If you could be just a little bit better, a little smarter, more attractive, funnier or more successful…. a little bit more of anything. Anything but what you currently are… THEN, maybe, just maybe they’ll love you. And when you finally get their love, don’t mess it up. Don’t do anything wrong, because there’s a good chance you’ll lose their love if you do.
Have you ever found yourself trapped in this thinking? Doing mental and emotional gymnastics to feel loved? Then, when you finally change yourself just enough, the love you’ve found feels so fragile and fickle that it will likely blow away at the first glance of your real, flawed self.
Being loved is the longing of every human heart. It’s one of the few things we all have in common. But how do we get this love we long for?
Some of us are lucky enough to grow up in a home where we are told we are loved. We feel loved most days, but still there’s always a voice deep down that tells us we aren’t enough. Others of us who weren’t told we were loved by our family wouldn’t know love if it introduced itself by name.
Every one of us has our own unique “love story.” And I’m not talking about the story of when you fell head over heels for a significant other. Some of us have that story too, but ALL of us have a story about whether we believe we are unconditionally loved or not. When you get that story right in your heart, it will change every story in your life.
Unconditional love is a hard concept to understand. It’s hard to wrap our minds around. Most of the love we experience here on earth feels conditional or earned. And to complicate matters even further, our experience with love here on earth will likely distort our perception of God’s love for us as well.
When I was younger, I would read in the Bible that God’s love for me was unconditional, that it was endless and without borders – but if I’m honest, I didn’t truly believe it. I felt like God was constantly looking over my shoulder… disappointed in the mistakes I made, frustrated with my shortcomings, and annoyed that I just couldn’t get it right.
I envisioned God as this looming figure that was waiting to punish me for my faults. A God that would find any excuse NOT to love me.
I wanted desperately to please God. I would read my bible, go to church, play in the worship band… anything I could to check off my list of “How to earn God’s love.” I remember vividly the markers I’d set for myself that I thought would please God. And I remember vividly how ashamed and guilty I’d feel when I didn’t hit those markers.
But here’s the thing I learned through that process – It didn’t matter if I was doing everything “right” or everything “wrong” – I still felt the same. Empty. Alone. I was at a place where even my relationship with God was a to-do list item that wasn’t built on relationship. It was built on condition.
Even when I’d be disciplined in my quiet time or attend church multiple times a week, I still felt unworthy. And the times that I slipped up and did something wrong, I felt embarrassed and discouraged.
The problem lies in this: When we focus on everything that we’re doing – whether right or wrong – we are missing the point of the gospel and missing the precious gift that God gives to us freely. His love for us isn’t built on anything that we can do on our own. It isn’t merited in our accomplishments or status. It’s a FREE gift that we simply have to receive. Open handed, open-hearted.
Two events in my life really helped me understand God’s love in a profound way. The first was when I met my wife Meredith, and she told me her story. She didn’t have it all together, she didn’t grow up hearing “I love you” on a regular basis, and she didn’t know about Jesus. But when she was 17 years old and attended a Young Life event, she heard about and received the love of Jesus for the first time in her life. She didn’t have any preconceived notions of how to accept God’s love. She didn’t have a list of to-do items that would qualify her for God’s love. She could just accept it. No strings attached. And it changed her life.
It helped me understand that growing up hearing about grace and hearing about love made it harder for me to not take it for granted. At some point, they became words without meaning. And I had to re-evaluate what they actually meant to me in my own life. It opened the door for God to reveal to me the things I knew in my head but had disconnected from my heart.
The second event was when I became a father myself. When my son Harvey was born, it changed me in a way of understanding what it means to love someone – simply because I do.
It’s not to receive anything from him in return (he didn’t have much to offer as a baby), I just loved him. And my love for him couldn’t be swayed or manipulated.
God’s love for us is vast, infinite, and without condition. It’s hard for us to grasp because we’ve never experienced anything like it here on earth.
So how do we know we are unconditionally loved? How do we stop the lies we are believing?
We go to the truth found in the Word. Here’s what the Truth says…
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
1 John 4:9-10 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
This entire blog post could be filled with reminders in scripture of God’s love for us. Yet somehow we still forget. And He keeps loving us.
If you are struggling to know you are loved, do this for me. Pause, right now, take a deep breath, and tell yourself the Truth. You ARE loved. No strings attached, no hoops to jump through, no list to check off.
Just as you are, right now, He welcomes you. And He loves you unconditionally.
Mack Brock’s greatest passion is to lead people into a heightened awareness of the presence of God and to see individuals experience the breakthrough God has for them through worship. Having spent the last 15 years paving the landscape of modern worship, Mack has co-written some of the biggest songs in today’s church including “O Come To The Altar,” “Resurrecting,” “Here As In Heaven,” and “Do It Again,” all landing in the Top 100 on CCLI.
After serving as the music producer and a key worship leader with Elevation Worship for a decade, Mack felt called to leave to the ministry last year, documenting the step of faith in his first-ever solo-project, Greater Things, which has garnered over 9 Million streams globally and over 10 thousand in album consumption and over 15 thousand in track consumption since it released digitally last fall. The project will release physically this Friday, Apr. 9th and will also include songs from Mack’s latest critically acclaimed, Covered.