Growing up feeling unloved can take a toll on a person. Research in the late 60’s and early 70’s showed that even young monkeys need affection in order to grow into healthy adults. And growing up feeling unloved and being abused will take a toll that only God can heal. And that’s exactly what God had been doing in my life the past few years.
Growing up I had learned that because I was unloved I must not be worthy of being loved. I must not be good enough, smart enough, perfect enough. I had to earn my way to love. And, oddly enough, that way of thinking was still cemented into my mind even after I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And, of course, God knew that.
Two worlds were colliding: one being the mindset that I learned as a child coupled with being allowed to remain in this state of mystery pain with no answers; the other knowing intellectually that God was a God who professed His unconditional love for me by sending His Son to die to pay for my sins. My mind just couldn’t reconcile the two, and beneath the anger that I had been feeling was really fear and panic at the thought that I must have done something wrong and God had turned his back on me like so many others had.
But, instead, God had been in the process of showing me that His character remained true. He did love me unconditionally, and that, ironically enough, it was in the midst of those painful circumstances that I would learn that I don’t have to earn God’s love, that pain does not equal being unloved by an all-powerful God, and that God’s purpose, in part, in allowing this trial was to retrain my brain, to let go of the lies I believed and hold fast to the truth as I took it into my heart.
God was working out Romans 12:2 in my life: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.”
My mind was being renewed and I was no longer bound by the thinking that God can’t love me and simultaneously allow painful circumstances into my life. By the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I was no longer feeling like I was being callously hurt by an unloving God.
My circumstances had not changed one iota, but my mind and my heart had. God had purged that ugly dross from my heart and I was in love with Him in a way that I had never known before. My heart was now free, in a way it never had been, to receive God’s unconditional love.
Our church’s women’s retreat was coming up and all I could think of was, “if I could only touch the hem of his cloak.” Like the woman who risked everything to seek out Jesus for healing with her issue of blood, I wanted to pass by the world with my eyes solely focused on Christ and on being so near Him that I could reach out and touch Him in a way that would allow His power to heal me – in whatever way He saw fit.
And I took that new mind and new heart to the women’s retreat. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I believe it was during a prayer of repentance. Prayers of true repentance are probably one of the most over-looked yet most powerful things we can do. In that moment we humble ourselves and acknowledge, without excuses, our sins before a Holy God. And in doing that God can take us off the wrong path and set us aright.
And so I asked God for forgiveness for not heeding His words to “be strong and courageous,” for not holding onto Him for strength during this trial but rather attempting to find answers somewhere else. And because Hebrews 4:16 invites us to, “therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” and because I am a daughter of the King, a King Who loves me unconditionally, I boldly asked the Lord to somehow redeem those wasted years.
I believe that’s when I touched the hem of His cloak. My heart was free to not only receive all that God had for me but to be a vessel of His love and mercy and truth. During that retreat God put me on the receiving end of questions that before that day I would have answered differently. But I found myself thinking like my Lord and speaking the truth in unconditional love. And I was doing things that before I never would have done. I had decreased and He had increased in my life.
An important point to note is that when God spoke to Joshua the words “be strong and courageous,” it was just before he was to enter into the Promised Land. This newfound relationship with my Lord felt exactly like that - like I was entering into a Promised Land. This was how the Father desired His children to walk with Him: closely, with complete trust, freely giving and receiving love in all circumstances, willing to go wherever the Lord would lead.
And, like Joshua’s Promised Land, mine would also hold the enemy, lurking in the shadows, waiting to attack. And that’s exactly what he’s tried to do. God’s enemy has been working hard at every corner to undo all that God’s done by again trying to make me feel as though I’m unloved. But I will continue to be strong and courageous, to fill my mind with the truth found in God’s Word, and let it continue to wash over me and renew me still.
* * *One of the most profoundly true statements is found In The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The words take me aback each time I read them as the powerful reality of them engulf me. Speaking of Aslan the lion, the Christ-like character in the story:
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
He is the King I tell you. And He is good, through and through. Anything He allows in our lives comes from a love so great and a plan so good that we will never fully understand until we see Him face to face and all things are revealed. In that moment we will see the beauty of God’s handiwork in our hearts and we will fall down at His feet and worship Him.
But right now we are called to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), faith that we serve a merciful, gracious, benevolent, all-knowing, all-powerful God Who loves us more than we can ever imagine. And His ways are always in line with His perfect character. To submit to Him is to submit to a plan of the highest order.
So. Are you resisting God and His will? Instead of fighting to get out of the fiery trial, ask the Lord what He wants to do in your heart and life through it. What eternal treasures can you glean from it? Read God’s Word as you sit with the Lord and get to know Who He really is, not just who you think He is. Let Him purge the lies from your heart and take you deeper into your promised land. One way or another, faithfully, God will have His way in your life.
Resistance is futile. Time is short. Get going.