Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Love of God Part 3: Overcoming The Doubts

The third and last of three parts on the Love of God. Much more could be said, actually it is an endless topic. I have come from the standpoint of struggling with believing in God's love. The 2 previous posts were on doubting God's love and ways people try to fill the void when they don't believe. This post may be the topic I am least qualified to tackle of the three, but it is also the one I need to cover the most for myself. When you struggle with believing that God actually loves you, what do you do? How do you get past the doubts? Here are some I came up with:

1) Pray. The most important. If you don't do this one, forget any other way. Pray for forgiveness for unbelief. God understands us. He knows why we struggle, what causes us to struggle. He could remove all obstacles, but He rarely works that way. Instead, He helps us to overcome the obstacles. The mountains. If He can do that, then surely He can help us overcome the mountain of disbelieving in His love.

2) Put aside substitutes. Some need completely done away with. The ones that are out and out sin. No arguments. Gambling, any sex outside of marriage, and the like. Others may just need moderation. If you are playing video games 12 hours a day, work it down to 1 or 2 hours. If you don't need to work 120 hours a week, cut back to what you can afford. When the urge comes to engage in the old behaviors, pray, do something good and profitable for your soul.

3) Read the Bible. This should be done daily, but also when we are doubting or struggling with believing God's love. Look up verses talking about God's love, and focus on those. Put your own name in where you can. Instead of "God so loved the world", read it "God so loved Mark", or whatever your name is. Get ahold of a promise book and claim the promises in it for you personally. It is easy to believe they apply to others, but they apply to everyone. Whosoever will.

4) Read books. There are some great books out there that can be of help. I have read some, and am currently reading one. "When God Doesn't Make Sense" by James Dobson, "Disappointment With God" by Phillip Yancey, "Where Is God When It Hurts", also by Yancey. There are many out there. Google it - there are articles on line. There are even some Christian fiction books that address the issue.

5) Music. God and love is a popular theme in Christian songs. Listen to them, and often. I have a play list on my Ipod entitled "songs of encouragement". They are not all songs talking about God's love, but also about His care, and what He will do. "Always Enough" reminds me that there is always enough of God's mercy. "No Limit" points out that there is no limit to His love. "He Paid A Special Price" talks about the fact that Jesus paid a special price for me.

Many people don't like Southern Gospel, but I believe it is a music of encouragement, more so than any other style of Christian music out there. Since it is my favorite style of music, that puts me in touch with a lot of encouraging songs. The trick is to focus on the words, and not just enjoy the pleasing harmony and music.

6) Journal. Or in my case, blog. :-) Seriously, some things are too personal to blog about, so a journal is an excellent idea. Write down what God has done for you. Keep track of the mountaintop times, and when things get rough, when it seems like God isn't paying attention, bring out the journal, and relive the good moments.

7) Remind yourself that just as God doesn't favor one person above another, He also doesn't dislike anyone - even you. Its so easy to believe He loves others, why are you any different?

8) Believe that you are lovable. Your problem with God may be a self-esteem problem. Some people feel bad about themselves because of something they did. Others feel bad because of something that was done to them. Either way, don’t let yourself feel bad about yourself. Work at receiving forgiveness for your failings and giving forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Don’t give in to shame, embarrassment, and negative self-talk. If you do you’ll feel like hiding and will tend to shut out God and others who care about you. Instead, dare to believe that you are lovable and worthwhile and that your emotional needs are important. Then look for loving, gracious people and receive their care as a gift from God. Additionally, try reading and praying over positive Scriptures that focus on God’s love for you.

9) Ask for prayer. Admit you have problems in this area. Don't just pray for yourself, ask others to pray that you can really get a grasp that God loves you.

10) Forgive others. Often when we feel worthless, and unloved by God and others, we tend to struggle with forgiving others. Maybe it is a way of pulling others down to where we feel we are, who knows, but having a forgiving spirit can clear the channels with God.

11) Personalize the Promises. I mentioned it elsewhere, forgetting it was a main point, but it bears repeating. Put your name in the promises to help get ahold of the fact that they are not just for others, but for you.

12) Remember that God loves unconditionally, and He is not surprised by anything we do, or bring to Him. God is love. He can't not love. Get ahold of that fact. He isn't surprised by anything we do. When He died on the cross, and said He loved everyone, He looked across the ages, and didn't find anyone that was exempt from His love. As evil of a man as Adolf Hitler was, He loved him. As horrible as child molestation is, He loves the molester. He loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Most of us aren't as bad as Hitler or a molester, and if He can love them, surely He loves us!

13) Unbox God. Whatever box or mold you have put God in, take Him out. He won't always act how we expect, when we want Him to act. He won't always answer prayers the way we want Him to. But we have to believe that no matter what happens, He still loves us. No matter what. He is love, and cannot do otherwise. The issue isn't Him, but it is us. Our attitude.

Don't ask God to prove His love for you. He did it on a cross 2000 years ago. He has been there, done that. Ask Him to help you believe. He will do that, and remember there is nothing that can separate us from His love. He said so, and God doesn't lie. He loves.

As I close not just this blog, but these 3 blogs, I hope that I haven't only helped myself, but someone else who may struggle in this area, and read my blog. I hope and pray something I have said will be helpful to someone.

One thing I said in my first blog that can cause doubts of God's love, is sin. That has been one for me. I stumbled so much, so often, that I figured God was done with me. There was no way He could love me. I had surely gone too far. This song doesn't talk about God's love, but has been one of the most encouraging songs I have ever run across, so I will leave it as my parting words.

It's Only The First Time

There’s a secret sin that you live with
And it’s tearing you apart
You’ve prayed and prayed, but now you’re ashamed
To ask God to cleanse your heart
But even though you’ve fallen again
When you kneel before Him

It’s only the first time
He’s forgotten the last time
The moment you pray, His grace takes away
The stain of your sin
Just know that in God’s eyes
It’s only the first time
He’s already there to hear your prayer
And forgive you again.

If the Savior says we must forgive
Time and time again
Then how much more will our Lord
Forgive us when we sin
His love is so strong, so wide and so deep
He longs for you to believe