An Atmosphere of Love

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  1 John 4:16 NASB

Years ago, I remember a young man at church who would repeatedly tell me that God loved me. He seemed like a normal sort of person, yet so insistent and persistent that I thought it odd. I smiled and nodded, but deep down my response was, “So what?” The gentleman seemed so passionate about something I readily saw as a cliché, though perhaps a harmless one, I dismissed it as having no bearing on my day-to-day life. I was looking for real solutions. What could I do to become a better person and improve my circumstances in this life? What could I do to get God to answer my prayers?

Nearly twenty years later, I believe this one truth may perhaps be the most important thing we ever come to learn on this earth: that we are 100% loved and cherished by our Creator.

We are Loved by God!

It is so important for us to KNOW and UNDERSTAND how deeply loved we are. If we don’t come to know this, it will result in difficulty loving and forgiving others. It will keep us from operating in health and abundance. It will cause all sorts of problems because deep down we believe that the One who created us is against us. It’s not true, but if we believe it is true, it will feel/appear as though it is. Our life will flow out of this false assumption and ultimately result in frustration.

Have you ever noticed that hating your body because you are overweight rarely results in healthy weight loss? However, caring for yourself and your physical body by lovingly giving it good food, water, sleep and exercise can result in lasting change.

Have you ever noticed that angrily scolding a drug addict for their behavior seems to push him/her further into addiction? The best results I’ve seen with drug addiction (my own included) was when someone understood what I was feeling, had had those same experiences and had come out to tell of it. That is what eventually gave me hope that it might be possible for me too.

Why does nagging your spouse or your children never seem to produce the desired effect? Do they sense your care, respect, love for them? Or do they feel disrespected, unloved and hurt? Which atmosphere do you think produces the best and most lasting change?

Have you ever noticed that feelings of desperation can drive people to engage in reckless behavior simply because they’ve given up on any possible redemption? They believe they’ve gone too far. But if there is someone who can identify with compassion and understanding, there often is a possibility of connection and ultimately change of behavior.

If you believe you are unredeemable, then your experiences will reflect that.

If you believe you are unredeemable, then your experiences will reflect that. It is not true, but it will appear to you that it is. If you believe you are unlovable then you will act that way. It is not true, but it will appear to you and others that it certainly is. If you believe that others are against you, even if they aren’t, your heart will respond to them with uncertainty, fear, and self-protection.

At 12 years old, I attempted suicide by taking a large number of painkillers. It was the first of many attempts over the next 13 years. I hated being alive. It felt extremely painful to me. I engaged in self-destructive behavior, which only served to increase my pain and self-hatred. My parents loved me, but I didn’t feel it or believe it. I just wanted out. At the time, I believed that God was purposefully torturing me. I was willing to take a chance on what I thought might be eternal damnation simply for a change of pain.

I had no idea of what I know today. That I am deeply loved, cherished, and treasured by my Father. How did I come to know it? I simply began to consider that it might be true. I began to think about it, read about it, write about it. I talked to God about it and meditated on it. It was a lovely thought. Almost too good to be true. But ultimately I came to BELIEVE what He said of me to be the truth.

Believing

If you believe that God hates you or that he is disgusted, displeased or disappointed, it will be difficult to fully trust him. If you believe that God doles out sicknesses to teach lessons, you may find it hard to believe that he truly has your best interests at heart. If you believe he distances himself from you when you make mistakes, it might become impossible for you to receive the very forgiveness that will keep you from continuing in that same behavior. If you believe God simply doesn’t care, then you may find yourself cynical and mocking the only One who can truly help you.

This is why it is so important for us to KNOW and UNDERSTAND how deeply loved we are.

That ALL of our sins have been forgiven. (Colossians 2:13)

And that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:39)

This is the atmosphere in which true change, healing, and abundance can occur. It is within the context of love that true correction comes, that true healing manifests, creative ideas, wisdom, and a sense of fullness springs.

Jesus didn’t simply want us to not act out.

Under the Old Covenant Law, there was a promise of judgement or punishment for those who failed to keep its standard. If you committed adultery, there was no grace. You were simply put to death. No second chances. You’d think that would be enough to keep most people from engaging in the illicit behavior.

But when Jesus came, he did not promise death and judgment to the woman caught in the act of adultery. He did not give her the legal punishment for her sin. Instead, he came for something deeper: her heart.

Your heart.

My heart.

Sin is an outward manifestation of the beliefs living inside us. Jesus didn’t simply want us to not act out. He wanted there to be a change in our hearts so that hurtful behavior would not continue to manifest. Sin is just an indicator of what is already in our heart. Out from a seed, a weed or flower grows.

People who believe they are not loved, who do not experience the unlimited love of God, or who forget the love of their dear Father, will do and say things that hurt themselves and others. They will sin. It is inevitable. When you know the love of your Creator, your heart softens, your inner self become larger, and your ability to love others, even those who think differently, increases. Fear and frustration diminishes. The love of the Father shines out of you, “accidentally” healing the hurts of those around you who have forgotten (or perhaps never knew) that they matter and are deeply loved.

What does an atmosphere of love look like?

What does an atmosphere of love look like? It is one of peace, joy, respect, support, honor, helpfulness, believing for the best, gentleness, life-giving, honesty, kindness, patience, understanding, care. I once, early on in our marriage, criticized my husband for doing something I thought was not in his best interest. Later, very gently, he told me why he believed in what he was doing. He provided a loving atmosphere and it totally de-escalated what could have been a major disagreement. I felt no condemnation coming from him and I apologized immediately. Actually I was kind of in awe of how he could point out something disrespectful I had done without putting me on the defensive. I never wanted to do that again. Not because I had made him angry. But because I knew I was loved and wanted to respond in kind.

This is how the unlimited love of God works. Once you experience it, you can’t help but want to respond in kind. To God. To anyone. Especially to those who need it the most. There is no need to threaten me with death if I sin. I have no desire in my heart to sin because I know that I am dearly loved. Oh, I may forget and falter at times, but even then I’ve learned to have compassion because I know my Father does. In those moments, what works best for me is to stop and take a moment to remember my Father and his life-giving, loving thoughts towards me.

Receiving

We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

The truth is, we cannot love others well (or ourselves, or God for that matter) if we do not first learn to receive. God is love. Any true love we may possess comes from God himself. His love is not your typical day-to-day human-type of love. It is unlimited, wise, kind, strong and unfailing.  It is the kind of love that enables us to love enemies, turn the other cheek, and a myriad of other seeming impossibilities in this crazy world of ours. “Receiving” might not seem as rewarding as “accomplishing” but I believe it is imperative for us to take the time to do so or our accomplishments will have little lasting impact. The results of receiving may not be predictable, but they are sure. God seems to delight in surprising us with his provisions for us.

Receiving does not need to be a super-spiritual work or complicated activity. It can be as simple as noticing the goodness of God in your surroundings or in the way He made you or in the people in your life. It could be taking a moment, as Jesus asked at the the Last Supper, to remember His body and blood and what they mean for us. It is good news, not bad. It is not focusing on our failures, but instead focusing on the beautiful plan of redemption He put in place for us. I believe our purpose on earth is to intimately know and enjoy the love of our Father. When we know this, we will automatically love and serve and heal the world around us.

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