflex reaction I paused and asked Jesus, “Why scallop shells? Do they mean something special?”
Immediately, Jesus answered … “Because you like them.”
I was dumbstruck. The creator of all that has been made – shells, the ocean, sand, wind, clouds, birds, fish, and, yes, even me; gives me presents simply because I like them. The Creator of the universe and everything in it really does love me.
I must admit that part of me would like to think it was just me. That I was unique or “special” in this way. However, Paul is pretty emphatic about the love of God being universal when he says in Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
With that being said, these are still special moments for us individually. The moments, as Luke so eloquently put it of Jesus’ mother Mary, that we store as treasures in our hearts. (Luke 2:19)
For me, this was one of those heart treasure moments. One of those times when God’s love for me moved from knowledge to experience. From mere intellectual ascent to absolute certainty. One of those times upon which the foundation of assurance is laid and, as the writer of Hebrews said, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19a)
These are the moments that allow us, from that place deep in our hearts, to answer life’s questions and challenges with the words of Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
What is the “secret” Paul speaks of? The secret is quite simple. The secret is love.
Because of this secret being firmly planted in my heart by the storing up of the treasures God has given me, I have the assurance that, without a doubt, without question, and no matter what, I am profoundly and deeply loved by God – Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit – every member of the Trinity participating in that love fully and completely.
Now, there are two nuances here that I want to draw your attention to …
First, this love is God in action. He acts and moves (Acts 17:28a) in and through the world in love.
Every breath we take, no matter how deep or how shallow, is the love of God.
Every movement of our bodies, whether strong and powerful, or, halting and painful, is the love of God.
Every taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound we experience is the love of God.
Yes, those senses in a fallen world have been corrupted into things that are, at times, unpleasant, painful, and even traumatic. Now, I am not saying that everything that happens is the will of God. But, take touch for instance. The same sense that allowed Jesus to experience unimaginable pain and trauma as he was flogged before the crucifixion also allowed him to feel comfort and safety as a baby at his mother’s breast. In each experience, Jesus was wholly and completely loved by the Father just as we are loved by him in both our pain and our joy. Jesus responded to the Father’s love with love; and so, in response to God's love, we are forced to react. Either by reciprocating that love or by rejecting it, remembering that passivity, too, is a form of rejection.
None of the unpleasantness, pain or trauma means that we are not completely, irreversibly, and eternally loved. God’s love for us requires action; love for God and love for others. God’s love transcends our circumstances and provides the strength and courage to persevere in and through them.
The things we consider bad in our lives may be the result of many things. Our own actions – where we have sinned. The actions of others – where someone has sinned against us. Or, as the result of living in a broken, fallen world with an active enemy. No matter the case, the Evil One’s message to us in each of these instances is always the same. It is either “See! You are unlovable.” or “See! You are not loved.”
Yet, when we are grounded in the assurance of God’s immovable, unshakeable love for us. Those lies roll off us like water off finely polished glass.
Second, as we grow in our relationship with God, we must learn to ask questions. We are all, by created design, inquisitive and, while our experience in the world may have taught us to keep our questions to ourselves, we still long to know the answers.
We want to know how the story will end. We want to know how the artist creates. We want to know how electrons combine with protons to create elements. We want to know.
We all have, within the context of our gifting and our stories, inquisitive minds. And, while most of our questions are uniquely ours, the one universal and overarching question all of us have is “Am I loved?”
God tells us yes. The world and the Evil One tell us no. And so, we must choose whether to become active participants in The Story God is telling and of which our own personal story is intended to be an integral part or whether to commit the sin of Adam and go passive and silent in the face of the opposition.
If we ask questions. God will answer. God is not afraid of our questions. Sometimes the answers take a while to get to us as in Daniel 10 or in the life of Jeremiah and sometimes, like in my scallop story, the answer is immediate. But God always answers if we will only ask the question.
James counsels us that “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2). Jesus is always ready and excited to answer our questions, especially when it comes to love. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Look for God’s love in every situation. You will be surprised and delighted by what you find if you will just look for it! You may want to check out the movie “Collateral Beauty.” While not a Christian movie it will give you a sense of what I am talking about.
Ask God the questions on your heart. He want’s you to truly know him, not just know about him and he wants to have that conversational relationship with you. For you to know him in the fullness of who he is – Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. So, while the entry point to knowing God may be easier for you with a particular member of the Trinity, God wants you to know him and experience him fully and completely - Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.
Step in, hold on tight, and know that you are deeply, unchangeably, inescapably loved simply because he does and you are.