I led the music and worship for a retreat last weekend. The speaker was a psychotherapist whom I have had the pleasure of serving with on other retreats. This doctor is a woman of profound strength and conviction who is passionate about sharing the Lord’s love and being used by God to heal others. In her practice as a psychotherapist and her work as a preacher and teacher, the love of God shines through.
Having traveled all over the world to preach and teach, she had many stories of miracles to tell. Stories of people getting out of wheelchairs and people who were blind who now could see were just some of the miracles she has witnessed. She shared stories of miraculous financial provisions and deep interior healings of the heart; forgiveness and love abounding.
But the story that touched me the most was the work she was doing with prostitutes in another country. The doctor worked with a local community to offer retreats for men and women who were caught up in prostitution. They offered the people lunch and she told them that God loved them. All she ever did was talk about how much God loved them. She didn’t tell them they were living a lie or stuck in sin and needed to amend their lives. All she did was present God’s love. Over the years, many profound conversions have happened on this retreat. The prostitutes shared that they never knew that anyone loved them, let alone God. Little by little, many of them left prostitution and, with the help of a loving Christian community of nuns and volunteers, many of these people were able to begin a new life.
Traditional psychology and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places being loved and belonging as a foundational need for developing as whole and balanced individuals. This need to be loved and belong is second only to our physiological needs for things like air, food and water and our need to feel safe. Once those primary needs are met, love is what we need to survive. I remember the studies I read in psychology class about the babies in orphanages who failed to thrive because no one touched and held them and conveyed love to them. Such research confirms what we intuitively know to be true; we need to be loved to mature and to survive.
When my kids were young, I tried to be the most loving Mom I could be. I knew physical touch, affection and affirmation were an integral part of establishing a healthy bond with my kids and conveying to them that they were loved. I wanted them to learn to trust themselves and the world by first knowing they could trust their parents. But as they grew and I grew, I realized that I could never be a perfect parent and love them as unconditionally as God loved them. My short temper and fatigue threatened my plans for perfect parenting. At least I could convey to them the Lord loved them even more than my husband and I ever could.
Most of us know someone who loves us. The love of that person or persons means a great deal to us and gives us motivation to become our best selves. But do we really believe that God loves us and that nothing can separate us from that love? Really, it’s true. Jesus died on the cross for you and for me, all because He loves us and didn’t want anything to get in the way of that love.
Think back to a time that you felt really, really loved. Feel that feeling of peace and rest that came over you when you knew in the depths of your being that you were loved. Most of us can feel and imagine that time or times that we have felt very loved. But those feelings probably also came with memories of hurt, anger, possibly even betrayal and abandonment. Even in the best relationships, with parents, siblings, friends and spouses, there are always situations that temporarily or permanently separated us from that love.
Now, go back in your mind again and imagine that time or times you felt very unconditionally loved. Wherever you are, whoever you are with, see Jesus enter that memory. Be attentive to His eyes and the love that is in those eyes for you. See Him extend His hands toward you to embrace you as you fall into His loving arms.
While you are embraced in the loving arms of God, all the trials and troubles, the darkness of your life and your pain will surface because you feel very safe. Now is the time to remember the words in Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now is the time for you to be still and to trust that truly nothing can separate you from His love. Receive God’s love. Breathe it in. Soak it up and let God’s love fill you to overflowing. Like waves crashing on the sand, feel God’s love washing over you. Every time a reason comes to mind as to why you think God couldn’t possibly love you, just hear Him say to you:
“Nothing can separate you from my love. You are mine and I love you.”
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.