The last few weeks I have either heard or read Christians say, “We don’t obey God because we want to be saved, are afraid of him or want something from him. We obey God because we love him.”
This always gives me pause because of the number of years I have not felt love for God. I first gave my life to him because he showed me through a dream that I was lost. I saw Jesus returning and wasn’t ready. That dream terrified me.
My grandmother gave me a book about God and I loved it. Then I went to an evangelistic meeting. I enjoyed that also, but when they asked if anyone wanted to come forward to give their lives to Christ, I didn’t do it until the last night. That was the night the preacher talked about Jesus and his death on the cross for us. I felt love and gratitude and walked up to the stage to give myself to Jesus.
So, I guess I could say I came to God through fear and then love. But the love feeling didn’t last. Because of my church’s teachings, I started feeling very afraid to sin and believed God would turn away from me if I sinned. I don’t remember any teachings about how we will sin and how God will always be there for us.
So, I was afraid. I became legalistic too and looked down on those who weren’t as “good” as I was. I’m not sure how you can have both feelings, but I guess I went back and forth between them. When I did sin or make a mistake, I couldn’t pray for days because I felt so guilty.
I then learned about, “righteousness through faith,” from a new preacher in my church. This was wonderful news to me and I embraced it. I felt at peace with God for quite a few years.
But then some traumatic things happened in our family. I couldn’t understand why God would allow such pain. I felt repulsed by the way he ran the world and let people suffer. Not just my family, but everyone in the world. I was filled with anger towards him. I walked away from him.
Four years later, when I came back to him, I had read books on why God allows suffering. These books had helped me a lot and I could understand why things were the way they were. But love? No, I didn’t feel love for God and for the most part, I didn’t really believe he loved me.
This went on for years, and the thing is that even though I didn’t feel love for God, I wanted to be a good person and I knew God was the only way to be that. I felt as Jesus said, I hungered and thirsted for righteousness. I cared about justice, mercy, forgiveness, love, compassion, generosity and patience.
I loved what God stood for, but it was so hard for me to equate that with a person in heaven. Maybe because men had hurt me all my life, I couldn’t think of God in a loving way.
So then, if I took to heart what these Christians say about obeying God because I felt love for him, I would have given up in despair. But I learned from Joyce Meyer not to rely on my feelings. They are fickle and unreliable.
One of my sisters feels no love at all for God. She was angry with him for many years. But God wouldn’t let her go. He called her, he bugged her, he chased her until she reluctantly gave in to him. She worships him every day. She is learning about him every day. She is growing every day. There is a huge change in her, although she cannot see it, I do.
In fact, the way God has dealt with my sister has made me love him. Not many people love her. One reason is she always says the truth of what she thinks or believes. She doesn’t let people get away with bullshitting her. She is direct and pulls no punches, but that is one of the reasons I love her so much. She is straight with me; I don’t have to guess where she stands.
I’ve told her I think the thing God loves most about her is her honesty. She doesn’t want to hurt people with honesty, that is just her personality and most people don’t like it. But God does. I know he does, and oh how that makes me love him.
I only started having consistent “feelings” of love for God the last few years. I became a Christian at 19 and I am now 69. It has been a long wait for me. I had moments of that loving feeling, but they didn’t last. Now, it feels like my heart will burst with love and the joy of knowing God. It was worth the wait; I’m so happy.
I wrote this for those who have no feelings for God and think they should. I’m sure God understands feelings and knows they can’t be counted on. I think he wants us to worship him because we admire what he stands for: truth, faithfulness, justice, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, long-suffering, tolerance, and most of all love.
But honestly, I believe God will take us any way he can get us. He loves us that much.