How do you cope with feeling unloved by God? “I believe in Jesus Christ but I can’t feel God’s love for me,” says a She Blossoms reader. “I tell myself God loves me but I don’t feel loved. I can’t believe Jesus loves me the way He loves other people.”
This comment is similar to another reader’s, who recently commented on my article about being single and happy after a painful loss. She is a Christian woman struggling to believe God loves her after an unexpected and unwanted divorce.
“One day I am sure I will be able to ‘be the difference in another person’s life’ and let my pain serve and help others,” writes a She Blossoms reader in 7 Ways to Live Happily as a Single Woman in Your 40s. “But right now I am happy if I can read a Bible verse a day and tell myself God loves me – not the world but ME. I tell myself God loves me and I am special to Him. He has not rejected me. That is hard to believe. But there is a truth there I want to find and take comfort in. I have come too far with God to walk away now. The reality of His goodness will once again be real in my life.”
I love this reader’s courage and honesty! She is already making a difference in other people’s lives — and she doesn’t even know it. That is truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. When you try to love people because it’s the right thing to do as a Christian, then you haven’t reached the deep, honest, authentic level of selfless sacrifice. But if you share your heart even though you’re struggling to believe in God’s love — especially if you don’t feel God’s love today — then you are truly His beloved child. How you feel and what you believe are not accurate indications of how much God loves you.
3 Things to Remember When You Don’t Feel God’s Love
If you’ve read a few of my blog posts or newsletters, you may have gleaned that I’m working on a She Blossoms Through the Bible project. I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. Right now I’m moving through the book of Leviticus; it’s not the easiest book of the Bible to blog about, but I have a feeling there are even darker days to come.
Writing a blog post for each chapter of Leviticus isn’t actually as difficult as I feared — especially since I’m not writing an academic thesis or theological textbook. I’m not exegeting (trying to define or investigate with accuracy) Leviticus. I’m simply reading each chapter and applying it to the problems we face today. I’m no pastor, preacher or even a Bible teacher. I’m simply a writer who loves God and His word.
And that kicks off my first tip on what to do when you don’t feel or believe in God’s love…
1. Your feelings aren’t a reliable measure of how much God loves you
The book of Leviticus is about the holiness of God, the sinfulness of the Israelites, and how God and His chosen people can live together. Leviticus doesn’t talk much (or at all) about God loving His children. Leviticus is about God saving the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, God leading the Israelites to the Promised Land where they could live in safety and freedom, and God’s desire to dwell in the middle of the Israelites’ daily life. Leviticus is about God’s yearning to be part of His chosen people, to be honored and glorified by Israel. All of Leviticus shows how much God loves His children even though God doesn’t directly say, “I love you and am pleased with you.“
How does God show His love even when you don’t feel God loves you? Remember the old Sunday School song about Jesus loving us? “Jesus loves me, this I know…for the Bible tells me so…” Well, it turns out that just because the Bible says Jesus loves you and died for you doesn’t mean you feel God’s love. Nobody feels God’s love or presence all the time — not even Mother Teresa. But just because you don’t feel God’s love for you doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. Not feeling or believing God’s love simply means you are a normal Christian woman. You’re walking through a dark valley and you will come into the light — and in the meantime you can learn how to love God when you don’t feel His presence.
2. Not feeling loved by God is normal – because love is a battlefield!
“Then he [Moses] brought the bull near for the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull for the sin offering. Then Moses slaughtered it, took the blood, and applied it with his finger to the horns of the altar on all sides, purifying the altar. He poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it so that atonement can be made on it. Moses took all the fat that was on the entrails, the fatty lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat, and he burned them on the altar. He burned the bull with its hide, flesh, and waste outside the camp, as the Lord had commanded Moses.” – Leviticus 13-17. Do you see any hearts, flowers, chocolates, or Valentine’s Day cards in these actions? I don’t. Do you see God saying “I love you and I hope you feel my love for you because you are my chosen children?” I don’t. Do you see holiness, mystery, depth, and symbolism that represents God’s love for His children? I do.
Feeling God’s love is surprisingly difficult for Christians. You are not alone if you’ve been saying “I don’t feel God’s love” or “I don’t believe God loves me.” Here’s a quote from a book I’m reading: “Because of our inner brokenness, believing that we are the beloved of God is one of the most difficult things we could ever do,” writes Paul Pastor in The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit. “Not becoming the beloved, but believing it…the fight to simply accept this truth can be overwhelming.” I think Christians don’t believe or feel God’s love for many reasons. Pastor says it’s our inner brokenness, which might include grief, pain, illness, disappointment, and dealing with emotional numbness after losing someone you love. I also believe it’s the accuser telling us lies and trying distract us from the truth. Love really is a battlefield; your job is to put on your armor and fight to believe in God’s love for you — even when you can’t feel it.
3. Change how you see yourself — call yourself “Holy Girl” or “Beloved Daughter”
Leviticus 8 describes the ordination of Aaron and his sons. They were to be the priests of Israel, holy and set apart to mediate between God’s chosen people and God Himself. They went through a beautiful yet bloody ritual full of symbolism and meaning. Aaron and his sons were washed with water, clothed in priestly garb, and turbaned with the gold medallion and holy diadem — just as the Lord God ordered. Their ears and feet were sprinkled with blood to represent them listening and walking in holiness. Moses sacrificed a ram of ordination; Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head to signify their sins being washed away. Leviticus 8 is a powerful, holy, symbolic illustration of a change in identity for Aaron and his sons.
How might you change your identity and how you see yourself? Can you become God’s beloved child from the inside out? I call myself “Holy Girl.” I write and talk to God in my journal every morning, and often refer to myself as His Holy Girl. The words “Beloved Daughter” have popped up in my writing in the past couple of days — and that’s okay. I’ll take both! I’ll be both God’s Holy Girl and His Beloved Daughter. Seeing myself through His eyes helps me feel and believed I am loved by God. I’m also taking time every day to bask in God’s love, to dwell in His presence, to invite the Holy Spirit to rise and infuse every cell in my body, and to talk to Jesus Christ. The more time, energy and attention I give to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the more of God’s love I feel. And it really does help to see myself as His Holy Girl and Beloved Daughter.
When you’re struggling to feel God’s love for you, remember that how you feel is not an accurate indicator of how God sees you or how much He loves you. Your feelings are mercurial. They change all the time, depending on all sorts of things. But God’s love for you does not change, and does not depend on how you feel, what you do, or where you are.
A She Blossoms blog post can’t change your heart or make you start believing that God loves you. I can’t even answer the “how do you believe, know, and feel God’s love?” question. Your relationship with God is personal and unique, and the only way to strengthen your faith is to spend time with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
For more ideas on how to feel God’s love, read If You Want a More Meaningful Relationship With God.
With His love,