God’s agape love is eternal and encompasses all He is. He manifests Himself through His love in every detail of our lives, large or little. We can live in the assurance that we are loved by God, even when He disciplines us. We find Him when we seek Him, because He has an intimate and personal love for those who love Him.
I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. (Proverbs 8:17)
Love is an incredibly powerful and complex emotion – a driving force in the life of every single human being. It encapsulates a range of needs from acceptance through affirmation to trust. Also, it can be one of the most difficult emotions to either give or receive, depending on our history. This is why the infinite, agape love is so powerful. We instinctively hunger and thirst for it, and when we discover it we find supernatural transformation. It reaches deep within to the very centre of who we are and changes us from within. Yet many struggle to grasp and to receive it. The notion of a loving mutual intimacy with God can be enormously difficult. Often, believers will take hold of the truth that we are loved by God enough that He died for us. But they may never fully enter into the relationship He desires with them.
Loved by God has many facets.
While all facets of God’s love are perfect agape love, they are varied. There is a difference in the expression of the eternal love. Salvation is the manifestation of the universal love of God – for He so loved the world. This is broad and includes all humanity, even those He knows will never choose Him. Even as ordinary people, it is possible to love others who don’t love us. That is because true love has its source in Him, no matter whether we believe in Him or not. We’re made in His image, so what is possible for us is possible for Him and in an unlimited, eternal way. The universal loved by God draws us towards Him and salvation and then secures us in a more personal love. The generic ‘the world’ becomes ‘for God so loves me’ and is personalised as we identify fully with Christ.
In addition, we are loved by God in many various ways. He loves as Father and Lord, as Saviour and King, as Brother and Master. His vast love manifests His infinite nature and character as He reveals Himself to us. Each of the names of God are also a revelation of His love. As Jehovah Jireh, for example, He loves us through His perfect provision. The Bible is full of the wonderful and even miraculous ways that our God shows us His love. Once we come to salvation, God intends that our comprehension of His love moves from the universal to the personal. It moves from a general focus to a specific focus. We’re no longer simply loved but now live in His love and His love lives in us. It becomes a personal and dynamic relationship that touches us, transforms us, and empowers us as individuals.
To be loved by God is active and ongoing.
He loves us into the kingdom and continues to love us in the kingdom. His desire is that we know His love in an active, dynamic way. To be loved by God is ongoing. Ours is a journey of getting to know Him. The more we know, the more we love. This is a response to Him revealing His love to us continually in all ways, little and large. Today’s verse points to this dynamic difference between His universal love and His personal love. His universal love includes everyone. But His personal love is over and above. He loves us because we love Him with an added dimension of intimacy and ongoing interaction. As we love Him and reach out to Him, He runs to meet us and to reveal more of His love to us. We can never fully plumb the depths of the love of God.
What’s so beautiful and powerful, though, is the nature of this love. Yes, it’s agape and so is perfect and eternal. But the new dimension is that it’s personal, tailored specifically for each one of us. What this means is that whatever aspect of love we need, this is what He gives. His love is shaped to fit the moment. There are times when I simply go to Him needing a hug from my Dad, and that’s what He gives. At other moments, He shares my joy or sorrow or eases my fears. I first discovered this beautiful grace after my husband died. Shattered and broken, I felt the Spirit encouraging me to simply climb up on my Dad’s lap and let Him hold me as I slept. This the one-on-one tenderness that can only be found when we develop relationship with Him – when we allow Him to love us.
Discipline is part of what it is to be loved by God.
To be chastised by God is something all of us would prefer to avoid. And we can, of course, if we manage to avoid the reason for it. But the reality is that we are all weak and continue to sin, and there are times when God disciplines us. The assurance in this is that He does it because of His great love for us. Discipline is not punishment, and He will only do it when it’s necessary. Instead of resenting it, we should remind ourselves that it’s a sign that we are loved by God. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t bother. He’d simply leave us to our own devices and so reap the punishment that would be ours. Discipline, in God, is so that we can avoid punishment by His guidance to remedy things. Even in discipline, He is ever present and loves us through it.
I have often encountered wayward people who expressed disappointment in the fact that they had no boundaries. For many of them, it was a sign of lack of love. They felt their parents did not care enough to be involved in their mistakes. In essence, they experienced feelings of rejection as a result. This is because boundaries are a safety net. They create a sense of security every maturing child need. The same applies in our relationship with our heavenly Father. We need Him to participate by being engaged in our lives. It reveals that we are loved by God because He is willing to intervene. We may not like the situation, but His involvement is a sure and certain indication of His love, care, and protection. His discipline is always gentle and never for longer than necessary. The purpose behind it is to restore us to loving relationship.
We are loved by God when we seek Him.
Relationship with God is always reciprocal. He loved us first, enough to seek us out. The cross was God’s way of revealing His love and drawing us into relationship with Him. As we learn to love Him in return, He responds in love. That’s the ongoing process of deepening intimacy. But today’s verse adds a wonderful dynamic to our conventional understanding. Loving God means to seek Him diligently – to focus ourselves on seeking Him. To be diligent implies effort, focus, and discipline. In other words, when we love Him we will want to find Him. We will desire more of Him and actively reach out to Him. It’s not a passive thing at all. If we want to be loved by God and know this love, we must seek it out. We must make Him the object of our desire, diligently making the effort to build relationship.
In return, He promises that we will find Him. He won’t remain at a difference but will respond. His love will manifest in real and vital ways. We have the promise that we will know that we are loved by God. Deepening intimacy teaches us that His love is real and that He is real. It expands our faith and raises our praise and worship to new levels. It challenges us to obedience and transforms our thinking. These things – and many others – are the simple outworking of knowing His love. Blessings, answers to prayer, and direct guidance are only a few of the ways in which God reveals Himself. When we love Him and diligently seek Him, all the other things flow out of the simple truth that we are loved by God. He loved us and found us, now we love and find Him.
To be loved by God is eternal.
The one incredible blessing here is that we can never run out of God’s love. There will be as much to discover as there is today. We can look forward to a lifetime of learning to love Him and learning what it is to be loved by God. Because He cares about the details, we can seek Him and find Him in every area of our lives. Our joy is increased because we know He wants to be involved. It’s about living life with the ‘everlasting arms’ beneath us. Nothing can change how He feels, not even our own foolishness or sinfulness. It doesn’t mean that He tolerates our sin. God will never change, and if He hated sin yesterday, He’ll hate it as much today or tomorrow. But His love for us is eternal and unchanging. That’s why He will love us, even through discipline, enough to transform us.
Sweet Father, how gracious is Your love. Thank you for the assurance that it’s unchanging and everlasting. Remind us daily that we can find You and Your love in every detail of our lives. Thank You also for caring enough to discipline us when we go astray. Help us to respond with joy rather than resentment. Keep us safe in Your love always, and empower us to love and seek You above all else.