Today is the first day of the Lenten season, which is traditionally a 40-day fast before Easter, usually devoted to some form of abstinence and penitence. But since we’re on this side of the Cross, what if rather than trying to be sorrowful about our sinfulness and mortifying our flesh in some way, we decided to stop hiding in the bushes from God in fear and lived fully embraced by His love? (To see my definition of the godly fear of the Lord, go here.)
What if, like in the picture above, we spent our time leading up to Easter learning how to be like a little child, not afraid of intimacy or being vulnerable, totally safe and secure and at rest on our heavenly Papa’s lap?
I realize that this image of God as a loving Papa stirs up frightening memories for some because you’ve been deeply wounded by your earthly father. And even though you know in your head that your heavenly Father is not like that, you still struggle. Well, this is a perfect season to invite Love into your deepest sadness so He can heal you and make you whole in His transforming embrace.
Let Him love you, beloved child of God.
To help you get started on your fear-fast, I would like to take you through a practical exercise from my book, Sonshift: Everything Changes in the Father’s Embrace, on learning how to be loved by God. This excerpt is from the chapter titled, “Love Shift.” Take some time to meditate on the following truths about God’s affections for you. Let it get down in the deepest part of your soul.
We determine in our hearts only to see ourselves the way He sees us and to love the truth about ourselves. If He loved us and placed such value on us that He gave Jesus for us, who are we to argue? Jesus loved this way. He tells us that He loves us exactly the same way the Father has loved Him:
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
And that the Father loves us the same way He loves Jesus:
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
Did you get that? God loves you the same as He loves Himself. And just how much is that? Well, how much does God love God? Can words even begin to describe or quantify it? Let that wonderful thought deeply resonate in your heart.
Furthermore, this unfathomable love speaks of value. How much value do you have to God if He paid Jesus…for you? To make this more concrete, say the following to yourself, inserting your name where it normally says “the world”:
“For God (Father) so loved ______ (insert your name) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The word “world,” that you replaced with your name, is the Greek word kosmos, which, in this context, means people. You’re a person, so you qualify!
But God doesn’t just love you generically, among seven billion other people. No, He has the ability to love you specifically and uniquely. While we could only have one favorite child, God can have unlimited favorites!
When John, the apostle, referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” he wasn’t being boastful or saying he was more loved than the others; he was referring to his identity. And you could say exactly the same thing. You are the one whom Jesus loves! You are God’s favorite son or daughter! For God is love and you and I are loved by Love. This is who we are at the deepest heart level.
We need to understand that the Father’s love is a very different love than simply having great affection. We get a small glimpse into this difference as a parent. What I mean is that there’s a vast difference between someone loving children and the love they feel for their own child. Maureen and I have three sons. I still remember how overwhelmed I was when I held each of them in my arms for the first time. I thought, not only do I love them so much that I would do anything for them, they belong to me. They are part of me! My blood is flowing in their veins. My DNA is in their DNA!
Beloved child of God, this is just a small glimpse into how the Father loves you. You are part of Him and you belong to Him! You are His child and His heavenly DNA is intertwined with your spiritual DNA.
It’s in this unfathomable love and infinite value that we can find love for ourselves and our true worth. It’s not found in our looks, pedigree, talents, ability to perform, or what other people have said about us. It’s in how our heavenly Father sees us. (P. 117-119)
I hope this encourages you to embrace love and let go of fear this Easter season. I will return to this subject during this fast with other practical ways to help you stay on the love path. But for now, imagine what your life will look like and feel like if you focused your attention on the Father’s love for you during the next 40 days. You would be transformed and empowered! You can trust Him…He’s a good, good Father.