It’s well established and I’m sure you’ve heard it before - God is love - Jesus loves you.
So what do you do with that? How does hearing that God loves you make you feel?
Perhaps you feel like there’s no way he could love somebody like you. Perhaps you feel like ok cool, he loves me but that doesn’t help my friend problems. Perhaps you’re so upset with your current circumstances that God’s love feels empty, secondary, tertiary…to the pain you’re feeling - right now.
I struggle with the idea of God’s love constantly. Stephanie and I are grad students finishing up our last weekend at Andrews University in Michigan and just last week, I was doubting that God truly cared about what I was going through. It wasn’t even that serious - I think I had a lot of homework and a headache - I am a weak man. But it felt really serious at the time so I was angrily looking in the Bible for some kind of answer.
I stumbled into John chapter 6, and I was reading about all of the amazing miracles and signs that Jesus did for the people around Him like, feeding 15,000 or so people (if you include women and children, which Jesus totally did), walking on water, and claiming to be the source of eternal life. All of these absolutely not normal events took place for those around Jesus to see and observe - and what happens?
Verse 66 says, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
This doesn’t make sense. Why would his followers abandon him after he did all of these miraculous, visible, tangible miracles in their lives?
We ask this question, but we face the same situation today: We know God has worked in our past. We know God has amazing promises for our future. Yet, we know that we are still suffering right now.
So now we have to reconcile our feelings with our thoughts. We have to acknowledge that God loves us and wants the best for us while we’re in pain. Yikes, man. Much easier said than done. I can relate to what the mass of Jesus’ followers asked him in verse 60, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
But in my confusion, in my time of doubt, Jesus doesn’t sit idly by far away in Heaven. He intentionally goes out of His way to come to me personally in order to love me to Himself. Jesus sees what’s happening your life. He sees the hurt, he sees the difficulty with friends, he sees the fear of the future, he sees your loneliness, your anxiety, your talents, your everything - and He hurts and celebrates right alongside you. He loves you in the good and the bad.
But after all of the things that God did and does for you, He asks you the same heart-wrenching question that He asked his 12 closest friends, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Oof. I see this question and I know how I’m supposed to answer…but the claims that Jesus makes are straight up crazy. Sometimes I wonder what would I be like if I didn’t choose Jesus.
But then I see how Peter responds to this question. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Not so hidden in Peter’s response is a wave of doubt. That’s relatable. He’s wondering if Jesus really is all He claims to be. He’s feeling confused and unsure - but he’s honest. He basically says I guess so, God. I’m going to stick with you because you’re my best option. I have nowhere to go that’s better.
As I was reading this I realized that I’m more like a crowd member that abandoned Jesus than I am like Peter. God provided the means and the time for Stephanie and I to thrive at Andrews University, and all I could do was complain about it.
But weirdly enough, I also can relate to what Peter said. When things happen in life that are horrible (pretty sure homework doesn’t actually kill you), I am tempted to search for answers elsewhere when God doesn’t take me out of my suffering like I want Him to.
But Peter’s question reverberates through my mind in the midst of my doubts - God, where else would I go?
So the simple conclusion that I’ve come to is that
Jesus is the best option.
Look. God values your choice so much. So much. Your relationship with him is not dependent on being in a spiritual environment, having the right friends, or saying the right things. Those are all good things! But your choice to love Jesus each day is yours and yours only. It’s deeply personal, but it’s also simultaneously a community, a family, a taste of heaven.
However, here’s the hard reality: There’s another side that’s the complete opposite of what Jesus wants for you in your life. This other side is actively fighting for your decisions too. Maybe you didn’t realize that your life is so important that literal supernatural beings of light and of darkness are fighting to prove that what they are providing you is best. Your decisions and your choices are like graduate degree diplomas (sorry, graduating in a few days and that’s totally how I feel) that are worth any price.
So yes, Jesus loves you. But the reality is that God gave us the ability to not love Jesus back.
Even before Jesus came to the Earth, Moses understood this:
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life,
Moses makes the decision seem so obvious. Who in their right mind would want to choose curses and death??
Here’s the thing - a life without choosing Jesus is choosing the bad stuff that Moses mentioned. By not choosing Jesus, you’re still making a choice.
The good news is that you’re never really alone in this choice making process. Not really. Jesus is seeking you out, he’s romancing you, sending you the best Valentine’s day card you’ve ever read. He’s wanting to spend the rest of eternity with you. And that’s exciting!! (You know, I have this folder of really dumb Christian memes on my phone and I can’t wait to talk to Jesus in person about all of the absolute nonsense his people get into.)
Listen, I just can’t wait!
I may be entirely biased, but I’m confident that Jesus is the best option. And the beautiful thing is that one option, one choice has such a cascading effect on the rest of your life.
Because what is character if not a compilation of choices made over and over again? If you choose Jesus constantly, then how can you not become more like Him?
Who, or what do you choose to love? It’s important because who you love decides what home is for you. As you go about the rest of this quarter, this semester, or whatever kind of time frame your years are divided into, panicking about deadlines, worrying about this thing or that, remember that God has blessed you with the opportunity of life with the choice of whether or not to love him back. He’s already proven that He loves you.
So now the choice is yours. What’re you going to do with it today?
Jonny has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. He is currently about to complete the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary (Hype!)