If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words or phrases, what would you pick? Would you pick something related to your profession? A special talent or skill? An accomplishment that you’re proud of? How about loved by God?
When it comes to describing my identity, picking a few words is difficult, especially considering that parts of my identity have changed over time. I’ve gone from high school student to college student to intern to English teacher to young professional in less than ten years. Even though being loved by God has always been part of my identity, sometimes I still struggle with accepting God’s love and living as the child of God that I am.
Lately, God has brought that to my attention and started to transform my heart. God has shown me how to accept His love while drawing me closer to Him.
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Understanding God’s Love
The world is quick to put standards on us and burden us with heavy expectations. If you turn on the TV, every commercial is telling you what you need to buy to be more cool, more accepted, and more loved.
If you scroll on social media, you’ll see the same–images and posts reminding you of what you don’t have and how you lacking something means that you are not enough. They encourage you to post more to be seen! Post more to be loved! Do more to achieve! And buy more to elevate your status and worth.
It’s easy to get caught up in what the world tells us. I know that I have. I have searched for love in the world in all the wrong places–accomplishments at work, praise from supervisors, approval from friends and family, and even working my way into God’s love.
When all of those things turned up empty and I found myself still hopeless and searching, I realized that something had to change.
By digging deep into Scripture and spending time with God in prayer, I realized that I need to stop striving for love and instead strive to accept God’s love, which He has already graciously bestowed on me.
Knowing that I am loved by God isn’t enough for me to live as if I’m loved by God. I have to take that a step further and start fully understanding God’s love for me.
What God says about Love
For understanding God’s love, I went straight to the source–God’s word. The Bible is overflowing with scriptures about God’s love. In fact, the entire Bible and the gospel, the story of redemption, is God’s love revealed to us.
A couple of verses that stand out to me when it comes to understanding God’s love are 1 John 4:7-10 and Ephesians 2.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”1 John 4:7-10 (ESV)
Verse 7 in particular sticks out to me, reminding me that God is love. Love is part of His character. Thus, understanding God’s love means also understanding Him. We find God’s love when we seek to know who He is.
How does God reveal His love?
In verse 10 of 1 John 4, John makes the distinction that the definition of love comes from God, not us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us.” God has also loved us in many ways: by being our Creator, Healer, Sustainer, Counselor and bringing us peace (Colossians 1:16, Isaiah 9:6). But later in this chapter, John emphasizes the point that God first loved us and that Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God’s love for us. Paul concurs with John in his letter to the Colossians.
“For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.“1 Colossians 1:19-20
God has revealed His love for us through Jesus Christ, who brought us back from condemnation and made peace between us and God. Through his sacrifice, we were able to receive God’s mercy and grace, meaning we didn’t receive what we deserved, the punishment for our sins. Instead, we’ve been called children of God.
Understanding that We are Loved by God
Speaking of mercy and grace, I love what Paul writes in Ephesians 2. The first ten verses summarize the gospel so beautifully. For understanding God’s love so we know how to accept God’s love, I turn to verses 4-6.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
In Ephesians, Paul makes it very clear that God’s love is God’s love. It is so great, unfailing, unconditional, powerful, overwhelming, awe-inspiring that it can only be from God. Also, it is not something that we deserve or earned or will earn. It is only because of God’s rich mercy and His great love that we have been given grace through Jesus Christ, who grants us salvation.
This is great news! Not only because we have been given salvation through Jesus, but also because we don’t have to work to earn our salvation.
Before and after salvation, we all struggle with sin. We fall short of the perfection that only Jesus could accomplish. There’s no way we could reach God without grace. And because of His love, He has given salvation to us. So understanding God’s love means understanding God, Jesus’ sacrifice, the gospel, and amazing grace.
We are Loved By God
I know that we are loved by God, but striving for God’s love instead of accepting God’s love is an area where I still struggle. Since so much of our society is merit-based–valuing hard work, sweat, tears, and sacrifice–it’s easy to apply those same principles to my relationship with Jesus.
Sometimes I don’t “work for God’s love” consciously. I just start going through the motions (because I “have to”), feeling guilt and shame in areas of my life where I shouldn’t, and playing the comparison game with other Christians in my life. Next thing I know, I’m feeling burdened and stressed by my walk with the Lord and grappling to figure out where I went wrong.
For those times, I have to remember my identity in Christ. I have to remind myself that I am loved by God, and that no one and nothing can change that (Romans 8:38-39). Most importantly, I cannot change God’s love for me by how I act because, as it says in Ephesians 2, His character is why I am loved by God. Not my own.
What does the Bible say about being loved by God?
The list of Bible verses that demonstrate how we are loved by God is too long to include here. Safe to say that you should never run out of Scripture passages about God’s love! But one Bible passage that resonates with me about being loved by God is in John 10.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”John 10:14-15, 27-29 (emphasis added)
Jesus is frequently referred to in scripture as our shepherd who guides us, provides for us, and protects us. I see being loved by God the same way. In John 10, Jesus mentions laying down his life for us, guiding us by his voice, keeping us safe, and providing us with eternal life. So, the Bible says that as a child of God, we are loved by God and being cared for by our good shepherd.
Why are we loved by God?
We are loved by God because He created us. We were created by a compassionate God and in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). After He created us, He didn’t just take off and leave us to our own devices. He sought us, to have a relationship with us, like a Father and child.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” Isaiah 49:15-16
God loves us because we are His children. We are a part of His kingdom and made to dwell with Him.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Colossians 1:21-22
He wants to spend eternity with us because He loves us. Through the transformation of our hearts and his sacrifice, we are presented as righteous before God. Thus, we can spend eternity with Him. That is grace! This is the love that God wants us to accept from Him.
How to Accept God’s Love
So, understanding God’s love means understanding God and the story of the gospel. Being loved by God means knowing that the good shepherd is watching over you.
Accepting God’s love is another story. It’s where I struggle the most when it comes to God’s love. With my task-oriented, ambitious attitude, it feels wrong to just accept God’s love without having earned it. Thankfully, there is scripture, prayer, grace, and quietness teaching me how to accept God’s love.
1. Accepting God’s Love with Scripture
When it comes to accepting God’s love, Scripture is usually one of the first places that I start. With all of the clamour and noise in the world, it can be hard to find true North. Truth gets lost in the busyness of our lives and the lies the devil permeates.
Scripture is the medicine to our souls.
It reminds us of God’s truth and can be used as a weapon against the lies of the devil. Scripture is packed with bible verses about God’s love and constantly shows us how God loves us.
If we are discouraged, it encourages us. If we are weak, it gives us strength. When we are weary, God comforts us through Scripture. Once we start striving for God’s love, Scripture reminds us this is not the life God has destined for His children.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
Scripture warns us that “earning God’s love” is not truth. It is a lie that the devil tells us to distance us from God and turn our joy into sorrow. Instead, Scripture prompts us to accept God’s love as the free, merciful gift that it is.
2. Accepting God’s Love with Prayer
After reading Scripture and reminding myself of the truth of God’s word, I turn to prayer to help me in accepting God’s love. Prayer draws me closer to God and His love.
We are blessed that we have such direct access to a Holy God. At any moment, in any place, we can pray to our Heavenly Father and know with confidence that He hears us.
My prayers usually start out frazzled because I am stressed in my effort to earn God’s love. But as I speak to God and tell him honestly how I am feeling, I am slowly filled with His peace and comfort. I picture Jesus interceding for me to God and remember that my sins are covered by the gospel.
I am a child of God, which is why God hears my prayers. Above all, He knows my heart and knows that I belong to Him.
3. Accepting God’s Love with Grace
Grace has been a game changer for me when it comes to accepting God’s love. It’s also been something that I’ve had to work a lot at accepting over the past year.
Sometimes, my pride creeps into my heart, and I feel like a “good Christian.” Maybe I did something nice for someone in my small group, or said a prayer that people complimented me on, or read my Bible in a whole year, or gave extra tithes in the offering tray, etc.
Pride shows up and congratulates me. Then I start thinking that I’ve earned some of the grace that God has given me. This only drives my “work for God’s love” mentality that is so contrary to grace and who God is.
It is the free, unearned gift of salvation that God has bestowed on us. We can’t earn grace because we are sinners (Romans 3:23), and sin separates us from God, just as it separated Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.
Making up for sin with good deeds is something invented by man to give us a sense of control when it comes to salvation. And I’ve definitely believed it too many times. Thankfully, there is grace for those of us struggling to just accept God’s love!
God’s grace is overflowing. Everytime you stumble or get tricked by pride you can return to God, and He will extend grace to you.
4. Accepting God’s Love with Quietness
The last way I go about accepting God’s love is in quietness and stillness. Quietness may look different for different people.
I find that having set aside time early in the morning to focus on scripture before I open my laptop is helpful. It allows me to start off my day by thinking about God’s love and my identity in Him. I may start a gratitude list to begin my daily reflection. Other days, I will go on a walk around the block and listen to nature instead of music. In the whisper of the wind and the beauty of the fauna around me, I feel God’s love.
How do I receive God’s love?
Lately, in addition to devotional time and stillness, I’ve been using Christian meditation to receive God’s love. The podcaster in particular that I listen to talks about how God’s love is meant to be received and experienced.
His love is not just something that we read about in the Bible and that we know in our mind. It is something that God has given to us.
Through this mediation, I am able to quiet my mind, forget about the work waiting for me and all of my coworkers pinging me, and just focus on receiving God’s love. I turn my heart and spiritual eyes toward the Lord and pray for Him to fill me with His love.
While I felt silly the first time I did a Christian mediation, what a difference it made!
Take a moment to receive God’s love.
Still your heart and mind, turn toward the Lord, and repeat a scripture about God’s love in your mind. Ask God to pour his love out on you, and sit there long enough to receive it.
Finding God’s Love in Unexpected Places
Like all of the verses mentioned demonstrate, the gospel is one of the best places to start when it comes to finding God’s love. Dive into Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to understand God’s love and understand who you are: loved by God.
As I’ve read more Scripture, I’ve come to understand the overarching story of God’s grace, centered around Jesus’s Christ and carried throughout the entire Bible. From creation to redemption, God has cared for us like the good shepherd He is.
Outside of the Bible, I’ve found God’s love in nature and in other people. Earth is a work of art–God’s canvas. In all of my traveling, I’ve seen many wonders that point me back to God. Something as simple as a ray of sunlight on a day that’s gone sour for me can remind me of God’s love.
The kindness in the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ also astounds me. When I was living abroad, the Christians there didn’t care where I came from, what I looked like, or what language I spoke. I was given dinners, lodging, transportation and love, laughter, belonging, and encouragement freely and generously. In all of these experiences, I have found God’s love in how they shared that love with me.
5. Final Key to Accepting God’s Love
Learning to accept God’s love has been a process for me. I’ve used all of the ways I’ve mentioned above to learn how to accept God’s love, but sometimes experience is still the best teacher. My persistent struggle with accepting God’s love comes from trying to be in control and use that control as a comfort.
For example, when everything shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic and all structure seemed to be lost, I created structure. In my head, I told myself that surely God wants me to learn something from this time. How could I find out what that was if I didn’t make a plan of what I needed to accomplish?
So, I penciled in 7:00-7:20 am to do a devotional and 7:20-7:30 am to pray as well as a 9:45 pm prayer. I had a rigorous schedule put in place for the rest of the day with a periodic 5 minute buffer 3 times a day.
One day, when I fell apart mentally, my schedule fell apart, too. In my exhaustion, I found this Bible verse:
I realized that all of the things in my rigorous schedule were good things: quiet time, exercise, learning, writing, blogging, journaling, etc. But deep down in my heart, I was doing these things to show God how much I deserved his love instead of accepting God’s love. I had tried to be in control, and thus I had missed God’s love in the midst of my schedule and my plans.
How do you accept Jesus’ love?
Jesus did not come to give us more rules and regulations. He came to give us grace–that which we do not deserve and that which we can’t earn. John 10:10 reminded me that I was striving to have “life,” but Jesus came to give me “life in abundance.” He came to give me so much more than I could imagine
I’d gotten in the way of that with my own definitions and standards. I’d tried to earn God’s love and accomplish His purposes within my own means instead of accepting God’s love and seeking Him above all.
So for me, I accept Jesus’ love by letting go of control and accepting that He is in control. He has secured my salvation already on the cross. After tearing up the schedule, I released the burdens, the rules, and the regulations and instead chose to abide in Jesus and accept His love for me. This is the fifth key to accepting God’s love.
5 Items to Remind Us of God’s Love
Understanding God’s love and accepting that we are loved by God is a process. Sometimes it’s a process we struggle through daily, and rarely is it something we work out in one conversation with God. In the ongoing process, here are 5 items to remind us to receive God’s love.
2. Waking Up to Grace – Devotional Gift Book by Jennifer Gerelds
The subtitle of Waking Up to Grace sums up the book perfectly: “90 ways to start your day knowing you are loved.” And knowing you are loved is one of the ways we start accepting God’s love, too.
3. Artisan Ceramic Mugs
These three artisan mugs have simple, but powerful messages rooted in the truth that we are loved by God. With Scripture reminders on some mugs or a necklace gift set, these mugs turn something you use every day into a strong reminder to be accepting God’s love daily.
4. Scripture Art / Inspirational Art
Another way to remind us of God’s love is with scripture art or decor with messages of God’s love. For example, in just three words, this John 3:16 – Love Decor points us back to God’s overwhelming grace and love for us.
5. Jesus Every Day: Beautifully Broken – Devotional Guide
This interactive devotional Beautifully Broken helps us see God’s love despite and in the midst of the brokenness and heartache we’ve all experienced. Understand how God loves you and his desire to heal and see you live joyfully.
Receiving God’s Love and Living in it
As we grow in our relationships with God, we will become more assured and confident in His love for us. We will understand that His grace toward us is unearned and His love is abundant.
And when our relationship with Jesus grows, our heart naturally points toward him and we want to honor him with our mind, our actions, and our words. Not out of duty and obligation, but out of love, gratitude, and appreciation for what he’s done for us. This is a life where we’re truly accepting God’s love for us.
For you, what does it mean to be created and loved by God?
Leave me a comment below!
While You’re Here…More posts about Growing in Faith:
- 30+ Beautiful and Inspiring Verses about God’s Love
- 10 Wonderful Ways to Show God’s Love to Others
- How to Bloom where God Plants You with Grace
- Encouraging Scriptures for Emergency Situations (+Free Printable)
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