Have you ever done something, then gone back and looked at it later on, and thought to yourself, “I should have added that,” or, “this would have made it better.” A few days after posting my previous blog, “Making The Choice To Believe,” I went back and read through it and realized that there needed to be more. Some people have it said about them that they “run on at the mouth;” I don’t have that problem…however I definitely run on at the keyboard, so saying that something I wrote needed to have more could be dangerous. I promise that I will try to not ramble and to stick to the point.
For someone like me, who grew up in the church, it might be pretty is easy to randomly say, hey! You know there’s a God, and you just need to make the choice whether you’re going to believe in Him and follow His ways or not. Even though I spent almost two decades “wandering in the desert,” the church of my youth gave me an extremely sturdy foundation. I merely decided that I wasn’t going to build anything on that foundation. When I returned to my faith, that foundation was still there. Maybe a little dinged up around the edges, but it was still there! So I was still able to build on that, and grow in my new relationship with God.
But what someone did not grow up in church? Or maybe they grew up in one that did not regularly teach directly from the Bible; the focus was put more on man-created practices and obligation. How can I say to them that they merely need to make a choice?
A choice between what??
I believe that one thing many people who are far from God don’t realize is how much He loves us. Every single one of us. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you are in your life…none of it matters. YOU are His beloved. For some of us, that’s probably a near impossible thing to comprehend because maybe we never have experienced real love. Perhaps it comes from being emotionally (or literally) abandoned as a child, or repeatedly being lied to by others that you let see your heart. There are countless reasons, and all of them valid. We begin to believe that we are unworthy of love, and over time, even harden ourselves to the idea of it. Many of us lead productive, successful and happy lives positively interacting with all different kinds of people, but way down deep there is a wound in our hearts that we viciously guard in fear; fear of that wound becoming worse.
I’m currently reading a book in which the author states that the opposite of fear is love. That might not be the first word you think of. If you look up antonyms of the word fear in a thesaurus, you could find courage and bravery, among others, and those might be more logical to you. But love is also an antonym of fear, and no love is greater than the love of God. It is something that heals the deepest cut, erases the darkest sin, and casts off the strongest doubt.
OK, you say, that sounds fabulous, but how do you know that? How can you prove it? I know it because I live in it. I am not perfect and I continue to screw up in a variety of creative ways. But regardless of how much I beat myself up for making mistakes, there is no question in my mind that I am loved by God. I can prove it with God’s Word –
(Isaiah 43:1-5a ESV) “But now”, says the Lord, He who created you…He who formed you…”Fear not, for I have redeemed you! I have called you by name, and you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God…Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you…Fear not, for I am with You!”
(Psalm 91:14-15 MSG) “If you hold onto Me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care, if you’ll only get to know Me and trust Me. Call on Me and I’ll answer; be at your side in bad times. I’ll rescue you…”
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Isaiah 54:10 MSG) “For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love will not walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” So says the God who has compassion on you.
These are just a couple of the hundreds of verses in the Bible where God reassures us of His love. At this point, you have to make the choice of whether you believe that it is God’s Word or not, and if it is true.
One thing that some may struggle with (I know I definitely did) is coming to grips with the fact that our past lives have absolutely no effect on how much God loves us. None, zip, zero, null. We think that we have to “get better” before we go to Him. That is so far from the truth! HE is the One who makes us better, we don’t do that ourselves. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be covered with shame.” Our mistakes, our sins, our imperfections…all of those things are shrouded by His great love. He forgives us not because He has to, but because He loves us. So you can take all of your garbage right up to Him, whatever it is. Because when you do that, THEN you will truly become free of it.
One of the ministries that I served alongside during my trips to Thailand was one that reached out to girls working in prostitution, under the guise of being “bar girls.” Trying to explain to them how much their Heavenly Father loved them despite where they were and what they were doing was a challenge. Most of them had never been truly loved by anyone. This was just as foreign a thought to me as the country I was in! I simply could not fathom it, surely these beautiful women all had somebody who loved them. Then, on my second trip, I met a woman who happened to be about my age, and that day my naiive eyes were opened to the reality that so many people face. In order to talk with the girls while they were working in the bars, you have to make a purchase. So you order a Coke, a then can begin a conversation. Not being the greatest conversationalist in the first place, I often would rely on translators to carry most of the talks, but this one particular woman actually spoke fairly decent English. She told me bits and pieces about her life, how she had been working in the bars for many years but always was looking for a good man to take her away from it all. Then she got excited as she started telling me that she had finally found that man. He was a little younger than her, but she didn’t mind because he told her how much he loved her and that he was going to marry her and take her back to the States with him. While she’s telling me all this, she’s digging through her well worn purse and finally pulls out a half sheet of crumpled paper. She hands it to me, and says that he had given it to her. On it was where his home was in the States (he had to go back briefly to make arrangements for bringing her in as his wife) and the date that he would be back in Thailand to get her. I looked at the paper and was confused, then she told me that she was unable to read English and could I tell her what the date was when he’d be back, because it had been several weeks already. I looked to the translator I was with, but she was deep in conversation with another bar girl. I didn’t know what to do; should I lie? I knew that wasn’t the right answer, but I didn’t want to tell her what the paper really said. Finally, I just explained that it was a print off of a return flight confirmation (most likely something he printed off at his hotel and had shoved in his pocket); it named the airports he was flying out of and to, and the date of that flight, a date that had long passed. I looked at her as I told her what it was, and seeing the excitement and anticipation drain from her face broke my heart. She knew then that she had been lied to, again, and made a fool of, again. I took that opportunity to tell her about the English classes at the ministry center that I had been volunteering with that week; I said that not only would she learn to speak it better, but also to be able to read it. I also told her that she would also have the chance there to learn about the perfect love of a Father and Friend who would never leave her. She took the pamphlet about the English classes and said that she would go. Honestly, I have no idea if she ever did, and in the return trips to that city in the years that followed, I never went back to that particular bar district. But my prayer is that she did go, and through the ministry staff she learned about something far greater than how to read English. I pray that she finally knows how much she is loved by God, and that she never has to be alone again.
So maybe I rambled off down a rabbit trail there, but my point is that I learned through that experience that there ARE people in this world who do not have the blessing of “human love.” It really made me see how important it is to share about the perfect love that we can receive from our Heavenly Father, because for many, it’s the only true love they’ll ever know.
In conclusion, I’ll ask the questions again; do you believe in God at all? If so, what exactly do you believe about Him? In the video below is a song that is currently one of my favorites. It reminds me that no matter what is going on in my life, I am under the wing of Someone who is greater than anything that comes my way. He is my rescuer, protector and He loves me.
Do you understand how precious you are to Him? Stop trying to “get better” first before you seek Him. Make the choice to believe and live fully in that choice.
Céad míle beannachta~ (One hundred thousand blessings)