Last week I went to summer camp with my church and let me tell you, it was the best week ever. Each year I wait for this week to come around and God always pulls through. This year in particular I went in with a heavy heart. I felt really broken and unworthy. I felt like a complete mess on the inside where nobody could see, which made me feel like a liar. I was constantly beating myself up for being imperfect and messing up. I couldn’t give myself grace, I knew that God did, but I couldn’t give it to myself. So going into camp, I was determined to get my heart in the right place. Basically, I wanted to learn how to love myself better.
I stumbled across this verse one of the nights:
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
I had seen this verse before, but I had never really stopped to think about it. Our capacity for love exists because of how God loves us. If God didn’t love us, we would be incapable of love for ourselves and for others. Everything that we know love to be is because of God. Now here’s what really got me: I knew that God loved me, but I didn’t really believe it. I didn’t really believe that God would love me even after I spoke rudely to my family or mistreated a friend or acted pridefully. I knew that He did, I just couldn’t believe it.
According to the dictionary, to know means to perceive or understand as fact or truth. To believe is to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something. In other words, in order to believe something we must go one step further in knowing. Believing is confidence in what we know. This is where I found my heart to be troubled. By not truly believing that God loved me despite my sinful nature, I couldn’t fully love myself. I had created some sort of internal blockade. This blockade kept all my mistakes in and all of God’s love out. I didn’t let myself accept the fact that God loved me. I felt as if I had to fix myself before I could accept His love. Ever felt that way? As you can imagine, trying to be perfect is pretty exhausting considering we are very imperfect people. You see, God never stopped loving me, I just stopped believing it. I knew He loved me but I would make excuses like, “Okay God, you can love me after I start being more selfless,” or, “Oh I just served at church you can love me now.” This was the source of feelings of inadequacy.
One night, during a sermon, the speaker spoke of a cup analogy. She explained that many of us have our so-called “cup of worth” with the opening facing out to the world, waiting to be filled. A cup cannot be filled horizontally, so therefore the world cannot satisfy our worth. My cup was sideways. I walked into a room seeking the acceptance or approval of others in order to feel adequate enough love. I needed to turn my cup to face Him. Our actions are often a clue of what we believe deep down. And when we stop believing that God really loves us, we often stop acting like He does. We turn our cups sideways. We can’t just know about God’s love. We have to believe it and turn our cups upwards to be filled by His love and goodness and acceptance once again.
That same night during worship we were singing the song “Over All I Know” by Vertical Worship when we declared the words:
“I believe it,
I have seen it.
My God is over all.”
It was in this moment that I finally found myself honest in declaration, truly believing that God loved me despite my brokeness. As I sang these words I felt my heart warming. I’m talking physical movement and warmth people! It was crazy, God is so cool!
Something that has helped me ease my heart lately is repeating this affirmation throughout my day:
“I am a child of God.
I am loved.
And He is pleased with me.”
You are His Child, made in His glorious and beautiful image, loved beyond your comprehension, and He is always pleased with you, no matter what. Do you know it, or do you believe it?