Loved and Cared For - God's Extravagant Love
All week I had wrestled with an idea, a thought that kept fluttering away whenever I got close to sorting it out.
It was a basic thought. One that I should have figured out by now. I’ve been a Christian since I was very young. I know the stories. I read God’s Word. All these years of church, Sunday school, Bible studies and personal study, and still I was struggling with the basic concept of God’s Love. You see, our family was headed into unknown waters. We needed to sell our house and buy a house and make piles of decisions, and I was wondering how to pray.
I expected things to be difficult. I have no problem understanding that God allows hard times to help us grow, so I was anticipating things to go all wrong, and not at all the way I would like. But then I wondered, is this true? Is God really like that? Does He always allow hard times? Does He always purposefully make things hard so His children will grow? It isn’t actually the picture in the Bible at all and yet, I cannot wrap my mind around the very opposite idea. I am not comfortable with expecting that all my wildest, extravagant hopes and dreams will be provided for if I simply pray. God is not a Santa Clause or a doting parent to be manipulated. Not only that, but I do not think I am so special and deserving that I should be blessed beyond all of God’s children. I look around me and there are others who also belong to the same Heavenly Father and they are struggling with illness or financial difficulties. Who am I to approach the throne of Grace and give my wish list and expect that it be fulfilled? So I was back at the beginning. Stuck with the knowledge that God loves me; His word and my personal experience verify this love, and yet I am uncomfortable with the notion of too much love. I understand a love that gives what is ‘good for you’, like brussel sprouts or bitter medicine, but I get uncomfortable with extravagant, over the top giving, giving more than is actually needed. Giving that crosses the line from fulfilling basic needs into the category of ‘extra’, more than enough, maybe even too much.
But then two things happened.
The first, occurred during a Sunday morning communion service. As the bread was passed, I dipped my fingers in for the usual very small, unobtrusive crumb of bread and a rather large chunk broke off. My immediate feeling was embarrassment. My stomach jumped and my face grimaced and I glanced around and wondered if others had seen that I had taken too much. I popped the offending piece into my mouth.
It tasted better than the usual crumb. It had substance, I could chew it and feel it, I could swallow it better and as I meditated and thanked the Lord for His sacrifice it dawned on me that communion is all about His love, His wild, extravagant love, poured out for me! He gave everything ... and my response all these years has been to nibble. I am embarrassed by too much love, by too much confidence in His love. How sad. He held nothing back. As a parent, I would be heart-broken if my children had so little confidence in my love that they would hold back their affection from me or withhold their requests or be embarrassed by my provisions and instead ask for less.
I left that service with a new determination to bask in the love poured out on me. To dig into the love and to put nibbling aside. Who would come to a feast and nibble? Especially the love starved child, the one timid and insecure, the one always certain that love means discipline, regimen, rules and toughening up. Oh the joy to discover that this love is beautiful, freeing, wild and delicious. It is meant to be devoured, inhaled, soaked up, to saturate our pores, to mold our thoughts and to shape our very being.
Loved. Totally and completely loved.
This revelation of love was freeing and invigorating, but I still did not believe that I ought to present my wish list at the throne of Love and Grace. God loves me, but still I didn’t feel right about expecting to have my way, like a spoiled child. And yet, there are needs and there are wants and sometimes a need and a want are so close to the same thing that it is hard to sort out the dividing line. What does a child do in a situation like that?
Then, there was the second event.
I had to teach a lesson at a girl’s club. As I read the page designated for my week, I wondered if I could share with the girls without being a total hypocrite. The lesson was about trusting God when it seems impossible.
In Joshua 1:9, God commands us to be strong and courageous, not to be discouraged because He is with us wherever we go.
The lesson proceeded with an object lesson. We were to try to get an 8 1/2 X 11 paper over the body of one of the girls without the paper ripping. This of course was impossible, until we made several cuts in strategic places. Then, the paper stretched and stretched until we had such a large circle that fit over 8 girls.
I was so encouraged by this lesson. It was a reminder of what I have known pretty well all my life, but brought into such focus again as I shared with these young girls. There is nothing too hard for God. Joshua and the Israelites faced Jericho and they didn’t know what to do and God had them walk around the walls. The walls didn’t just crack and crumble a little bit. God collapsed the walls. (Joshua 6) They didn’t have to beg and plead and give God any ideas or suggestions, God knew what to do and how to do it. He told them not to be discouraged or afraid, He reconfirmed that He was with them and once again He proved Himself faithful, powerful and above all, loving. He met all their needs.
I found myself in the same place. I felt like an Israelite staring at the walls of Jericho. The future looked daunting. I could just imagine the prayers of one of the Israelite women. Praying for the victory of her people, praying for the safety of her husband, telling God how she loves her husband and doesn’t want him to die, praying that soon she would have a home in which to live and be safe and raise her children in peace.
God’s word to the people was not to bring their plans and detailed desires before Him to help Him meet their needs. His instruction was to be strong and courageous and not be discouraged and to remember His presence, and then....in His love and power He met their needs.
Let this be the response in my life. God knows all my needs. He has demonstrated His love and His power. Why do I fret about the details?
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.