On this day, when so many people declare their love to one another, I want to declare mine for the Lord.
"Because he loved me first” is so true in my life. It was the Lord who first loved me. There were more than 2,000 people worshipping him at the time but to me, he spoke directly, asking me to be his, stirring my heart for the first time.
His words left me weeping; there was such a sense of awe, something I have never experienced before. I was riveted by his power, and captured by a sense of wonder. That was the first time we connected, Spirit to spirit, Lover to beloved. And I became his.
In those early years, I continued to be drawn by his love, the way a stricken lover is. I could not get enough of him. I talked about him constantly to those who knew him. And often I sang songs of love to him. And when I felt his response, my heart soared with the joy of his presence. The God from heaven loved a mortal being like me. I learned the height of his love.
The only way to know God is to read and read the Bible. So I did. I learned about his goodness towards those who listened to him and his patience towards those who turned away from him. I learned of the length of his love from the time he created man. As I did, I felt his love also.
So my response came to me as a surprise when this was asked of me: “Do you love God?” I searched my heart with all honesty and found with disappointment that though I yearned and was moved by his mighty love for me, I did not love him back.
But, as said in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his son.” It was God who led me into fellowship with Jesus. It was not until I studied more about Jesus that the Lord put love in my heart for him.
Another time, a friend challenged me: “You only love God because he has blessed you so much.” The question hurt me but I wondered if it was true.
Then the tests came. First it was sin. I struggled with temptation and sin for months. If not for being a Christian, I think I would have dived right into indulgence and trouble. But I struggled because I knew now through my study how God felt about sin. I was drawn to follow my human desires but his Word in Romans 5 through 8 reined me in.
“God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13.) This was true too. By his strength I turned towards him, and with turning found he forgave me no matter how deep I had fallen. I learned the depth of his love.
I was also tested by crisis. I stumbled in the darkness but I clung to verses to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), finding hope because “God is close to the broken hearted” (Psalm 34:18) and pressing on “rejoicing in tribulations” (Romans 5:3-5). In my faith he responded with my sense of his love for me.
The most difficult time for me was when I went through a phase of not being able to feel his love. It was not because I was in sin as such, or in trouble. I was still studying his word and in prayer. I lacked the excitement I once felt. Over time, I began to understand that I had been brought to a different level of love. I learned that I must have faith in his love, must be confident of his faithfulness because he is God and his promises are true. I learned that my feelings are not trustworthy. They were not reliable proof of God’s love. I understood the meaning of those words: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39.)
The love of God is not only that emotion that brings goosebumps or makes the heart tremble during worship. But by his grace, because he knows that I am someone who responds to that kind of love as a sign of his presence, he made himself real to me that way. Because I know who he is, I am now confident of his love even when I cannot feel it.
I look back at those heady days of my first love and yes, I still get moved that way but he has brought me a long way and taught much about what love really is.
Love is even much more than this. I am learning that love in an action word. God so loved that he SENT… On loving him back, “those who love me will KEEP my word…” I don’t have to exude this fuzzy lovey-dovey sensation to love my God. My love can be manifested in the way I live my life in serving him. I found freedom knowing this because really, many times I do not feel loving at all.
There is that love that brings my heartbeat with his, that leads me to rejoice in what gives him glory and grieve for what profanes his name. There is love that drives me to serve him, and show love for him by loving another. And there is love that I cannot even understand yet.
But as believers, we can trust that he will continue to grow and nurture us, day by day, step by step, trial after trial, from glory to glory.