I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to be reminded that we have a God Who delights in unchanging love. That means He doesn’t just give it with a ‘well here’ attitude. He loves to demonstrate His unchanging love towards us. How incredible is that?!
Sometimes it is easy to look at the sea of faces and begin to forget that God loves humanity individually and corporately. We really cannot imagine it because we are finite and stuck in time while He is infinite and not confined by anything. There are often two lines of thought here that seem mutually exclusive of each other, but actually fit quite nicely together. One would say that He cares only about the big situations and the suffering of humanity and the other says that He cares about every little thing – all the way down to the parking place we get. I have wrestled with these things for years and I am beginning to see something. What if He cares about all of it? God delights in demonstrating His love in both big and small ways – both to the severely suffering and those with small desires. In the course of our lives we find ourselves in both places. They are not mutually exclusive to each other. When we think about this in human terms, we love to give unneeded and unexpected gifts to those we love because it demonstrates our heart towards them, but our heart also breaks when there is devastation in their lives. Not only that, but in other situations like those with our children, we don’t give them all of their desires because we understand that this would not be good for them. It is our love that helps us stand our ground and hold back things that they desire, but are not beneficial for them long term – even when ‘everyone else’ gets to have something or do something. Let’s not lie here. That can be HARD. However, it is really fun to surprise them with an unexpected gift that means something to them.
I think God is no different in this way. Where did our love of giving gifts come from anyway? When there is something of beauty in humanity, I think it is precisely in that place where God’s image is coming through. We all have things that He has created in us that when untainted by sin and selfish desires, reflects Him beautifully whether it is the arts, giving extravagantly, innovation, intellectualism, a great sense of humor, compassion and empathy and all of the other things of beauty we see around us. We see glimpses of Him in humanity because we are made in His image. Think of a giver you know. Some people just have that ability to bless through gifts. They know the right gift to give, at the right time, with the right meaning. I think that quality points to the extravagant and personal love of God. Micah 7:18 (NAS) says, Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN UNCHANGING LOVE. Unchanging love in the Hebrew means an attitude of love that invokes mercy. This is His heart towards us. In other words, Who is a God like this? Even though He sees who we really are, He forgives us and does not treat us as our sins deserves, but rather, it gives Him great pleasure to love us wholeheartedly and giving us mercy. That’s amazing! Let that sink in. Understanding that all the way to the depth of your heart will change your life. He demonstrates His love to us in many ways, but one way is through giving us our secret heart desires.
He has demonstrated this over and over in my own life, but I have two favorite stories that I have to share. They’re not mine, but they’re still two of my favorite.
The first story is about my sweet, Iranian sister-in-law. She grew up in the persecuted, underground church and has seen and experienced much heartache in her lifetime. Two of her pastors were martyred and she lived under constant threat while growing up. These experiences have come together in her life and out of suffering has come a beauty and empathy that surrounds her. There could be books written about her life. Anyway, my brother and his wife move around a lot and so they don’t have a lot of material things. They buy things, settle somewhere and then sell them all when it’s time to move. A couple of years ago, they were preparing to move to the States and she sat down in her daily meeting spot with God and she said that she just thought, “I want a rocking chair to rock my babies.” She didn’t even pray – it was just a whisper of a thought that passed through her mind. She never voiced it. Around that same time back in the States, we were eating Saturday breakfast as a family and there was a neighbor’s garage sale going on. It had been going on for a few days already and I had been ferrying things from her house to mine like craft supplies, Christmas dishes and those sorts of things. You know, the stuff we all need in our house so that we have to do spring cleaning ourselves. I had seen a rocking chair sitting there on my many trips and had not even thought twice about it. All of a sudden, while we were eating breakfast that sunny Saturday morning, a thought came bursting into my mind,”She (my sister-in-law) needs a rocking chair. She must have THAT one.” I pulled my chair back mid-bite to go get it. John, looking perplexed, said, “Honey, I’m sure it will still be there until you’re done eating.” Looking at the groups of people in her driveway, I replied, “No, I need to get it now.” I left my half eaten breakfast and marched through the backyards as fast as I could go to buy the chair. I promptly emailed my brother to let him know we had bought her a chair and to ask if she wanted it. The reply was, “You’re not going to believe this, but….” Isn’t God amazing?!! My sweet sister-in-law had a fleeting thought and God saw fit to answer it. An unspoken request answerd by the God who knows our hearts. Amazing!
The other story involves my sweet mom. She has also gone through a lot in her life that has helped form her into the beautiful person she is today. (If you want to read about that, the blog is here. It’s called The Story of Suicide, God’s Intervention and Restoration of a Generation) Anyway, she loves purses. When I was at Bible college, my parents ended up moving the rest of the family down to Florida so that they could attend the same school. Being the oldest of eight, that was no small feat. Not many people can say that when they moved to college, their family followed. Anyway, needless to say, in those years money was not plentiful. There was enough, but not enough for unnecessary things like new purses. My mom and younger sister were shopping one day and my mom picked up a purse and began looking it over. Looking at my mom’s somewhat tattered black purse, my sister said, ‘Why don’t you buy it, Mom?” My mom told her that the money wasn’t there for purses. My sister, looking hopeful, replied, “Why don’t you pray then?” My mom gently told her that God had bigger things to worry about than purses. After saying that, she immediately felt that God was speaking to her that that’s not His heart. I think He secretly thought with a twinkle in His eye, “I’m going to show her.” The next day, she showed up at work and a lady had a beautiful black purse. My mom mentioned to her that she liked her purse and thought nothing of it. The next day, the sweet lady showed up with her purse emptied out and gave it to my mom saying, “I feel like the Lord told me that this was to be your purse.” My mom reluctantly took it saying that she only meant that she liked it, not that she wanted it. A few weeks later, my mom was at a worship service and another aquaintance came up with a check written out to her. The lady, looking perplexed, said, “During worship, God told me to write you a check. This is going to sound really weird and I don’t understand it, but it’s for a new purse?” By now, my mom was dumbfounded and prayed that God would stop sending purses her way. A few weeks later, my mom went out to get the mail and there was a package waiting for her. She opened it and inside was the EXACT purse she had seen at the mall with my sister, but this package had come from a different city thousands of miles away. Accompanying the purse was a note from a friend indicating that she had forgotten my mom’s birthday and was shopping, saw the purse and immediately thought of my mom and just had to buy it for her. Isn’t that an amazing demonstration of God’s heart? He wanted to make sure that she understood what was going on here. He LOVED her and DELIGHTED in showing that to her. I think when He does things like that, He does it with a smile. Sometimes I wonder if He even does it laughing to Himself. Humor comes from Him right?
I think God loves to demonstrate His love to us. A lot of times these types of things seem to happen when we are in the middle of, right before or right after difficult times. I know that is true in both of the stories above. These are the sorts of stories that help us to remember His heart towards us even when the going gets tough. He loves to remind us that He is there, He loves us, He knows our hearts and He is never ignorant of our thoughts. How incredible to know that the God Who knows us, also love us extravagantly. Our lives may be in a tailspin, be confusing, be painful, be chaotic or be demanding, but He loves us and delights in loving us. He knows our thoughts from afar and holds us in the palm of His hand. Knowing, understanding and believing that can give us rest in any situation we are in. In easy times, it takes away fear of the future or the unknown. In hard times, it keeps us grounded and anchored. It makes us unshakable, because HE is unshakable. Those lives that bring Him so much glory in the midst of pain? Those are the ones who have come to know His heart. How can you help but love and give your life for One Who loves so much? These are the ones who give much so that others will know. When we come to know Him and His heart for us, we realize that this love is for all and we can’t help but share it. So many of the hard things He asks of a life are with the purpose of demonstrating His love to those who do not know. He is safe to surrender to and only through surrendering our life to Him can we know the rest He provides for our hearts. We cannot know His love or His peace without giving ourselves to Him. We just can’t. Remember, He is a God Who takes delight in loving us and He knows and understands us more than we can understand ourselves. Afterall, He created us.
Psalm 139:2 (ESV) You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You know my thoughts from afar.
Micah 7:18 (NAS) says, Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN UNCHANGING LOVE.
God, Thank You that I can trust You. Thank You that You are a God Who sees me and knows me no matter what I feel like at the moment. Help me to trust You wholeheartedly with My life and rest in the fact that You know me and love me. I am choosing to trust You even when I cannot see. I know that Your heart toward me is love and that You surround my life with good. I know that I can trust You with my life and I choose to do what You say knowing that You know more than I what is good and right for my life. Help me to know Your truth so that I can walk in it.