Sunset on ocean

Set Your Heart At Rest

Occasionally, the memory of past mistakes will slam into my conscious mind with the force of an unexpected blow. Those mistakes were confessed and left behind years ago, but the sudden recall brings with it the sting of shame.

If I dwell on it, that shame can smother any attempt to do “works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). What is even worse is catching myself saying or doing or thinking something I know I would rather God didn’t know about. I know that God through his Son is forgiving and step by step removing sin from my life, but sometimes that mental knowledge doesn’t reach that center of emotional and spiritual comfort.

I have read Paul’s admonition: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) I often read Romans chapter 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” The Apostle John wrote, “This then is…how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (I John 3:19-20)

These words are comforting and encouraging, yet there was something missing in my understanding. I had failed to grasp the love God has for me. His love is personal, not just a general love for all creation as a whole. It is a love that is specific toward each of his human children, including me.

John wrote, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16 italicized emphasis mine.)  Our part, my part is “to rely on” the love God has for me-for each of us. I can apply his promises only to the extent I perceive his love. I can only love others to the extent I perceive his love for them.

As John put it, “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment…. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment… We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:17-19) Only God’s love is perfect. It is his love that drives out my fear and shame.

Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that they would have the power “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18)

He wrote to the church of the Thessalonians that they had been “taught by God to love each other” and admonished them “to do so more and more.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

Whenever we begin to condemn ourselves or others, we need to remember “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1) Let’s pray that God will teach us to grasp his great love and to love one another more and more.

By Scarlett Stough
Photo by: Kendra Vandemark

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