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“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Many of us sang these words even before we quite knew what they meant. Growing up, I came to love this song, which I first heard in Vacation Bible School. In my mind, the song seemed to always belong with the popular verse John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son.”

Many of us go through life not fully accepting of the fact that, yes, God does love us. We often approach God like we’re participating in a negotiation. We try and perform good actions to cover up bad behaviors. It is common to think about our relationship with God in terms of performance— read more Bible, say a prayer at church, volunteer for a service project. From a human perspective, it may seem to make sense: Keep God happy and things will turn out all right.

The actual message of Christ as found in the New Testament exposes the flawed logic of this approach. We can’t ‘balance out the scales’ in our own strength. Rather than earning God’s approval, we are to simply accept the salvation he has provided as a free gift. We don’t have to earn a spot at the table. We are called to believe in Christ, and our place at God’s table is set!

Receiving His Love

Early in our ministry, a devout Christian lady who was a widow began to donate each month. She invited my wife and me to dinner at her country home, and we were treated to a lovely meal at her picturesque farm. Her husband had raised cattle, and they had been active in their church for decades. Though he had passed away several years before, the woman impressively continued to operate the farm, serve her church, and remain a pillar in the rural community.

We also learned that this lady had been especially gracious to missionaries for many years. Countless missionary families had stayed on their farm during their travels, and the house was filled with photos and mementos of God’s servants that this lady had underwritten. If ever I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in a home, it was there. This lady was all about praising the Lord and helping those who preached His Word!

And yet, she couldn’t seem to have peace in her heart that God loved her. I absolutely believe that this dear lady was a born-again Christian. Her testimony of faith in Jesus was clear, and her legacy of life and service preached a more eloquent sermon than I could verbally deliver. But she struggled to have the emotional peace of knowledge that, unconditionally, she was loved by the Father. We prayed with her many times about this.

One Saturday afternoon, we got a call with very sad news: A young driver—speeding and not paying attention to the road—crossed the center line and caused a terrible wreck. Our elderly Christian friend, driving in the other lane, was killed instantly and her car destroyed. I was summoned to meet with the family and try to bring words of comfort.

Entering the driveway of the beloved farm that day, three thoughts went through my mind: First, as beautiful as the century-old cattle ranch was, our friend was now in a land infinitely more lovely! Secondly, it dawned on me that finally, she knows that God’s love for her is without question. Now in the presence of the Savior she followed, Jesus’ perfect love had cast out all her fear (I John 4:18).

Finally, I thought about the peace and emotional joy that could have been hers all along. I was reminded of how Oswald Chambers (famous for the devotional book, My Utmost For His Highest) taught that we must lean on Scripture to, “vigilantly maintain God’s perspective.” Now in heaven, our friend would never again be a slave to emotional fears. Praise God!

Maintaining God’s Perspective

The Lord has provided ways for us to rest in the certain knowledge of His love: His Spirit indwells us, and nothing can remove us from His hand (John 10:28). God has also given us His Word, which we may read, internalize, and trust. And God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

You may have trouble accepting the fact that God loves you; truly, faithfully, and unconditionally. If so, begin to train yourself to believe what the Bible says. Wean yourself off of fickle emotions that are not dependable arbiters of reality. The Bible (and its Author) do not change; they are fixed. The Bible is God’s love letter to the human race, and the intended recipients include you!