Thursday, October 21, 2010

God's Love: Part IX, "Experience the Length"

“And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Not many of us are long distance runners. For most, the very thought causes us to cringe. “No thanks!” It takes stamina and endurance, a great resistance to the elements within and without the body. A good runner must be able to endure pain, heat, cold, and resist fatigue. He or she must be able to persevere when the body urges to quit before the race is over, keeping his/her eye fixed on the prize ahead.

I don’t know many people who want to willingly put their body through such harsh conditions and training. We usually find ways to avoid this, not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually in our lives. Give us the easy way out.

Since we’re apt to look for the easy route, or the great escape, in some form or fashion, maybe that’s why we have a hard time believing God’s love can outlast us. Surely He’s given Himself a scapegoat. There are times we don’t love ourselves, so why on earth would He still love us?

We may understand God went to the greatest lengths any one could for another…loving us enough to give His only Son, Jesus, to die in our place for our sin. Ransom. (God’s Love:  Part IV, “Love’s Response”) But do we believe His love is just as strong for us today as the day we first believed? Do we question whether He still loves us at times?

Several years ago, I began what I like to call a “head on collision with my past.” I explained my healing journey in general terms in my testimony, “Where to Begin.” My heart was hemorrhaging from unhealed wounds of long ago, and I had developed unhealthy styles of relating to others because of those wounds. Our arch enemy had also taken liberty to fill my mind with lies in those wounded places.

God came to rescue me from my pain and from myself, giving me courage to face past abuses and other wounds, both other- and self-afflicted. He did so in order to shine His truth on each situation, and bring much needed healing. But surrendering my old habits wasn’t always easy, and owning the truths for myself was downright hard at times.

Our enemy does not want us to receive such healing and freedom, either. And some days I would almost buckle under the weight of his whispers. You’ll never make it. It’s too hard. Just give up.

I remember one particularly difficult day while the kids were at school. I was folding laundry, and keenly aware of my pain, my mess-ups with old habits, and the enemy’s voice. Finally, I sat down, exasperated. I blurted out to God, “I’m afraid Your grace will run out on me!” I couldn’t believe the sound of my own words; I wept, fearing His response.

So tenderly and lovingly He said to me, from His very Word in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace IS sufficient for you.” The easiest way to dispel a lie is with the truth! And I knew this to be true in my mind, but never believed it in my heart until that moment. In the Scripture context, Paul was describing his weakness (we all have them!), and how, as he struggled with God over it, this was God’s answer. The Lord went even further to say, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Well, what does grace have to do with love, you might ask? Everything! Even the Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus describes grace as the “love and favor of God toward [mankind].” Meaning, we can trust that God’s grace, love, and favor will be sufficient for us, no matter our weakness!

Hebrews Chapter four takes it all a step further, describing Jesus as our great High Priest with ready access to God—and able to understand our weaknesses since He faced them all Himself, yet without sin. He is not out of touch with our reality. We can come boldly to him for help, where we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (verses 14-16)

Like a runner, God is no stranger to endurance. The phrase, His love endures forever, appears thirty-six times in the Psalms alone. Why so many? Maybe the Psalmist knew how much we’d need reminding and convincing!

In the same dictionary I mentioned earlier, endurance is described as “having the ability to last, stand pain, etc.” His love can withstand the pain of our sin and weaknesses, without wavering. Why on earth would He bother?! Because Love hopes—hopes that we will turn to Him and accept His help—hopes for you. (I Corinthians 13)

It was passionate love that fueled Jesus to his death; the greatest display and length of love. He endured the cross for you and for me. Hebrews 12:2 describes Him as enduring the cross because of the joy awaiting him. Think of it as the prize for winning a race. Jesus fixes His eyes on the prize that will bring Him the greatest joy—us—you. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, the length of God’s love will find you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I have gotten so much encouragement from reading your blog. Love it!! Can't wait to read it now...thank you for taking the time to write from your heart! Pam