Living Loved When Living’s Hard |Day 11
Reading | 1 Peter 5
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)
We often forget the how radically God loves us.
Sure, we might have the head knowledge that He cares about us. I mean, how many of us have sung “Jesus Loves Me” as children? How many of us are singing “How He Loves” in our cars?
But can we honestly say that we are living in light of this love?
I’ve said it before, but our culture glorifies busyness and over-commitment. We’ve fallen into the mindset that the busier we are, the more successful we are. Our significance is proven in the quantity of what we produce. This is evident in our church culture as well. How do we determine the success of a program? By the number of people in attendance. How do we determine the significance of a pastor? By how many people fill up the pews on Sunday mornings and the scope of his audience.
Living in this performance-based culture has hindered our ability to rest in Jesus’s love. Although we know there is nothing we can do to lose that love, I think we find ourselves falling into the belief that we have to continually prove we’re truly deserving of God’s grace.
#spoileralert: We don’t deserve God’s grace. That’s the point.
I have an insane dog named Ziggy. He is the activity level and humor of a fifth-grade boy wrapped in fur. I adopted Ziggy a few months ago, and he has come a long way since then, but there are certain things I haven’t yet been able to get out of his system.
For one thing, he likes to bite. Not in an aggressive, mean way, just to play. Excessively.
He also likes to dig through the trash and chew anything that has a rubbery texture. Before I leave the house, the trash has to be hidden and anything that might resemble rubber in the loosest of definitions has to be put away.
Would I love Ziggy more if he behaved a little better? I don’t think so. I love that stupid dog more than I thought possible. Sure, it would be fantastic if he stopped gnawing on my arm every time I sat down, but he’s only a pup. He’s a work in progress. And ultimately, he just wants my attention. He loves being close to me, so even when he’s being infuriating, I can’t help but love him.
Similarly (but like ten bazillion times more awesome), no matter how good your behavior might be, it is impossible for God to love you anymore.
It’s hard. I get it. We’re driven to perform. Maybe you’ve been raised in a way that made you feel like you have to sign up for any event that needs extra help and if you didn’t, are you really serving God? Or maybe you are holding on to a list of do’s and don’ts, and you haven’t realized that God’s not asking you to live by a set of rules.
While I was reading Immeasurable by Skye Johnson (for more information, you can read my review here), I felt convicted to reflect on what drives my life – am I being driven by a desire to live life with God, or am I driven by a desire to do work for God? Am I driven by my pride, by my desire to prove I’m worth His grace, or am I humbling myself and resting in what has already been done?
Sometimes I feel like we get so wrapped up in doing things for God that we forget our relationship with Him is the ultimate thing. Serving God is awesome, but we can’t forget the love God has for us and the relationship He desires we have with Him. We let our pride and stress tell us that we need to work harder; our worry that we’re not “good enough” forces us to prove that we are.
But the truth is, we can’t prove that we’re good enough. We weren’t good enough. That’s why Jesus had to step in. And because of the cross and His resurrection, God sees us as being enough.
God longs for a relationship with us. Doing things for Him is awesome, but it’s the relationship that He wants first. In Hosea, God says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 ESV). In Luke 10, Jesus praises Mary for her desire to sit at His feet and rest in His presence rather than busily serve Him:
“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41 NLT).
I love my friends, and it’s touching when they do things for me. It helps me feel loved and cared for. But above it all, I want them to spend time with me. Friendship isn’t built only on doing things for one another. Serving one another is part of friendship, but the relationship has to be there first. When a friend surprises me with a latte or tags me in a meme, I’m reminded of how much she loves me, but our friendship isn’t based on that. If a relationship is purely based on bargaining who did what for whom, it’s going to fall apart.
Fun Fact: I will never turn down a free latte.
Serving God and serving others is always going to be important. As James said in his epistle, there is no point in faith without works. You show me someone who is known by her faith, and I guarantee she is also known by the good she does for others (James 2:14-26). The issue is that sometimes we put too much focus on the work and not enough on the One we’re supposed to be doing the work for. In the words of Timothy Keller, “Idolatry happens when we take good things and make them ultimate things.”
Our ultimate goal should be to live a life with God. You don’t need to prove your worth. There’s not a list of accomplishments we can to check off to earn more favor. When we’re fully committed to Him and can live fully in the love and grace He’s given to us, the good works will come.
✌️ – Tonya
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or send me a message here.
This is my last post in this series. Next week, I’ll start sharing my thoughts and reflections on the book of Ruth.