Oh, my friend, I struggled for many years, and sometimes still do, to believe and trust the love of God. It is an area of weakness which the enemy exploits, and continues to hurl accusations and doubts that God could love me. Or, even more insidious, the diabolical suggestion that I need to earn love by living a certain way or doing a checklist of things.
While we desire the tangible sense of God's love, these wonderful, transcendent feelings are as rare as they are lovely. They are an echo of what's to come. Think of Jesus and his three closest disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter loved the experience - the feeling - so much he wanted to live there. But there was still work to be done... so the experience did not continue at that time.
It is similar in our own personal journey with Jesus.
I relish those intimate times and try to remember those feelings when my emotions change. I bathe my mind and intellect by soaking it with the truth of God's love in scripture and songs. I look for God in nature, in beauty, in poetry, in family and friends. I go on a treasure hunt to find things, even the tiniest graces, in my life for which I'm grateful, knowing every good gift is from above. I spend time reading God's love letter to me: the Bible. I hang out with people who love him. I read about his love from those who've experienced it.
I think of the gamut of God's love goes so infinitely far beyond the "good, good father" into what my own father explained. When the German language Bible he loved to study would say "God is love," it used the feminine gender, inferring that God's love is like the love of a mother for her child. So not only is the love of a good father and a tender mother encompassed in God's love, the love of God supersedes these genders and is, in fact, beyond our comprehension in depth, breadth, and height.
Two books that have been significant in this area for me are the small book "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning and the more contemplative book "Surrender to Love" by David Benner. I also found listening prayer helpful. The books "Rivers From Eden" and "Can You Hear Me?" by Brad Jerzak have been helpful tools for me to learn and practice sitting, soaking in God's presence. These practices and books helped me learn that God doesn't just give us his love, he IS love. The very essence of it. He cannot be anything other than love, cannot do anything that is not in line with his nature of love.
When the feeling of being unloved is strong, don't believe it. Combat it. The truth is, God is love. And he loves you. So those false feelings are coming from somewhere else and it's tricking our emotions into believing something that is not true.
I really underestimated the physical causes of my emotional depressions - to my detriment. Once I began working out and taking needed supplements to give my body the basic nutrition that had been lacking for so long, I began to "feel" better. I also worked with a personal trainer to discipline my body and a naturopath to heal my body, because the physical body is inextricably linked with the mind, emotions and will.
Since we are instructed by Jesus to "love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotion), soul (spiritual), mind (intellect), and strength (physical body)," we must pay attention to the physical as much as every other part of our being.
Do a personal inventory; a checklist of practical and physical things that can significantly affect our emotions:
- am I eating and sleeping well?
- is my body lacking any nutrients?
- are there hormonal imbalances that can impact mood?
- do I get my body moving every day (enough to elevate my heart rate for 20 minutes)?
- do I get outside in the fresh air?
- do I hydrate by drinking enough water (half your body weight in ounces daily)?
Ask your doctor or naturopath to test for allergies and food sensitivities; even to assess you for depression or anxiety. Add appropriate nutrition, vitamins and supplements, exercise and meditation to your routine. Find a pastor, counsellor or mentor you trust and ask their counsel in this. Reach out. No one is perfect but we can learn something from everyone and in-person is better than Internet.
This only scratches the surface. It's a daily journey. We practice. As Samuel Beckett said, we try. We fail. We try again. We fail better.
So, start simple. Ask Jesus to show you his love, then watch in anticipation for even the unexpected ways it shows up.
My prayer for you is from Ephesians chapter three:
Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. So please don’t lose heart ... I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your heart as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Another beautiful passage is Romans 8:38-39:
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Read and memorize these if you can or write them out and put where you can see them every day.
I hope this is of some help for when you are feeling unloved. There is no easy button. No secret formula. Keep trusting. Keep interacting in loving ways. Keep telling yourself the truth. Open yourself to the presence of Christ. Look for the places he plays, where he's holding his arms out to you, asking you to sit beside him and be still just to hear his heartbeat for a few moments.