Friday, January 6, 2017

Loving the Lord When It Doesn't Feel Like He Loves You


I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. Maybe because the focus of my scripture study the last few months has been the love of Christ. Especially how Nephi says this love is “desirable to make one happy,” “most sweet, above all [we’ve] ever before tasted,” and “most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne. 8:10, 12, and 11:23). Add to that Paul’s declaration that nothing—“not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword”—can separate us from this wonderful love (Romans 8:35). The scriptures really do paint a picture of the Lord’s love as the Mount Everest of mortal experience. As the most amazing, life-changing thing our heart will ever experience.

As encouraging as those words may be, I’m in a situation right now that seems to be testing those scriptural promises to the limit. For one thing, Paul says that trials and tribulations can never separate us from the Lord’s sweet love. And I believe him. Really, I do. But I’ll be honest and say that lately my heart has struggled to feel what my head so firmly believes. After more than 9 months of praying and pleading for a job, we still don’t have one. So it’s easy to drift into thoughts of feeling forsaken and abandoned and alone. Like the Lord’s not listening or He just doesn’t care.

The thing is, my head knows without a doubt that those thoughts aren’t true. My head can rehearse scripture after scripture where Christ promises us that He’ll never forsake us and that He’ll always hear the prayers of the faithful (for starters, see Deut. 31:6, Isa. 43:2, & D&C 108:8). But some days, my heart just doesn’t feel particularly loved. I mean, if He really loved me, He’d get our family out of this predicament, right? If He really cared, He’d relieve us of this long, hard struggle. Because He hasn’t, it can be tempting to believe that, unlike Paul’s scripture promises, we’re as separated and distant from the Christ’s tender love as it’s possible to get.

I think we face a difficult choice when we’re mired in some kind of difficult or long-lasting adversity. Will we trust the Lord’s promises in the scriptures and believe He loves us regardless of how we feel and regardless of the circumstances He’s allowing in our lives? Or will we listen to our heart’s pity party and start to believe that Paul and Nephi had it wrong—that trials really do have the power to separate us from His very personal and joy-producing love? When our heart is saying one thing and our head is saying another, it can be hard to know which one to trust.

And yet, we can’t just sit on the fence when it comes to this particular choice. It’s way too important. Christ made it clear that the greatest commandment of all is that we love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37-37). But how do we love Him like that when our circumstances are trying very hard to convince us that He doesn’t care about us in return?

I know there are a lot of ways to answer that question, and I’ll probably blog about many of them at one point or another. But today there’s one idea I just can’t get out of my head. Simply put, life is about being tested and proven to see if we truly love the Lord. So if He continually gives us everything we ask for and blesses us with our every wish and whim and makes sure we avoid every possible kind of adversity, what test of our love is that? Anyone would adore a God that acts like a big, jolly Santa Claus. Anyone would fall in worship before a God who exists solely to help them avoid all illness, loss, rejection, betrayal, or suffering. A God who jumps when they say jump. Who indulges their comfort zone and allows them to sail through life untested and untried.

So rather than indulging us, I believe the Lord sometimes chooses to deny us our heart’s greatest desire. And I believe He does so on purpose. Yes, He could definitely grant us immediate answers to our prayers and make everything work out happily ever after the minute we ask him. We’d never be left out or unemployed or single or infertile or struggling or in need.

But by allowing these kinds of things to happen to us, it could be that He’s trying to get us to consider one very important question:

“What do you love more . . . Me? Or My blessings?”

I know that may sound weird, but isn’t it possible that I can love Him only for what He does for me . . . rather than just for who He is as my Redeemer?? When trials hit, I think it’s a great time to look underneath the hood and see what’s going on deep inside my heart. To see what happens to my love for Christ when He seems distant or cold or unfriendly. Or when I can’t understand what in the world He could possibly be doing in my life. In times like these, am I going to turn away in disillusionment? Or do I really love Him enough just to trust Him? To believe that He knows what He’s doing and in the end, it will all work out for my good (Rom. 8:28)?

It’s the very same way my love is tested in my marriage relationship. For instance, am I only going to love my husband if he’s bringing me roses and rubbing my feet and hanging on my every word night after night? Or will I still love him when he’s so stressed that he hardly even notices that I’m there? Am I a fair-weather wife? Is my love only a response to how well he treats me? Or is it based on a much deeper commitment than just my own need-based emotion?

And can I say the same thing is true for my relationship with Jesus Christ?

Perhaps, in the end, this whole test we’re going through is less about the Lord’s love for me (which the scriptures promise me is constant), and more about whether or not I really love Him.

If that’s the case, it’s a test of love I really don’t want to fail.


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