Did you know there’s no more important purpose to pursue than love? Oh, I’ll be the first to admit it often doesn’t feel that way. It sometimes feels so little that way that love being the most important thing can seem ridiculous.
Why? Because our world is one where people almost always grab for their own needs first. If reaching for our own needs helps someone in the process, great. If it not, too bad.
We’re a bunch of wounded people living on a wounded planet. And we’ve seen firsthand what happens if we don’t protect ourselves from threats that could cause pain. People could take advantage of us if we don’t guard our well-being.
In light of that, it’s not surprising that we’ve built up plenty of emotional and physical walls to protect ourselves. But in doing so, we’ve suffered another unintended consequence. It’s made it difficult to give and receive love (or to understand what real love is).
We all struggle with dark (sinful) and untrusting hearts. And the more darkness we share and receive, the more convinced we become that love doesn’t matter as much as God says it does.
If each of our hearts is a well, every one holds polluted water. And what are we to say of a God who allows us to keep going on that way?
Could it be that the Maker of such fatally flawed beings is just a much more powerful flawed being Himself? Or, could it be He got the world going but, somewhere in the process, everything got out of control and now He can’t stop it?
These are the types of worries and fears that can cross the brains of even God’s children at times. That’s why God gave us his word. He wanted us to be constantly reminded of the truth—That, despite appearances, everything’s completely under his control, and He’s 100% good all the time.
Still, another lingering challenge can exist. We read about God’s perfect unconditional love. And there’s no shortage of available knowledge about that love. But too often, there’s a shortage of an experience of God’s unconditional love.
Is there something wrong with us? Or, is something wrong with God? Or, is there something wrong with both of us?
The short answer is that there is, in fact, something badly wrong with us. There isn’t a hint of anything wrong with God. And God longs to take us all through the process of healing so there’s eventually nothing wrong with us either.
God wants what’s best for us even though we often struggle to see it. His love for us is perfect and complete. But if that’s true, why do we so often fail to see it? Why does it seem like we’ve been plopped into a world full of millions of selfish intentions and left to fend for ourselves?
In light of that, let’s explore why it’s often difficult to grasp the perfect love of God. Next, I want to remind you that He loves you more than you can fathom even (or, perhaps, especially) when it’s a struggle to come to that realization.
We’re All Broken Because of Sin
For starters, our indwelling sin makes it much more difficult to understand God’s perfect love. The sin nature passed on to us from our parents going back to Adam and Eve has wrecked us. Since everyone around us is also wrecked, it’s easy to lose sight of how desperate our condition is.
Sin’s curse causes all animals and people to die, and we’re prone to think this is normal. It’s not normal but the cancer of sin has made it seem that way. Because of our hurts, we hurt others and imagine that’s normal too but it’s not. Not even close.
Not only are our thoughts and actions bad, our judgment is often impaired. For instance, we imagine that certain things are good for us that aren’t. And we decide certain things are bad for us that are beneficial to us.
In the same way, we’re told in the Scriptures that giving our lives over to God, getting rid of sin and relating to Him are the ultimate good we can participate in. At the same time, we feel the ever-present pull to go in the opposite direction of the perfect road set before us by God.
We may fear God’s trying to spoil our fun, that He’s indifferent, or He’s unable to help us. And with these suspicions and many other possible ones, it becomes difficult to see God for who He is. We spend all our time running from Him. But if we could just slow down, we’d see He’s our biggest fan.
God isn’t out to manipulate, take advantage of, flatter or demean us. He eagerly waits for us to make peace with Him and to be gradually restored.
This perfectly loving God wants to take something broken beyond repair and do the impossible. He wants to reclaim and restore our hearts and lives. But in our brokenness, it can be tough to see God’s loving and flawless intentions.
The wonderful news is the more we say no to sin and evil, the better we see God. And the better we see God, the more we’re able to grasp his perfect love. Once that happens, we experience an ever-increasing desire to do what He says.
First and foremost, this isn’t done out of the fear of punishment. Rather, it comes from confidently knowing God loves us and that He’ll always care for us. Just like a young child wants to make his affectionate parents happy, so we want to do the same in our relationship with God.
So, ask God to help you peel off those sin layers. And be determined to change while standing firmly in the empowerment of God. The more you do this, the less your sin nature will blind you to the perfectly loving intentions of God.
We’re All Limited Created Beings
The Bible makes it clear we’re completely ruined because of sin. Apart from Jesus, not only are we enemies of God, but we deserve eternal separation from God and judgment because of our failure to keep God’s righteous law perfectly. But the abrasive effects sin has had on our hearts and minds isn’t the only challenge we face when trying to grasp the perfect love of God.
We’re also limited in our understanding simply because we’re created beings. Only God comprehends everything. All creation is extremely limited in its ability to fathom the depths of God’s love. Christian music artist, Chris Rice, illustrated this well in his song called ‘Big Enough’:
“Three-and-a-half pounds of brain try to figure out
What this world is all about
And is there an eternity, is there an eternity?”
Three-and-a-half pounds of brain isn’t a lot to work with when trying to understand the love of God, is it? Many of us could easily fluctuate that much in our body weight and hardly notice a difference. This isn’t meant to demean the God-created marvels of the brain which any scientist will tell you are mysteriously complex.
It does help us realize, however, that we shouldn’t be surprised if we struggle to grasp the full depth of God’s love. As created beings, we can try our best but even our most valiant efforts will still fall far short.
Because We Don’t Understand What Real Love Is
Another reason we struggle to comprehend the perfect love of God is because we generally struggle to understand what real love is. There’s a lot of cultural confusion out there. We’re told the following in the scriptures:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”I John 1:5
Just like God is complete light (righteousness) without a hint of darkness (evil), He’s also complete love without the smallest speck of hatred. Love isn’t just something that God does. It’s something He is. And, unlike us, all of God’s actions are motivated by love. This is true even when He has no choice but to judge people for their sin.
In contrast, there’s the world of fallen Angels, including the devil and his demon followers. These beings likely number at least in the millions (a third of God’s holy angels fell with Satan). The demon world exhibits the exact opposite of who God is. You could say that Satan and his demonic followers are darkness and in them there is no light at all.
Not the smallest hint of good in the devil or any of his countless armies could be found no matter how hard you searched for it. God has allowed this earth to be under siege by the evil one and his followers for a short time. Because of this evil reign, people on Earth are in a perpetual state of confusion, struggle and spiritual warfare.
So, what are we like? Although sin has ruined us, we’re not nearly as good as God or as evil as the demon world. Instead, we’re constantly pulled back and forth between the two. And because that’s our ongoing existence, it shouldn’t surprise us that we struggle to understand what real love is.
Even our best attempts at loving others are mired with our agenda and self- interests. Often, we’re not even aware of how self-absorbed our attempts at love are. We also regularly confuse infatuation and lust with love when they have more to do with feelings and drug-like adrenaline surges than the hard work of unconditional love.
With infatuation and lust, the moment we no longer have the high we’re after, we’re tempted to leave that person or situation and go in search of the next high. But that certainly isn’t the example of love set forth by Jesus. Infatuation or lust would never have been strong enough to cause Jesus to go to the cross and suffer a horrible death to be our sin substitute.
No, infatuation and lust would’ve caused Him to run in exactly the opposite direction. It would have been all about self-preservation and self-fulfillment. And that focus on self would’ve made it impossible for Him to carry out the mission God had for Him. Thank God, Jesus was victorious over sin when we couldn’t be!
Sadly, the word love has become watered-down in our cultures around the world too. Love can refer to how you feel about food, about lust or any other changeable or flippant predilections or desires. We fool ourselves into thinking this is love, but often we’re far from what it is in its truest form.
As is often said, “Love is a verb.” Love causes those who exercise it in its purity to act for the greater good of someone else even to the point of self-sacrifice. That’s what Jesus perfectly fulfilled on Earth. He loved God his Father and people (while being fully human and fully part of the Godhead).
Too often, we fail to do either. We fail to love God and therefore we fail to love people. And we fail to love people and therefore fail to love God. We fall drastically short of understanding what love is or how to carry it out. And so, we struggle to grasp God’s infinite and perfect love.
We struggle so much to see love correctly that when God’s love finally shows up, we often don’t notice it. Daily, God provides us far more than we deserve by giving us breath, life, health and food among many other blessings.
Day after day, He pours out his kindness on both his children and those who reject Him. His love is everywhere but we regularly miss it. We think all the good things around us are just something we deserve. We imagine we’ve earned them when the only reason anything good is in this world is because of a perfectly good God.
He’s far more generous than He has to be. But we regularly fail to see that. In our sinful desire for pleasure and comfort, we tend to get irritated with God if we feel He doesn’t give us all that we want or ‘deserve’. The truth is we don’t want what we deserve because that would be hell. God in his kindness, lovingly gives us time to turn to Him and to be forgiven of our sins.
God’s incredibly patient with us in this life as He holds back what we deserve out of his mercy. His love continually goes out to all the Earth despite the regular tragedies that exist here because of sin. But, too often, even the most up-close encounters with the perfect love of God go unnoticed. Our ideas of love are often so skewed that we’re oblivious to the baffling kindness of God.
Because We’ve Been Repeatedly Disappointed in Our Relationships
One of the main reasons we struggle to grasp the perfect and complete love of God is because we’ve lived a life full of broken earthly relationships. Even the best earthly relationships are far more broken than we can understand. It’s just that when contrasted with the most dysfunctional human interactions, we can see greater good in these better friendships.
Still, even in the best human interactions, a fear can lurk in the back of our brains. What if this person isn’t safe? What if they wouldn’t love me if they found out who I really am? Am I too needy to be loved by them? And the fears go on and on.
Why do those fears crop up? Because this is how we’ve lived out our lives here on Earth. The best earthly relationships are very conditional because of the scarring effects of sin. Even parents who should be the most unconditionally loving people to their children greatly struggle because of their brokenness.
Jesus described this well when He said that earthly parents know how to give good gifts to their children even though they’re evil. The best earthly parents still disappoint their children at times. By God’s standards, they all have sinful and selfish hearts.
So, if even our parents struggle to love us like they should, that’s quite disappointing, isn’t it? If earthly parents can’t love us unconditionally, who can? And that’s the point. The answer is no earthly relationship can come close to God’s unconditional love for us. We’re all too broken for that.
The longer you live on Earth, the more you become aware of this painful reality. Human relationships, even the best ones, fall short of our hopes to some extent. God still provides beautiful friendships despite sin. The strong friendship of David and Jonathan is a perfect example of that. It doesn’t mean we should give up trying to have authentic and meaningful friendships with others. God calls us to love people after all.
These authentic relationships can become a part of our healing process after coming to God. But, at the same time, they can cause extreme hurt. Each relationship is marred to some extent because of our sin nature. And because of this, all of us can struggle to comprehend the perfect love of God.
We tend to fear that God’s like everyone else. When all you’ve known is brokenness, it’s tough to imagine anything better. You don’t want to get your hopes up and set yourself up for even greater disappointment, so you settle for less.
All the while, even though we rarely perceive it, God’s perfect love awaits us. It awaits us when we reject Him or stray from Him. It’s still there when we doubt his existence. It’s also present when we attempt to self-medicate with sin because we feel unloved or overwhelmed.
When we assume no better love exists than the broken relationships around us, we miss an important point. All of that relational brokenness was never meant to cause us to give up looking for something better and perfect. It was meant to do the opposite.
After going through life realizing all relationships aren’t what we hoped, that should send us looking for a superior love. Relational disappointment is meant to draw us to God’s perfect love which never disappoints. The utter brokenness and failure of earthly love attracts us to a perfectly loving God who can heal and repair all our hurts. With God, no evil intentions lurk under the surface as so often is the case with our human relationships.
Because We’re Still Growing
Comprehending God’s perfect love doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a process played out over many years. In our earthly lives as God’s children, spiritual growth is a long and sometimes painful process. A lifetime of walking with God is involved. And that, like any good goal you reach for, involves a lot of failure on the path to success. There are some struggles you’ll face until the day you die.
The Apostle Paul prayed for believers to better understand God’s love. He knew if they did, it would be life-changing:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”Ephesians 3:14,17-19
We like to think of spiritual growth as a linear or sequential process. In reality, it’s often a lot messier than that. We may make some progress for a while and lose some ground right after that, for instance. Still, God’s ultimate goal for his children is slow but steady spiritual growth. He wants to see his children gradually draw closer to Him. As we grow in our faith, God’s perfect love becomes all the more obvious.
Still, even with a lifetime of growth, we’ll struggle to fully see his love more completely until Heaven as the Apostle Paul alluded to:
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”I Corinthians 13:12
The great faith chapter of Hebrews also describes a similar experience. It illustrates how Abraham could only humanly perceive traces of God’s spiritual promises. The rest he had to believe by faith.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”Hebrews 11:13
So, we see that our ability to understand the things of God including his love in this life are limited even after significant spiritual growth. These two passages would imply a type of difficulty at looking into spiritual matters caused by living under sin’s curse.
This partial blindness doesn’t appear to be related to our specific sins that would blind us to the greater workings of God. Rather, they’re one of the many unavoidable results of living in a fallen world. Just like you wouldn’t blame a baby’s blindness on their sin although it’s caused by sin’s curse. This dimness of spiritual insight is unavoidable regardless of our closeness to God while in this earthly life.
And so we go on growing in our walk with God and seeing his unconditional love more clearly in the process. At the same time, we’re not home yet and the things of God will often seem ‘dim’ or ‘viewed from far away’. While on Earth, we’ll struggle with our spiritual sight. But once we get to Heaven, we’ll get our 20/20 vision!
Because We’re Not Home Yet
We haven’t made it to our heavenly home yet and that leaves us with significant spiritual vision problems. We’ll be there soon enough though.
Until then, we’re in for a struggle. But it won’t always be that way. We’ll get the full treatment when we finally see God face-to-face. It’ll take less than a split-second for the perfect change to come over us (the one we struggled all our lives to achieve).
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”I John 3:2
What will that be like? It’ll be the fulfillment and healing of every heartache and loneliness you’ve ever known. A peace will instantly flood over you that always alluded you before. You’ll have spent your entire earthly life trying to make an adequate home for yourself but always falling short. And now you’ll know why.
Home was never meant to be a building. It was always meant to be a Person. And being in the arms of your God would be more than satisfying enough throughout all eternity if Heaven consisted of nothing else. To be loved by Him is all that matters in the end.
He is Heaven. All the extras are just thrown in by a Perfect Parent with unlimited resources to show his infinite love for you. How will that look? We can’t begin to understand the wonderful things God has planned for his children. At that moment, you’ll never again wonder what the perfect love of God feels like. At the same time, you’ll spend all eternity trying to intellectually comprehend his love but still fall short!
“But as it is written:
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,I Corinthians 2:9
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'”