When we found out [my sister] Jo was dying, my dad wished more than anything he could take it from her—even change places with her—and when she died his grief was the sorrow of a father unable to save his little girl. As a dad, his love was never in question.
His tears for Jo hadn’t stopped falling when I told him. It was my turn, and I knew he would change places with me too if he could. I never questioned Dad’s love for me even though he’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (sorry, Dad). So why did I question God’s love when he is, in fact, perfect?
I wondered whether God only kinda-sorta loved me, or was only happy to love me when I shared my sandwich with the homeless guy on the corner or when I actually felt warm and held. Maybe his love grows proportionately to the amount of time I spend in church? I just couldn’t figure it out.
I didn’t feel loved by him so assumed I wasn’t loved by him, but the truth is we are loved whether we feel it or not. We may see the heartache of our right-now lives as evidence of his lack of love, but he loves us here too. We are loved 100 percent, unconditionally, with no strings attached. There are no terms and conditions, no small print, no get-out clause. He loves us.
The beauty of God’s adoring love is that it’s not dependent on how fabulous or not we are (and I’m sure you’re pretty fabulous) or conditional on anything we may or may not have done (good or bad). He loves us purely because of who he is and what he’s done.
God is love (1 John 4:8). He’s not just loving, he is love itself. It’s not just something he does, it’s who he is. He can’t help but love us, his kids, passionately because love is the core of his being and all love comes from him (1 John 4:7). Just as my Goldendoodle, Chester, can’t help being a dog (a pretty stupid one, I admit, but a dog he most certainly is), God can’t help being love. Chester is a dog and God is love—it’s who they are.
As Ann Voskamp says, “If love isn’t shaped like a cross, it isn’t really love.” This is the unending depth of grace. What more evidence do we need? There are no kinda-sortas, maybes, or ifs with God’s love. He’s all in. When we deny his love, we deny who he is, and when we do that we deny ourselves the extraordinary life he has for us. He loves you because he is love, and unlike my father who couldn’t change places with either of his children, God took your place on the cross and died so you—yes, you—can live. Yes, he died for all of humankind—but he would have died for you if it was just you here on earth. The proof of his love for you is the cross.
Repeat after me: “I am loved.” Say it loud. Say it in a whisper. Write it in lipstick on your bathroom mirror. “I am loved. I am loved!”
Breathe it in, allowing it to refresh your weary bones and spark hope.
This truth takes a close second to the truth that you are loved, because no matter what life throws at you or how you respond, you are enough.
My cancer diagnosis felt like a personal failure. Ironically, I’d never seen Mum and Jo as failures for having cancer, but when it was my turn I played by different rules. I was sick, therefore I must have failed in some way, which meant I wasn’t enough: not strong enough, lovable enough, good enough, nice enough, spiritual enough, worthy enough, you-name-it-I-wasn’t-it enough. Then, when I tried to be enough and fill all the gaps, to do all the things I thought would make me enough, that didn’t work out so well either.
We are enough not because we fill our gaps but because God does. I am enough because I am in him and he is in me (John 14:20), and he is enough. I hadn’t failed, I hadn’t let anyone down, I hadn’t lacked the magic key to living my fabulous happily ever after. His love for me was and is unconditional, and that makes me enough. The same is true for you too.
Whether we’re weak or strong, cry mascara-streaked tears in traffic, admit we’re worried we can’t pay the next mortgage bill, or are about to walk down the aisle with the wrong guy, we are enough because of whose we are, not who we are.
Breathe this beautiful truth in, repeating after me: “I am enough because Jesus is enough. I am enough because of whose I am, not who I am.”
Niki Hardy appears this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Breathe Again by Niki Hardy. Copyright 2019 by Niki Hardy. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.