Learning a Life of Love

Why is it easier for us to believe that God doesn’t love us than to rest in the reality that he does?

And why are we more easily dragged into the obligation of religious performance than we are drawn into a growing trust in God’s love?

Both have much to do with the nature of darkness and how the enemy loves to lure us away from the intimacy God extends to us. We’ve all fallen for his traps, so you don’t need to be embarrassed when you are. In those times, remind yourself that you are his beloved and you don’t have the power to change yourself or resist sin without him, and then come and learn what it means to live loved by Jesus and his Father.

Last Sunday, we began our discussion of He Loves Me in the He Loves Me Book Club. You can watch our conversation about the first chapter here if you missed it. You can join the Facebook Group here if you want to stay in touch with future gatherings.

I wrote that book almost twenty-five years ago, and yet the things in there are the ones dearest to my heart. Here are some of the quotes that touched me in re-reading the Introduction and the first chapter:

What the Father showed us in the gift of his Son is that he was unwilling to settle for the indentured servitude of fearful slaves. He preferred instead the intimate affection of sons and daughters.

I hope you, too, come to the end of these pages convinced that he loves you with a deep and unrelenting affection.

For long after we’ve put away our daisies many of us continue to play the game with God. This time we don’t pluck flower petals, but probe through our circumstances trying to figure out exactly how God feels about us.

(With my religious background) I had become like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, never certain what God I’d meet on any given day—the one who wanted to scoop me up in his arms with laughter, or the one who would ignore me or punish me for reasons I could never understand.

Many people carry scars and disappointments that can appear to be convincing evidence that the God of love might not exist or, if he does, maintains a safe distance from them and leaves them to the whim of other people’s sins.

When he seems to callously disregard our most noble prayers, our trust in him can be easily shattered and we wonder if he cares for us. We can even come up with a list of our own failures that can seemingly justify God’s indifference and beckon us into a dark whirlpool of self-loathing.

He does love you more deeply than you’ve ever imagined; he has done so throughout your entire life. Once you embrace that truth, your troubles will never again drive you to question God’s affection for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit it. Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to trust his love at the moments you need him most.

I would not have survived the events of the last two years without having learned how to live inside the affection of the Father. The most challenging circumstances I could imagine didn’t cause me to question his love. Instead, they only deepened my appreciation for his love as he skillfully guided me through them with his wisdom and courage. It wasn’t easy, and there were days I grieved deeply. Ultimately, however, I discovered that my pain doesn’t discount God’s love; it just gives me another environment to explore its vastness.

The first thing I want a new believer to know is how to recognize God’s love as he reveals it to them. Instead, we too often pour on the expectations for what a “good Christian” does or doesn’t do, and they become embedded in human effort without ever knowing how loved they are. How much would it have changed in the world if knowing Christ meant growing to trust his love, not trying to perform to earn his favor?

Many have found reading or re-reading He Loves Me or its companion devotional, Live Loved, Free, Full, to be incredibly helpful in building a life inside his love. I began this study to invite a new generation of people into the conversation of living loved.

Also, ten years ago, I recorded twenty-four short coaching videos to help people explore how God is connecting with them. We called it Engage. No, this is not a discipleship program. We called it an anti-discipleship strategy—this is not how you build a relationship with God; this is how to recognize him building one with you. They are 8-12 minutes in length, each containing a nugget of insight to help you explore how Jesus is revealing himself to you. You can listen to the first one here.

No matter what resource you find helpful, learning to live loved is what Jesus wants to teach you. Books and recordings can encourage us, but only he, by the power of his Spirit, can reveal his Father’s love to us at the core of our being. For his love is not primarily a principle to believe in; it is a reality in which he wants us to swim through the most difficult challenges we face.

Discover how to recognize his love and lean into it each day, and nothing will be able to win over you ever again.


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9 thoughts on “Learning a Life of Love”

  1. Pingback: Learning a Life of Love | Lifestream – The Faith Herald

  2. Wayne, To provide one answer to your question would be unanswered prayer. We believe God loves us but then He allows a loved one like my Tammy to die of cancer or some other dread disease. Or He allows a child to be abused. This sets in motion questions like, “Does He really love me?” It also can make one either assign blame to themselves for whatever happened, or wonder if they had done more in their “walk” if a different outcome would have occured.
    Essentially we are asked to believe that God is good regardless of prayer outcomes, etc. This is the basic of faith I suppose.

    1. Hi Mark. It’s so hard to hear you keep stumbling over this question and I don’t know what more I can say. I am so sorry Tammy is no longer in your life and you’ve had to endure this unbearable grief. But what if this is not something God “allowed”, but just happened as part of a fallen world. He is redemptive in it and doesn’t stop it all from happening. Our prayers are not God’s only consideration. They are important, but even more important is surrendering to a God who is bigger than our aches and disappointments. You had some amazing years with her. I now you miss her, but imagine if you found a loving God inside that grief. He didn’t deny her to you. He didn’t choose to take her. She fell victim to the darkness in the world, temporarily, but awakened into the greatest dream of all. I don’t think we believe regardless of prayer outcomes, I think we believe because he reveals himself to us and we know the we are loved even when our prayers are disappointed. There is much grief in Scripture. Our friendship with God doesn’t make us immune from the harsh realities of a broken creation, but it does give us a place to run in our pain, our doubts, and our loneliness. I continue to pray for you, Mark. As valid as your question might seem, it is not leading you to peace. Jesus has a way for you to find that peace.

      1. Wayne, please understand what I should’ve made through yesterday, and that is that I am not still walking in this black hole, so to speak. I was just intrigued by the question that you post in your blog, so I responded, “one answer might be…”
        I was helped greatly by your encouragement in the past and what you responded with hear was also a great reminder.
        I don’t think I will ever get to the place where I “understand“ but then again, his ways are higher than ours, and I have excepted that. I believe that we have to make a decision that we either believe God is good, or we don’t, regardless of the circumstances. His character does not change based on our circumstances.
        Thank you for your reply and again please don’t worry. While I will never understand, like I said, I’m not groveling or wallowing in it, but was responding to your blog. I guess I could’ve done a better job and phrasing my response. Love to chat sometime if we can. Love you!

        1. I appreciate you responding here and I’m sorry if I misunderstood your post. I’m glad you’ve found some grace to move beyond that even without the understanding that we’ll never have in this life. That makes my heart happy. I’ve got lots of stuff like that too. “I don’t know what that was about, but I know a Father’s love that can contain my pain even if I never understand.” I didn’t know if you were still in that black hole or not, but when I respond to comments on my post, I know it isn’t a personal conversation. Other people will be reading it who are stuck in a black hole of disappointment and I want to offer them some help too. I’d be happy to chat some time. I’ll. email you an set up something.

  3. We’re going through some really tough times. We know God loves us, but I was just asking the question tonight how we can practice living in that reality and reject the lies that have been embedded in our souls for decades. I think you hit on it here: see each experience we go through as an expression of ABBA’s love. We cry out to Him in our tears, and He comforts us as He promised He would. He also expresses His love through the comfort of others who share our grief. Spending time with God because I want to and because I know He wants to spend time with me also opens my heart to His love. I have a long way to go to overcome the “supposed to’s” like “I’m supposed to read my Bible.” I think as I grow in this love relationship with Abba, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I will want His will for my life more and more. One more thought. I loved how you shared the story of the incredible father (aka the prodigal son) when you came to our area, Wayne. You concluded it by telling of a young woman who had wandered away from the Lord. She came back just as you were about to speak publicly, and you knew you weren’t going to speak because you needed to talk with her right away. You said you didn’t want her to hurt one minute longer, so you went to comfort her. I thank God for your father’s heart.

    1. Hi Rick. Thanks for your comments here. Obligation is a killer in this relationship and it disturbs me that “Christianity” hasn’t seen that over 2000 years. Obligation destroys our relationship with the most endearing presence in the universe. I would tweak your wording a bit on one thing, though if it helps you, I’d leave well enough alone. I don’t see “each experience we go through ask an expression of ABBA’s love.” That’s easily misinterpreted as God is loving me by giving me difficult circumstances. I think I would say, “In each experience I look for an expression of ABBA’s love that will guide me through it.” Perhaps, that is what you meant.

  4. I realized a few years back that many of us learned to gauge His love for us based on the circumstances of our lives. Also, we often sought guidance or direction based on whether things were “ falling into place” or “ signs.” I am not discounting the fact that God can use these things but for me, they amounted to Christian astrology, akin to guiding one’s life by a horoscope column. Thank you for the reminder in this blog. His love is free and full, even in the midst of a fallen world. I grieve for those who have left Father’s path because He supposedly “allowed” something.

    1. I love that, Christine. When we make our personal comfort the signpost for God’s blessing we will end up in the weeds. He is making us whole, not comfortable.

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