It is there staring me down… the questioning look of doubt on the faces of some of my children. They wonder if God really loves them. It makes sense. I understand. And yet, I long for them to know that He does. He loves them so much. But when they look at their circumstances, it is really easy to go there…to assume that God is withholding rather than holding.
Holding like a father holds his precious newborn baby…ready to do anything to protect, defend, provide, and love. Pure love. That is God, all the time.
Hard to understand in seasons of “No” and “Not yet.” Hard to grasp when all you seem to be asking is, “Why?” and “When?” and “How?” I get it. I often find myself there, but I have years of seeing God work out the seemingly pointless, awful, and sad things of life into beauty. Beauty from ashes. But when all you see is ashes of what life is supposed to be like… at least what you think it should be like…what it seems like in other people’s worlds … it’s easy to wonder if God even loves you.
Telling, texting, stating, messaging, singing, writing, begging, and pleading with my children to know that God loves them is not as effective as I’d hoped. I so want them to know Him the way I do. To know that even in the doubts, He is there. Even when the answer seems to be a repetitive no and it feels like something (anything) needs to go your way just once, He is there. And by He is there, I mean He hasn’t left, He hasn’t forsaken, He hasn’t forgotten, He hasn’t stopped loving.
How do you convince someone of that fact…that God loves them?
I have been pondering this for a long while now…and the other day, I realized for the umpteenth millionth time that God’s love isn’t determined by my circumstances or my feelings; God’s love is a sure thing regardless of anything else. God has already shown His love to me when He willingly gave up so much to be my Savior. It almost sounds trite to just write one sentence like that to describe how much God loves me. Loves my children. Loves us.
It is easy to forget the whole process of incarnation…the denying deity, helpless babe in a womb, cared for by and dependant upon His own creation, misunderstood, denied, harassed, ignored, criticized, and ultimately beaten, bruised, and murdered for me. Completely cut off from the source of all goodness and love and peace and joy…for me. For us.
Jesus gets how it feels to feel unloved…truly.
Sometimes I forget about Jesus being the baby, toddler, child, teenager, young adult…that whole living life down here instead of in perfection. He who knew perfection chose imperfection…and we who only know imperfection long for perfection. Assume that imperfection means God doesn’t love us. Means God doesn’t care, isn’t listening, isn’t answering, isn’t here at all.
This season of Advent, preparing for Christmas, is always filled with so much emotion. First of all, I always (and I mean always) have such grand plans for Advent readings and prayers. And I always (and I mean always) fail to make it happen consistently, if at all. This year is not different, but I have been thinking and praying and talking with some of my children. Not collectively, one on one at times. About what it means to trust God, to know that He loves us, to believe.
My youngest daughter asked me the other night, “What if we are all insane?” She was talking about faith. I said, “I have had those thoughts too. But, I will tell you, I know Him. I know He is real. He loves me. He has walked with me through so much. I have known peace where it just didn’t make sense and joy when misery was the only reasonable option.”
And at that moment and many others since, I knew that there isn’t anything I can say, text, or do to change my children’s hearts or minds. I’ve been looking for a way when the only way is God.
He didn’t need me to do anything to save me. He doesn’t need me to do anything to save my children.
Life-changing. Difficult to live, but life-changing. I like to make things happen, be in control, and make a difference. But in this instance, it isn’t about me…actually, in many instances, it isn’t about me. Maybe most. It’s about Him and what He is doing.
Months ago, when I was going through a rather difficult time, God brought me to Isaiah 43. One passage of many that stood out to me is this:
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Isaiah 43: 5-7
There is nothing in that passage about God sending me on a great mission to go get my children and bring them to Him. He gathers them, brings them, calls them. My job…trust that He will do His.
All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace. Isaiah 54:13
I have the responsibility of being willing to listen, share what I believe and why, share His Word, and discuss and debate and ponder together. To have Him be a part of our family as much as any one of us is. Be real and honest and willing to share and talk. Trust that God loves my children even when they don’t feel that He does. Believe for them. Pray for them.
Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Sometimes I forget the power of prayer…or I doubt it…or discount it as a true thing to do to help my children. Maybe I struggle to believe that God will answer…no maybe about it, I do. Sometimes I imagine that there is something else I need to do to deserve Him listening and responding in a way that makes sense to my kids and me. Often lately, He hasn’t. And after that happens enough times, it certainly is easy to think there must be something wrong with me because He is God, and He is perfect.
The reality is… He is perfect, and I am not. And that means that the way things happen is for the best regardless of what I think. I am sure this season of “nos” is preparing my children for something profoundly better. I pray they get that surety too. That they believe He loves them beyond measure, relentlessly, completely, unwaveringly, without hesitation.
Oh, that I truly grasped that myself. This Christmas season, I want to focus on what it really means that Jesus came down here. Not just that He did, but all that He endured from conception to crucifixion from incarnation to resurrection.
Because maybe in grasping truly what He went through for us, we, as a family, can grasp how our lives fit into a grander plan. How enduring difficulties doesn’t reveal a lack of love from God but rather reflects God’s love. He loves us enough to allow hardship for holiness, and pain for a purpose, and seasons of seeming silence for bountiful blessings beyond.
The answer to those doubtful looks is to turn our eyes to the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The One who knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1), who has engraved us on the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), who has called us His own and promises to be with us no matter where life takes us (Isaiah 43:1-2), who hems us in behind and before (Psalm 139:5), who considers us precious and honored in His sight and who loves us (Isaiah 43: 4).
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2