In the Christian life, there is often a wrestle with the feelings of whether God loves us or not.
There are times when we are in God’s presence, in worship, in prayer, and our hearts are elated as we not only know that God loves us but we feel his love towards us. His presence surrounds us, we hear his voice, and his Spirit fills our hearts with his love. These moments are amazing and are the defining experience of the Christian life.
Then there are times in life, and the emotional rollercoaster it brings, where those feelings are overcome by other negative ones.
Frustration and failure render us feeling helpless and alone. Shame and guilt can prove us invaluable, worthless, and loveless. Depression and the suiccidal temptations are like a cloud under the sun of God’s love. These and more declare war against the elation that we once felt.
A mature Christian realizes at some point, however, that there is a difference between how we feel and the truth of God’s love. That despite negative emotions, we can still cling to and claim the truth of his love and affections for us.
Yet even for this discerning differentiation, these negative feelings are not naught and the shadow it produces over our lives can often not be ignored. For how we act is often a product of how we feel. And so it is hard to feel loved when the thoughts of hearts speakotherwise.
I was reading 1 John this week and was encouraged by a promise given for this very occasion.
It writes: “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20
The promise is that God is greater than the war waging inside our hearts. That the feelings and emotions which can cloud our experience of his love can lifted by his power. That they can be overcome by his greatness. Like a lover in zeal, our God can fight for our continual enjoyment of his love.
And so 1 John’s promise continues: “if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”
The goal of being confident in his love and our relationship with him is promised to us. For those who have real struggles of our ability to feel his love and overcome the very emotions which cloud that experience, there is hope. The hope is that despite the strength of the clouds, the power of the sun can still break through.
It is that sun which is the answer to the question of what we do when we feel that “God doesn’t love us.” The truth is that he always loves us. But now we are aware that he has the power to ensure that we also feel it powerfully as well.