For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12
God loves you.
Maybe it doesn’t feel that way right now, but God loves you.
How do I know this? Because the Bible tells me so.
Are you humming a tune right now?
The song learned long ago in childhood: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so” may sound trite and cliché, but it is Truth.
This past year and a half have been a hard emotional time for me: betrayal, disappointment, hurt feelings, and stress have all weighed heavily on my heart and soul tipping me close to the edge of burnout.
The emotional stuff I have been sorting through has become a heavy load for me to carry. The weight of it all has left me feeling overwhelmed. My prayers for relief and change seem to go unheard and unanswered.
You may be carrying heavy stuff too.
We could sit around comparing stuff; one-upping each other as to whose stuff was worse, like the scene in the movie Jaws where the men sit below deck comparing shark-encountered scars, but it really doesn’t matter. We all struggle. We all have things that make us ask: Why me? Where are you God? Do you still love me?
My feelings about God’s love for me have wobbled over the last year and a half. My circumstances made it appear to me as if He had forgotten me. I felt overlooked, unseen. It was as if I wasn’t that important to Him anymore-- like He managed to find someone better.
Even though I may have wobbled in my feelings about God’s love for me, the truth of His love never faltered. He loves me. Period.
The steadfast love of the Lord is repeatedly stated in scripture leaving me with the choice to continue to wobble and worry about how God felt about me or to trust and take Him at His word.
As far as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. Psalm 103:11
Steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. Your steadfast love O Lord endures forever. Psalm 138:8
Feelings are fleeting when held up to the light of Truth. With this in mind, I am working on letting scripture stabilize my heart. I am leaning on the truth that God’s love is steadfast. No matter how I feel, God loves me. He gave Jesus for me and that alone should be enough to settle my heart issue of God’s love.
The apostle Paul settled the issue of God’s love for him and came to this conclusion in Romans 8:38-39:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I don’t know what you are feeling right now. Maybe you feel betrayed. Let down. Abandoned. Alone. Hurt. Disappointed. Tired. Stressed. Worn out. You may be asking: Why me? Where are you God? Do you still love me?
If questions of doubt are crashing around you, take a page from the playbook of Psalms and look up to the heavens. As the sky is above and all around, so is God’s love. He loves you more than you can ever know or imagine. David knew it. Paul knew. We can know it too.
Because the Bible tells us so.
Simply Planting is not Enough
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. I John 4:16.
When we moved into our house over twenty years ago, there were two live oak trees growing in our backyard. Now, there is only one. Within the first few years, one of the trees stopped thriving. It slowly turned into a stalk of bare branches. Dried shriveled leaves dropped to the ground. On the other hand, a few feet away, its brother tree grew taller and wider each year.
Same yard. Two similar trees. Two different outcomes. What’s the difference?
Simply put, the roots.
The skinny trunked tree yielded easily to pressure. It uprooted easily. A slight push tipped it over revealing a nestled circle of untangled tendrils. The tree’s roots had never branched out, grown wider, deeper or stronger. They had stayed in a small, malnourished, weak ball. By not unfolding and reaching out, the tree had failed to thrive. It died. It’s as if the tree decided to keep to itself and try to grow on its own without yielding to the soil around it. Instead of reaching out for nutrients, it stayed closed off and isolated. It was planted, but not rooted. By not digging deep into the soil around it, it starved itself to death.
The same is true for me. Many times in my life I have refused the nourishing work of the Lord in my life. I have deemed circumstances around me too hard and therefore too difficult reach into and use for my good. Like my stubborn tree, instead of unfurling my spiritual roots I stay wadded up and closed off muttering, “Why me? Why now?” I have allowed my circumstances to keep me from trusting God’s love weakening me spiritually like a tree slowly drying up from lack of nourishment.
However, the other tree in my yard is tall and wide with a thick trunk and expansive branches. In spite of being struck by lightning and ripped open by a hurricane, it has thrived. Firmly planted in our backyard, it has become a massive oak tree. It’s as if this tree decided to abide in the yard. It reached out its roots and found the nutrients it needed in the soil around it. The second tree went beyond planting and became rooted. By opening itself up to the surrounding water and soil, it chose to live abundantly.
I am grateful for a God who doesn’t give up on me. He doesn’t allow me to stay in a root ball like my tree. He is a good gardener. Unlike me, He would have known my tree needed to have its roots unwound and released from its tight tangle. You see, God gently takes the hard circumstances of my life and uses them to make me spiritually stronger over time. Gradually, the oak tree that was struck by lightning and shaken by a hurricane has grown into an amazing tree with low thick branches and thin high expansive ones creating a home to birds and squirrels and welcomed shade for our yard.
So, what about us? What kind of tree are we? Are we abiding in the soil of God’s love and His word, or are we trying to make it on our own? Have we reached out for the life-giving source of God through His word or are we staying too far away to receive the nourishment we need to face the struggles life brings us? Are we letting our roots of faith grow deep so we are resilient when the storms of life swirl around us? Or, will we topple over when we feel pressure because we haven’t untangled our roots and grounded ourselves in truth? Are we convinced of God’s love for us no matter what?
I John 4:13-16 emphasizes our need to abide in God. Like trees immersing their roots deep into the soil, we need to immerse ourselves in God’s love through the truth of His word. The deeper we bury ourselves in the love of our Savior the stronger we become. The apostle Paul knew this truth when he stated in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separated us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
My friends, don’t let yourselves remain tangled up in life’s worries like my skinny tree. Open your heart wide to the love of God. Reach out and dig deep into the truth of His unfailing love. Abide in that truth. Stay there even in hard circumstances. Let the truth of His love nourish your soul helping you grow strong in faith and love like the massive oak tree in my yard.
God’s Sleep Solutions Don’t Come in Jars
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
I Peter 5:6-7
Recent conversations floated in and out of my mind as I walked the vitamin aisle of my favorite store.
“I haven’t been sleeping well. I woke up again at 3 o’clock. I’ve got so much on my mind; I just can’t sleep.”
As I looked around, words of worry stood tangibly in front of me as multiple containers of natural sleep aids sat in rows on shelves and end-caps. Clearly, I was not alone. Sleep issues were plaguing many of us.
So, why can’t we sleep? What is keeping us awake?
If I were to guess, I would say the thing that keeps us awake at night is not a monster under the bed, but anxiety. We’re worried, stressed and overwhelmed, and we can’t turn it off.
Maybe you are like me and melatonin gummies may help you sleep in the moment, but they do not produce a long lasting solution to the true problem: anxiety. My anxiety rises and my mind kicks into overdrive when I get stressed and start worrying about things. Feeling overwhelmed and emotionally weighed down by all my responsibilities create burdens that rob me of the ability to sleep. I’m tired and want more than a short-term solution to my stress.
Thank goodness, I Peter 5:6-7 offers us more than a Band-Aid for sleep from a jar.
How does it work?
I see two steps to finding rest from our worries in these verses. First we submit ourselves to God. We have to humbling admit we need Him (vs. 6). Next, we have to we have to put our “working to solve it” aside and let Him do His work within us by casting our cares on Him (vs. 7).
Picture a dandelion being blown off its stem by the wind. The pieces are carried off and blown away when the dandelion is exposed to a breeze. In other words, in order for the dandelion’s seeds to be blown away, it has to allow itself to be exposed to a gust of wind.
In the same way, in order for us to “cast our burdens” we must first allow ourselves to be exposed to the wind of God like a dandelion outside. We must become vulnerable, or humble, before God and allow Him to blow, or carry our burdens away. The dandelion doesn’t pick the seeds off. It stands outside allowing the wind to do its work. In the same way, we need to set ourselves out in the open before God and allow Him do to his work within us instead of “picking at” the burdens that stress our minds.
Next, once the dandelion is exposed to the wind, the wind carries the seeds away. Like the dandelion, our job is to set our burdens down before God. The dandelion doesn’t take its seeds off before being exposed to the wind. It stands in the open just as it is, full of seeds waiting to be freed. God says He will carry our burdens for us, but in order for Him to do that we have to stop carrying them ourselves. We have to repeatedly lay down our need to “do it all” and yield our burdens to God instead.
For me that means, I need to stop stressing and start submitting. I need to continually turn my worries over to the Lord. I need to tell Him all of my anxieties. I need to stop maneuvering to solve my problems and start releasing the results to Him in order to truly rest. I need to look for His presence in the midst of my circumstances as if I am a dandelion feeling the wind.
So, next time you reach for the melatonin, pray about the thing that is burdening you. Ask God to expose the deeper issue that is at work keeping you awake. Then, ask Him to carry that burden away like a dandelion seed exposed to a wind. Do it again and again as long as you need to until the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” infiltrates your heart allowing you to stand as an empty stem free from what has been keeping you awake at night.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.