This weekend I shared a short devotion at the Valentine’s tea for the widows at our church. The topic they gave me was “You Are Loved,” and for several days I struggled to write about it. I could talk about God’s Fatherly protection and provision for my sons and me, but for some reason the idea of God having personal affection for me was harder to express. I began to wonder: do I really have any idea how deeply I am loved?
That sounds like heresy, I know. I feel terrible even typing this. Jesus died for me. His love is a fact truer and more permanent than the sun rising and setting every day. I know this and can talk about it and cite verses to prove it. “For God so loved the world…” I will just be honest here: there’s a tiny (self-centered) piece of me that feels a little lonely when I read this verse. I know God loves the world, and I am so grateful that He does. But, God forgive me, I find that I can be insecure with the idea that God loves ME. How could God, holy, sovereign, and perfect, really want a relationship with me? I really believe it’s true, in my head. But have I allowed myself to feel His love? Can I rest there, secure in His affection? He promises never to leave me or forsake me, but do I really think He likes me and wants to hang out with me?
Widows aren’t the only ones who need to learn to live in the love of Jesus. Every single one of us needs this. Our human relationships often bring much joy and happiness, but those same relationships can also break our hearts. No person can ever love us with the utterly faithful, delightfully extravagant love of God. We are made for Him, and there is a place within that can only be satisfied in communion with Him. I am only inspired to grateful obedience and joyful service when I am in reciprocal relationship with the God who adores me. If I don’t believe that God gets personal with me, I won’t fully trust Him when His Word says He loves me.
Here is one of my all-time favorite little gems in the Bible: in Genesis, God demonstrates His tender care to the Egyptian slave girl Hagar when she feels abandoned and despised. God promises Abram and Sarai an heir, but when He doesn’t fulfill His promise on their schedule, Sarai tells Abram to sleep with her maid Hagar so Sarai can claim the child. When Hagar conceives, she taunts Sarai, who retaliates. Hagar runs away into the desert.
Think of Hagar’s predicament. She is Egyptian- pagan, not one of God’s chosen people. She is a slave among a foreign people, forced to sleep with her mistress’s old husband. She becomes pregnant with a child conceived under awkward circumstances, and lives caught between her embittered mistress and the master who won’t protect her. Now she is alone, in the desert, likely to die.
Imagine her astonishment, then when the Angel of the Lord meets her. Vulnerable, friendless and pregnant, an Egyptian who has no right to expect any help at all from a God she doesn’t even know, Hagar receives comfort and a promise: He will protect and bless her son, Ishmael, and “multiply his descendants exceedingly” (Genesis 16:10). He is tender and encouraging with Hagar, because He has “heard her affliction.” (v.11) She has been poorly treated, but He raises her up with a glorious promise for her unborn child. Overcome with grateful wonder, she names God El Roi, meaning “You Are the God Who Sees Me;" saying ”I have now seen the God who sees me.” (v.13)
Can you imagine? She’s a slave, she’s a woman, not chosen, not loved. Could there be a more insignificant person on the planet? Yet God sees Hagar. He hears her. He loves her, He protects her, and He blesses her. That’s a God Who wants a personal, one-on-one relationship with each one of us- with you, and with me.
He is the God Who sees you. He sees your hurts, your disappointments, your victories and your defeats. He knows every nuance of your difficult circumstance, and He is no stranger to your shortcomings. You are His treasure, His delight, and His beloved, so much so that Jesus died so that He could spend eternity with you.
You are the apple of His eye. Psalm 17:8
You are thoroughly known and completely adored: Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in you. Song of Solomon 4:7
He is so glad He made you that He sings songs over you: The Lord your God is in your midst,/ The Mighty One will save;/ He will rejoice over you with gladness,/ He will quiet you with His love,/ He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
He has your name tattooed on His hands: See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands… Isaiah 49:16
And He gets up close and personal with you: The very hairs of your head are all numbered! Matthew 10:30
He loves you enough to discipline you when you need it: For whom the Lord loves, He corrects,/ Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12
He won’t abandon you to fend for yourself, but instead He meets all your need according to His riches on glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
He took the time and care to create you in His own image:/ But You formed my inward parts;/ You covered me in my mother’s womb,/ I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;/ Marvelous are Your works,/ That my soul knows very well. Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:13-14
And He likes being with you so much that He promises never to leave you: Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20
His care for you is so deep that He does for you what you cannot do for yourself. He delivers you from sin and death and evil because He delights in you! 2 Samuel 22:20, Psalm 18:19
On this Valentines day, spend some time meditating on the love God has for you. I pray that you and I will be completely persuaded “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate (us) from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” Amen!! Romans 8:37-39