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I have been a Christian for a while but I still don't feel God's love. How do I start to have a loving relationship with God?
Thank you for your honest question. I am sorry for the situation you find yourself in, but am glad of the opportunity to help you in the issues that you are facing. To know that we are loved by God is a vital foundation for all of the Christian life, and as you are experiencing, to doubt His love for you is to live in a place of real insecurity, which can be very destructive for our life and walk with God.
Let me begin this answer by asking you a question - what is it that you are looking for that would cause you to ‘feel God’s love’ as you put it? It’s very easy for us to put some kind of condition on the belief that God loves us. We might say something along the lines of: I’ll know God loves me if He provides something for me, or if He takes away the difficulties I’m having at work or at home, if He gives me a different ministry to carry in church, or if He heals my sickness or the sickness of a friend - the list could go on and on.
I obviously can’t see into the specifics of your situation, but if this is the kind of thing you are thinking in any way at all, then I want to urge you to change your thinking. The Bible never promises that God will give us all of these things that we could want from Him - it actually tells us that the opposite will sometimes be the case, but this in no way diminishes the love the God has for us. The Bible is clear that God will sometimes bring difficult, hard, painful things into our lives - things that instinctively cause us to think that there is no way He could love us. However, that is simply not the case.
Whatever God brings into our lives is for our good - we may not understand it, or see the reason God has given it to us, but no matter how painful it may be, He has given it to us because He loves us, not out of any lack of care for us as His children.
This is how Peter can write these words in His first letter:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Peter tells the believers that they should rejoice in the trials that come their way, because they are sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Himself. He tells them that the trials come to test them - something that he has already explained in the first chapter of his letter:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
The trials we go through in our lives are God’s way of teaching us, training us, moulding us, and shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Our faith is being stretched and tested to see if it’s real, and to grow and deepen our trust in Christ. If we pass the test then one day we will reap the benefits. The glory won’t be for us, because after all faith is a gift from God, but our faith will result in glory for Jesus when He is revealed at the end of time, and we will receive the imperishable inheritance that Peter speaks of, and that Jesus is preparing for us right now (John 14:1-3).
So this is the first thing I would say to you in response to your question - maybe you need to learn to view the world in a different way. There may be events that have caused you to doubt the love of God for you, I encourage you to turn those things around and see them as evidence that God loves you - you may not understand it, or see how the situation could be good in any way, but that’s what it means to live by faith - to take God at His word, and that means that we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
Secondly I want to look at a more positive aspect of how we know the love of God. The language you use in your question of ‘feeling’ the love of God is actually dangerous language.
The Bible never tells us to live by what we can feel, but on what is true.
Our feelings can fluctuate regardless of what the truth is, it’s just the way we are as human beings. Our responsibility as Christians is to rein those feelings in, not allowing them to control the way we live our lives, and part of that is to live in the light of God’s love for us whether we feel it or not. The obvious question then to ask in response to that is this: how then can I know for certain that God loves me, especially when my life comes crashing down around me, and my feelings are telling me exactly the opposite?
Well here’s the answer to that question - Romans 5 famously put it like this:
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
If you want some solid evidence that God loves you, this is where you look. God has demonstrated once and for all the love that He has for you. Jesus Himself said that there was no greater love than a man laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13) and that’s exactly what He did for you. Though He was innocent of any crime, and though you were more guilty than you know, Jesus paid the ultimate price so that you could have life. He took the punishment you deserve in your place so that you could go free.
We will never fully understand what it meant for Jesus to give up His life on the cross, and that’s part of the glory of it; Jesus gave up His life for us, we need never ever doubt again that God is for us, that He loves us, and that He would do anything to keep the relationship with us that He bought with His Son’s blood.
So whenever you begin to doubt the love God has for you, whenever situations begin to get you down and to think that God may be distant from you, or even that He’s forgotten you - turn again, and look at the cross. Jesus' death will stand for all eternity as a never-changing, never-diminishing testimony to the simple, yet life-changing truth that God loves you, and will never ever leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
I can assure you that when you are in a place where you are completely confident of the love of God for you it brings such a freedom and joy that it can literally transform much of your life. When God is for you there is no need for negativity, doubt, depression, or any of the things which can hold us back from following Jesus, and the love of God produces a positive response in us.
The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) - when you look at the cross, and the amazing love God has for you, you will want to love Him, serve Him, and give everything you have for Him. We can’t pay Him back, but we can certainly worship God and give Him glory by laying our lives down for Him as He laid His life down for us.
In summary, God does love you and I encourage you to always look to the cross, to the demonstration of God's love for us; sending his Son Jesus to save us from our sins and bring us back to God. If ever you feel distant from God, look to the cross!
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Romans 8:18-39
- 1 Corinthians 12-13
- James 1:1-18
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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