Oh, What Love!
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
There was a time in my life when I did not think God loved me. I didn’t think it was possible for Him to love me. Someone else, maybe, but not me.
I grew up in a devout Christian family. I accepted Jesus as my Savior as a little girl one summer day after Vacation Bible School. Overall, I liked church, but I always felt a deep sense of responsibility to do my best, to be “good.” I felt a sense of duty. I felt that if I wasn’t “good,” if I wasn’t perfect, God wouldn’t love me. I thought His love depended on my ability to measure up.
From a young age, I understood that Jesus loved me—that’s why He died on the cross to save me. That made sense to me. But I wasn’t sure God the Father loved me. In my mind, God the Father and Jesus were two totally separate beings who approached me in totally different ways.
I thought the Father sat up in heaven, watching and waiting for me to mess up so He could rain down punishment on me. He seemed distant, unapproachable, unemotional, maybe even cold. My young mind could not reconcile God being holy and just with His ability to love.
When I was in my early twenties, I made some bad choices. I did things that I knew I shouldn’t do, things I knew were sins. Once I did those things, I was sure God the Father would never, ever forgive me. I felt the weight of my sin was greater than His ability to love. After all, I thought His job was only to punish. Jesus was the one who loved.
I found myself in a hopeless, lonely state. One that made me question whether anyone could love me. At times, I still find myself questioning whether or not God can love someone like me. Today it manifests itself differently, usually by doubting whether He can use my life, whether I’m worthy to serve Him. Sometimes, I lay awake at night, the mistakes I made replaying over and over in my head. My heart aches, and I hear a whisper telling me how disappointed the Father is with me. My thoughts tell me I’m not worthy of His love.
Have you ever found yourself in the hopeless, lonely state of questioning the Father’s love? A voice whispers, the Father could never forgive the sins you’ve committed. Maybe you question His ability to love you because of your past. Or you lay awake at night replaying the mistakes you’ve made, your heart aching for restoration, but you think, no, it’s not possible, not for me. And that ache inside of you grows.
I’ve been there, too. I’ve stood at the divide between sin and repentance, wondering if the Father would take me back. Afraid to even hope He could love me again. Positive He could never love someone like me.
The thing is, those thoughts, those whispers, are just lies from the enemy. When we picture the Father sitting on His throne, far removed from us, watching and waiting for us to mess up, we’re buying into lies the enemy uses to separate us from His love. I know they’re lies because Scripture reveals a different Father God.
One of my favorite Scriptures about the love of the Father is from the book of Zephaniah. Zephaniah was written to the people of Judah, Abraham’s offspring, who were part of the Israelite nation. God had made a covenant with them, saying they belonged to Him and He would provide for them, making them a great nation. But Zephaniah was written hundreds of years after that covenant was made, and Judah had fallen into wickedness and sin. They had rejected God in favor of worshipping idols and doing whatever they wanted to do.
Whatever sin you have in your life, I bet we could have found it in Judah, too.
The first two and a half chapters of Zephaniah were a warning to the nation of Judah that if they didn’t change, the Father would discipline them. Because, here’s the thing, the Father is holy and just because of that sin separates man from Him. (Isaiah 59:2) If His people sin, He’ll be separated from them. The Father did not want to be separated from Judah. He warned Judah many times to change their behavior and return to Him. They simply refused.
The very fact that the Father sent Zephaniah to warn Judah to repent and return to Him is a testament of His love. He was exhibiting love the way a parent does when they scold their child to prevent them from doing something harmful to themselves.
But it’s a verse towards the end of Zephaniah 3 that deeply speaks to my heart. After spending two and a half chapters warning Judah about the consequences their sin would bring, Zephaniah spent the last twelve verses of the book telling Judah what would happen when they did return to the Father.
Let the words of this beautiful description of what happens when we return to the Father sink in.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love, He will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
This Scripture immediately points to a personal relationship when it says, “the Lord your God is in your midst.” God is in your midst; He is among you. Notice it says “your” twice in one statement. The repetition of “your” highlights the Father’s desire to be with His people. This Scripture does not describe a God sitting far off on His throne, removed from His people. No, the Father wants to be with His people!
It goes on to reveal that He is “a mighty one who will save.” As New Testament Christians, we have salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb who made atonement for our sins, paying the debt necessary to redeem us from sin, so we can return to the Father and find restoration. But it was the Father who sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for us. Remember that sin separates us from the Father. Because of that, He knew we must have a way to be redeemed. So, the Father sent Jesus to provide a way for us to be forgiven and have a relationship with Him. (John 3:16-17) The Father is mighty to save!
How does the Father respond when we repent and return to Him? Zephaniah 3:17 continues, “He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love, He will exult over you with loud singing.” Friend, that does not describe a Father who keeps His distance or a Father only capable of serving up punishment. That describes a Father who longs to have a relationship with us! He longs for us to return to Him! The Father rejoices when our relationship with Him is restored. He wants to quiet us, to soothe our hurt and doubt, with His love. He wants to celebrate our reunion with loud singing!
No, that’s not the Father I feared. But that is the Father He is!
When I began to glimpse the love the Father has for me, for us, it changed my life. Yes, the enemy still likes to whisper lies into my heart and mind, but now I’m equipped with the knowledge of who my Father truly is. Now, not only can I accept His love, I can live in the freedom of His love, knowing He’s not sitting on His throne just waiting for me to mess up so He can punish me. Instead, He’s waiting for me to turn around and accept His love.
Friend, the Father is a God of love. Yes, He is holy and just, which means our sin separates us from Him. But in His great love for us, He provided a way for us to repent of our sins and have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Oh, what love!
If you’ve ever doubted God’s love for you, tell Satan to get behind you because you are onto his lies! Turn to the Father and tell Him you want a relationship with Him, that you know your sin is separating you from His great love. Ask Him to forgive you and to restore your relationship with Him. Then, allow Him to rejoice over you, to quiet your hurt and fears with His love.
The Father is holy and just. But the Father is also love. (1 John 4:8b)
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Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
John 3:16-17 “16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
1 John 4:8b “God is love.”