How Can I Feel God's Love?
By Dr. Bill
I often hear from people who are Christians, but are struggling to feel Godís love for them. Their prayers seem to have bounced off the ceiling unanswered. Their cries for Godís healing touch echoed down hospital corridors, apparently unheard in the heavens. Emptiness had overwhelmed their hearts and left a Godless void inside. Doubt had driven out faith. Together we cried out for God until we found him. If youíre going through times like these you may feel like giving up on God, but donít. He hasnít given up on you.
Like the father in Jesusí parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), God never stops loving us. Insulted and rejected by his son, who left home and wasted his inheritance money in wild living, Father still loved his son. In fact, he missed him so terribly that day after day for months he looked to see if his son was coming home yet. When finally he saw Prodigal way off in the distance he didnít wait for his son to get to him. He ran out to greet him - huffing, puffing, sweating, robe flying open and exposing his undergarments, he ran and ran as fast as he could - unconcerned that the town gawked at a man of distinction making a spectacle of himself. Then he embraced his dirty, disheveled, and swine-smelling son to his heart and kissed him again and again. He gave his son gifts of grace: a robe to cover his tattered clothes so he could lift his head high, sandals to welcome him home as a son and not a slave, his signet ring to give him a second chance to manage the family property, and a great party to honor him in the community. This is our Heavenly Father. He takes initiative to show his love. He is generous, overwhelming us with his love and his gifts of grace that we didnít earn.
This picture of your Father God loving you may seem too good to be true for you. Perhaps your father didnít take initiative to get to know you and share his love with you. Maybe hugs and kind gestures have been few and far between for you. It is hard to trust in the love of God whom you have not seen or touched if people whom you have seen and touched have shown you little love. So what can you do? How can you begin to experience the healing, life changing love of God that you long for?
Iíd like to offer you some powerful possibilities for helping you to feel more of Godís love for you. Consider the faith-building steps below and focus on the steps that you most need to take:
1. Confess your shortcomings. None of us are perfect. When we hurt other people we need to say weíre sorry to restore relationship with them. Itís the same with God. Our behavior affects our relationship with Him. Itís a good idea to daily take a moral inventory in order to say youíre sorry for your shortcomings and then to turn to God. Do this and you will feel more of Godís love.
2 .Believe that you are lovable. Your problem with God may be a self-esteem problem. Some people feel bad about themselves because of something they did. Others feel bad because of something that was done to them. Either way, donít let yourself feel bad about yourself. Work at receiving forgiveness for your failings and giving forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Donít give in to shame, embarrassment, and negative self-talk. If you do youíll feel like hiding and will tend to shut out God and others who care about you. Instead, dare to believe that you are lovable and worthwhile and that your emotional needs are important. Then look for loving, gracious people and receive their care as a gift from God. Additionally, try reading and praying over positive Scriptures that focus on Godís love for you. (See ďGodís Love for Christmas.Ē)
3 .Let go of anger. Your problem feeling close to God may be tied to an anger problem. Angry people are lonely people. You may have valid reasons to be angry, but donít stay angry or youíll just hurt yourself. Anger and negativity push people away, even the caring people whom we need. You canít stay angry at someone and feel their love for you at the same time. If youíre angry at God then do what Job did. His children died, his business failed, and he was afflicted with painful boils. On top of this his friends judged him, telling him that he was suffering because he sinned. Job knew he didnít deserve this pain. He was angry at God about what had happened to him and all the pain he was in and he told him so. He was angry at his friends for criticizing him and he told them how he felt too. Because Job talked through his feelings and let go of his anger he didnít become bitter, he became better. In the end he found Godís comfort. You can too if you talk through your anger with God, let go and trust him, reaching out to him for the love that you need.
4. Express your feelings. You may be struggling to experience Godís love because you struggle to feel your feelings. Perhaps youíre a person of action and reason and feelings just get in the way. Or youíve experienced so much pain and disappointment in life that youíve shut down your emotional system. In either case, if youíre emotionally detached you wonít feel close to God and his care for you. To get more in touch with your feelings find friends who are interested in you and who will ask you, ďHow are you feeling?Ē and then listen to you. Also read the book of Psalms in the Bible and look for psalms that you identify with. Then write your own psalms to God, talking to him just like you would to your best friend. Tell him whatís happened and how you feel about it and then remind yourself that God cares about you, has given you good things in the past, and will help you now. (See the Poetry section on New Hope Online.)
5. Clear up your image of God. Most people I talk to who are having trouble feeling Godís love have a distorted image of God. They donít see God for who he is. Theyíre projecting pain or disappointment from childhood onto God. They may know in their heads that God is different, but emotionally they experience him like their critical father, distant mother, abusive step-father, or someone else who hurt them. I find that when these people are helped to heal from their childhood hurts they are better able to see God for who he is. Along the way, itís helpful to immerse your heart and mind in the positive images of God presented in the Bible. Three of my favorites are the Loving Father (Luke 15, mentioned above), the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23 and John 10, see my poem, ďPsalm 23 JourneyĒ), and the Nurturing Mother Bird (Psalm 91). When one of these positive pictures of God gets in your heart youíll feel different about God, yourself, and your life.
6. Ask for prayer. To sum it all up, if God seems far away and inaccessible to you then you need help. You canít find God on your own. Remember the story of the paralyzed man who needed Jesusí healing touch? (Mark 2:1-12) Four men carried him a stretcher to Jesus. Jesus was in a house ministering to hundreds of people who were crowded inside and standing outside the windows. The friends of the paralyzed man were not deterred. The carried him onto the roof, cut a whole in the roof, and carefully dropped him down at Jesusí feet. And Jesus healed him. If your faith in God is paralyzed then ask for prayer from a friend, your pastor, or a counselor. Call or e-mail New Hope and we will pray for you. You can get unstuck! You can feel Godís love for you! Donít give up on God. Get the help you need, take the steps Iíve suggested, and receive what He provides.