For years, Christians have been told that if they just prayed harder or had more faith, they would find hope and healing for their anxious hearts. While fear is certainly a spiritual battle, we must
At some point in her life, every woman struggles with believing that God loves her. No, not that God loves the world. But that God loves her. I'll be honest… sometimes, I wonder. When I look at the real me that nobody else sees…how could God love that? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes God's crazy, radical love that drove him to adopt us as his children. That makes you…and me…God's woman.
In the Word
• Read Ephesians 1
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:5-8
Grace is a very rare commodity in this world, and unconditional love is quite scarce. When we read about God's magnificent love for us-that he loves us with no strings attached-it seems too good to be true. But it is. God's love for you and me is not based on what we do. Or what we don't do. Actually, it has nothing at all to do with our performance. God's love for us drove him to the cross, while we were dead in our sin. When we were most unlovable…God chose to love us. Why? "In accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace."
In every aspect of life, people are measured by their beauty, brains, and butts (oops, I meant bucks). We hire people because they bring skills and experience, and we choose friends because they make us feel good about life. In this passage, Paul goes to great lengths to convince us that God doesn't operate that way at all: He loves us and accepts us as his dearly beloved children precisely in spite of the fact that we don't deserve it. Are you tired of trying to measure up to some arbitrary standard to be acceptable? To be "good enough?"Quit trying. God's incredible grace sets us free. Have you lived with a nagging fear that if people knew your deepest, darkest secrets, they'd reject you? Relax. God knows absolutely everything about you, and he loves you anyway. The measure of God's grace is that he's never surprised by anything we think, say, or do, and he still calls us his own.
Make it Real
For many women, it's tough to grasp the reality of God's grace because we've lived on a performance treadmill all our lives, trying to please enough people and win enough applause so we can be accepted. Secretly, some of us have concluded that God may tolerate us, but he certainly doesn't really love us. Paul wants to be sure we get it right. Look at the words he uses to describe our identity as God's dear children. (I know you've read them before, but stop and ponder…revel in the wonder of what God is actually saying here!):
He adopted us as his children. He is God, and he could have made us slaves, or robots, or rabbits for that matter, but he adopted us into his own family. We're safe and secure in his love.
All of our sins have been forgiven. Paul makes it crystal clear that Christ's death on the cross is the payment for every sin we've ever committed and all those we'll commit in the future. Nothing we've done is beyond his mercy and love.
God's love and grace are poured out on us in abundance. Notice the language Paul uses to describe the extent of God's love for us: He "freely gave it" to us, it's full of "riches," and he "lavished" it on us. God didn't use a cotton swab to dab his grace on us. Grace is a waterfall that just keeps on flowing. Like a fire hose that destroys our bondage to performance. Like a well of cool, refreshing water that doesn't have any bottom. It can never run out!
Why does God love you?
Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and paraphrase this passage. What are the key words that stick out to you?
What are some ways we measure people's value and acceptance?
How would it (or, how does it) affect your sense of identity (confidence, love, compassion, and strength) if you were convinced that God loves you and accepts you unconditionally?
Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.
• Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you…" 1 Peter 1:3-4
• You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 2 Corinthians 6:19-20
• But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9Heart to Heart
If God's grace is so rich, strong, and real, why do we often have such a hard time actually living in God's grace…and grasping his love? There may be many reasons. Maybe you were programmed your entire life to do. Maybe the people who should have loved you did just the opposite. Maybe you're afraid to admit that you're pretty flawed…and that you need grace. Maybe you feel like your sin is unforgiveable. Maybe you live like you're trying to earn grace.
Whatever your "maybe" is, know this: Your identity is based on your conception of grace. As grasp this transforming truth, we'll be free to be honest about our selfishness and embrace our weakness. We'll find ourselves overwhelmed with God's love for us in spite of what we've done. Blaise Pascal wisely observed, "Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ." Ponder that today, and let it soak into your soul.
God, sometimes I get stuck on the performance treadmill, and I just want to live as your woman. Free. Alive. Rejoicing in who you created me to be. Show me how to do that today…