At the height of achievement in my career, during the proudest moments of righteous living I managed to portray, a question entered my mind. God, do you love me any more now? Now that I’ve lived right. Now that I’ve managed to do something good with my life. Now that I bring glory to you instead of shame. I stood at the top of my most ambitious and greatest of successes. Lord, do you love me any more now than you did before all this?
I am fascinatingly convinced the answer is no. The more I read from the Bible, the more I see we cannot earn God’s love! It is a gift freely given to all, regardless of whether we deserve it. It is not based on our flimsily human ways that repeatedly change based on how we feel. We cannot make Him love us anymore. Even in our most unlovable times, we are loved beyond measure. I read verses like Roman’s 5:8, that remind me God’s love didn’t find me atop a lofty mountain of glory. No, it chased me down into the dark places of my life, the ones I hid from everyone. In such low places I was a king that wore many crowns; shame, guilt, depression, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, and anxiety.
Bursting forth into the immense darkness that surrounded me, a glorious light shone brightly upon my face. At first, I was terrified by the light. Its magnificence and brilliance were far too great for me. The wickedness within my own heart trembled and I hid my face. My ugliness sought earnestly to remain in the darkness. But my heart yearned to step into the light. Reason told me if I were first to clean myself up, then perhaps I could enter into the beauty of the light. After trying with all my might, I could not wash away my filth. So instead, I tried to cover it up with fanciful attire and elegant jewelry. In peril beneath it all, lie the same wretched person. As much as I fooled the world, I could not fool myself, nor the One who knew my heart.
At the bottom of the pit, I cried out to Jesus. With outstretched arms, Love lifted me. He washed away the things I could not and gave me a new heart. I was also given a new crown, not of mine but His righteousness. He took the ashes of my life and transformed them. He gave me a new life and meaning. The place where I was back then still holds a place in my mind to this day, many years later. I remember the darkness that once held me captive, ensnared by its unbreakable bonds. But the chains that bound me, were themselves, in no way capable of withstanding the weight of His glory. Like so many others, millions of times over, I was set free. I was redeemed. My debt was paid. But at what cost? What was the price for all this? The life of an innocent. My Lord and Savior gave it all on the cross. What love is greater than this, John 15:13?
The more I come to understand God’s love, the more it continues to change me. I’ve proven often enough I don’t deserve such love. Yet, it is ever present. Even when I stumble in error, when I turn back – Love is always there, watching and waiting for me to return. A song from childhood called Jesus Loves Me still comes to remind me of a promise. If it seems like not a single person in all the world cares for you, I will argue that there is at least one. His name is Jesus. He loved me when I had no love for myself.
Out of all the things I’ve tried to fill life’s voids, the once empty places of my life, none compare to what Jesus has done. Christ alone stands out, far above the love from any person. It far outweighs the brevity of worldly satisfaction. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him… everything!