SOURCE: Discipleship Journal/Ruth Myers
The Love That Won’t Let Go
God’s passion for His children is unlike any other love we’ll ever experience.
When I was a teenager, God began to deepen my appreciation for His love through “The Love of God,” a song made famous by George Beverly Shea. This song describes God’s love as “greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” If the skies were a scroll and the oceans filled with ink, the song goes on to say, and if every stalk on earth were a writing quill, we still could never write in full this love God has for us. The skies could not contain it. The oceans would run dry.
Through the years since then, the Lord has been weaving into my life a richer awareness of how lavishly He loves me (and all of us) and how deeply He longs for each of us to experience His love. My heart has been opened again and again to delightful discoveries that have made me feel more satisfied and at rest in Him, more alive in His love, more liberated, more secure.
In God we find the kind of love we most deeply need. If we want real love, ideal love, perfect love, God’s heart is where to find it. It’s the only love big enough to meet the God-sized needs of your life and mine.
Because you are a special treasure to God, He is working to draw you into a deeper love for Him—away from any idols in your life, away from rival interests, away from giving first place to His good gifts instead of to Him.
In Jer. 31:3, the Lord tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you” (NKJV). Every hour since you first met Him, He has been pursuing you, seeking to draw you closer as a mother draws her child, as a bridegroom his bride. He wants you near.
God loves us “just because.”
His love defies human logic. It doesn’t make sense. And yet there are reasons. I think of at least two:
First, God loves us because He is love. It’s His nature to love.
Second, He loves us because He made us.
Sin has destroyed some of the beauty of His design that He must now work to restore; but He made each of us with great skill, and we have unique value to Him. Because He made us for Himself, in His image, we have the potential of intimate relationship with Him. He prizes us and wants us for Himself. He loves us for what a love relationship with Him can mean to us—and to Him—now, in this life. He also loves us for what He knows we’ll become for all eternity. He eagerly awaits the delights in store for Him and us when we will dwell with Him forever in joyful, unbroken fellowship.
We read in Dt. 7:7 and 10:15 that God set His love upon His people—He “fastened” it upon them, as The Berkeley Version says. I like that. There’s a gentle but unyielding persistence about the love of God, a tenacious tenderness toward each person who has responded to Him. He loves us and holds on and won’t let us go.
From Everlasting to Everlasting
What is God’s love like? The tenacious love of God is both eternal and changeless. These two concepts are wonderfully linked.
“The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17,RSV). From everlasting to everlasting. Let’s look at this phrase more closely.
From everlasting, before I ever existed, God loved me. Long before I was born, He looked ahead and fastened His affection upon me. His love for me began in His foreknowledge of me. When He decided to love me, I did not yet even exist. His love is not mine because I merit it, for He fastened His love upon me before I ever did one thing, good or bad.
Before we were born, He already knew the worst about us, and nothing that happens now can surprise or disillusion Him. He has never had any illusions about anyone or anything. He doesn’t suddenly discover some truth about one of us and think, Oh, why did I ever choose to love him or her? I like what J. I. Packer says in Knowing God: “God’s love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on the prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”
Therefore, in the midst of my failures and struggles when I feel so undeserving, I never have to think, Oh dear, does He still love me? His love for each of us is never rooted in our worthiness, but rather in His own nature.
God says to us, “It’s not because you earned it or worked so hard for it that I have loved you. And I don’t continue loving you because you manage to maintain a high enough standard in My eyes. No, I simply made a permanent choice to love you.”
That choice will never change. He loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love for me—and for you—will never end. It’s a lifelong, eternity-long relationship, now and forever available to meet our every need as we seek to know Him better.
Even When We Rebel
We see God’s unchanging love in an especially beautiful way in the book of Hosea. There God declared that He still loved His people “though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Hosea’s message shows God’s constant love for His people, even when they spurned Him and persisted in rebelling against Him.
God speaks these words to His people in Hos. 11:8: “How can I give you up, Israel? . . . My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong” (Good News Bible). And the New Living Translation puts it this way, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? . . . My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.”
This was His attitude toward them even though they had persistently rebelled against Him. God had patiently sent them warnings over the centuries, but so often they refused to listen. Finally, He had to send severe chastening. They needed it, and He gave it. But even that chastening was evidence of His love, just as it is in our lives. Throughout it all His attitude was still, “How can I let you go?” He cannot give us up. He cannot abandon us. His love for us is too strong.
How that relieves my heart!
Even when I’m letting something else be more important to me than God, God is still loving me. Even when He must discipline me, He says, “I won’t go one bit further than I have to for your good, and I would never cut you off from My love. My heart would never allow it.” He recoils at the very thought of ever withdrawing His love for us.
Psalm 73:26 begins, “My flesh and my heart may fail”—yes, this will happen to us in different ways all through life. Our bodies and souls may grow weak and waste away. And worse than that, we may inwardly and outwardly fail to trust and obey the Lord. But we can come right back to Him, confess how we have failed, and let the Lord love us. Then we can go on to personalize the last part of this verse, saying with the psalmist, “Lord, You are the strength of my heart, the source of my stability; and You are my chosen portion forever.”
Love without Limits
God’s love is incalculably great. His love is abounding, vast, infinite. His love has no limitations, no boundaries. In both duration and extent it is limitless. We’ll never be able to get out of it or away from it or beyond it.
Notice the description of God’s love in Eph. 3:16–19. Paul speaks of how the Spirit within us strengthens us so that we can, in fuller measure, have Christ dwelling within us. He says, “I pray . . . that your life will be strong in love and be built on love” (Eph 3:17, NCV). He goes on to pray that we will know in actual experience the greatness of Christ’s love—that we will understand more fully its boundless dimensions, how long and wide and high and deep it is, though it is far greater than anyone can ever know.
God’s love is limitless. This means there are no bounds to the encouragement and hope and strength it can give us. Once I found myself under unusual pressure while my husband, Warren, was gone for almost a month. Situations arose that were difficult for me to cope with. In those stressful weeks the Lord deeply ministered to me through 2 Thess. 2:16–17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (paraphrase based on NASB and Phillips).
Here is His personal, loving touch: encouragement and hope that never fail because they are by grace, not based on my deserving. My heart—and yours—may often fail and our resources prove to be inadequate. But the Lord Himself, who loves us, is always ready to inspire us with courage and confidence, as J. B. Phillips puts it.
The Lord does not parcel out little dabs of love—”Well, you’ve been good children today, so I’ll love you a little bit.” No, His love flows freely. It overflows, coming to us in an abounding way. We read in Ro. 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “It floods our hearts,” as James Moffatt translates it. It’s a tremendous outpouring of love—not in skimpy measure, but rather in a flood, an inundation.
And He has put right within us the source of this abounding love—the Holy Spirit—so His love can be poured out abundantly throughout our whole being. We don’t have to settle for trivial little insights into His love. We can experience vastly more of it than we do at present, if we truly want to—if we open ourselves to Him and His Word, seeking and yielding and trusting.
The Grace behind His Love
God’s love is linked inseparably with His grace, His attitude of unmerited favor toward us. Grace is the basis on which He first chose us in His love, and His overflowing grace is the basis on which He continues to lavish His love upon us.
We read in Ro. 5:20 in the Wuest translation that where sin abounded, “grace superabounded with more added to that.” There are no words to adequately convey the abundance of God’s grace. So we can just say that it “superabounds—with more added to that”!
God’s love is so great that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. We can always approach His throne of grace and receive forgiveness, whether for a large, even scandalous sin, or for any of the mass of little failures that get us down so that we think, Oh, do I have to confess that again?
The flow of God’s love never stops; it always shines forth undimmed. But our response determines whether it gets through to us. We can pull the blinds—or we can open them. We choose what we’ll let ourselves be filled with, and God respects our choice. He does not force His love on us. But at all times His love flows and shines—perfect, unwavering, available to meet our needs.
We see this unchanging flow of God’s love portrayed in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father was waiting for the son to turn his back on his rebellion and return home. And when he saw him coming, he didn’t have to think twice about responding with fervent love. The flow of his love had never lessened, though the son had strayed to a far country and into terrible sin.
All of us need this grace. To the person with desperate needs who is willing to admit them, God shows His love. Do you qualify? I know I do. I qualify because I have needs—desperate needs. And He has made me willing to admit them and let Him meet them. When I fail to recognize how needy I am, He graciously works to remind me (at times in painful ways). And He renews my willingness to say, “Lord, I’m so messed up, so needy, so unable to obey You and to handle life in my own strength. So I bring my deep needs to You.”
As we mature through the years, we see shortcomings and areas of neglect in our lives that we didn’t know were there. So often, when we feel we’re doing well (if we’ve been victorious and had our quiet time every day and learned Bible verses and been nice to our family and our neighbors), then we think, God surely loves me today. Then we drop into those low times—we’re sure there’s no way He could love us now. So at the very point where we need His love most, we don’t even dare come before Him to seek and experience it. We forget that He has always loved us, even when we had absolutely no use for Him at all. And He will always love us—just because.
When it comes to human love, we like to see action as well as words, don’t we?
Words, of course, are important. A wife never tires of hearing her husband tell her again, “I love you.” God gives us plenty of words to tell us He loves us, but He also acts upon that love. His greatest action was sending His Son to suffer humiliation and anguish for us when we still had no use for Him. He was willing to pay the highest price possible so that we could belong to Him, so that He could have a loving relationship with us.
His love for you and me is a costly love. In the Wuest translation of 1 Jn. 4:7 we read that God’s love is “divine and self-sacrificial.” This, again, points us to the cross—the ultimate sacrifice. Such love is foreign to our nature. Humans love like this only when their love comes from God.
In Ro. 5:6–8 we read:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And because of this sacrifice, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Ro. 5:11).
Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). A human love will conceivably die for a friend—though only the greatest of human loves would ever dare to do it. Jesus, however, died for His enemies, so that He could make us His friends, bringing us into intimate relationship with Himself. That’s how much He desires to have us near Him.
Only God is the source of such love. His is truly the greatest love of all.
The Favor of the King
In this, as in all that God gives us, He is immeasurably generous. His love gives and gives and is never depleted, because His power and resources are unlimited. He never has need to give in a grudging way. As Eph. 3:20 says, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think—beyond our fondest dreams. He’s a total giver who loves to give, who delights to do good for us, so that we can live truly abundant lives.
Romans 5:17 speaks of what Christ has done for believers and how “by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness” people can now “live their lives victoriously” (Phillips). We have this possibility of living royally because of the abundance of God’s grace. As we have seen, grace means “unmerited favor,” favor that we don’t have to earn, favor that we don’t deserve. In fact, we deserve just the opposite!
And whose favor is it? The favor of the King of kings. Favor that flows out from Him toward us. And as we receive it, realizing we are highly favored by the only truly important person who exists, it does something in our hearts. If we belong to the King of kings, we can be sure of His favor whenever we approach Him.
God loves to honor our requests and bestow His favors upon us. God delights to do the things that delight us, and so He gives to us lavishly. He is not a stingy God. When Jesus came to this earth, His purpose was to share with us His true and eternal treasures. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
These riches include everything we need here on earth for a full spiritual life and a satisfying emotional life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).
This is all ours to enjoy as we seek to know Him better.