Falling Out of Love With God
I’ve been a Christian for a long time. The weirdest thing to me about being a Christian is how often I forget the miracle of God’s love. I forget the power of it. I forget how wonderful it is, that a holy God should pursue me. It stops being such a big deal. It stops feeling so amazing. I fall out of love with Him a bit.
For a long time whenever I’d hear that phrase, “God loves us,” I pictured a kind, doting, grandpa. But you know what? Grandpa love is not the kind of love you get with God. God is a lot more like a spouse.
God’s love is uncomfortable
First He pursues us with this wonderful, miraculous love. Then He moves in. He takes up an incredible amount of space. He turns everything upside-down and inside out. He wants us to share everything with Him. He wants us to talk to Him. He wants us to consult Him about all our decisions. He’s always there, always watching. He demands everything.
So it turns out that love – true love – isn’t all that comfortable. It doesn’t always feel miraculous. It doesn’t always feel easy, or cozy. God’s love demands everything. The love of God doesn’t feel so miraculous when He’s busy rearranging my entire life.
We get used to God’s love
God’s love isn’t very comfortable, but even so, over time we get used to it. It happens sometimes with love. I was single for so long and at first, every day of being with my husband Michael felt like a gift. Fast-forward a few years and I’ve gotten used to Michael. He’s always around. I can hardly remember what it felt like to be single.
This happens with God’s love too — especially for those of us who grew up in the church. We can hardly remember a time when we didn’t know God’s love. We get used to it. We start to take Him for granted a little.
Sometimes God’s love hurts
Sometimes we struggle to hold on to the truth that God loves us because He hurts us. We hear the words, “God loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life,” but then we look around, and maybe our life’s not all that wonderful. How can a loving God, an all-powerful God, let this bad stuff happen? How do we keep trusting in the love of God even when we’re so disappointed?
I try to remember that God is not me. He’s mysterious and big. He’s complicated. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I need to keep giving God the benefit of the doubt. I need to keep believing in God’s good intentions for me, in the fact that He never willingly brings me pain. He loves me. The best thing I can do is not distance myself from God or give Him the silent treatment. That just makes me more miserable. His love is the source of all comfort.
The prophet Jeremiah understood this. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah is crying out to God. He’s devastated and with good reason. He weeps. He yells at God. But then he says this: “Though the Lord brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to any human being.” (Lamentations 3:32)
He also says this: “Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
This is what we have to hold on to. The LORD is our portion — His love might not make perfect sense to us. But it’s also what keeps us from being consumed by it all, from falling apart. It’s the only thing, really, that will bring us joy.
Falling in love again
So what do we do, when the excitement of God’s love seems to wear off? When I start to get irritated with my husband, when I start to think it’s no big deal that I’m married to this man, I try to think back. I take some time out to remember our early days. I call to mind all the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place.
We can do this with God too. We should do it. In fact, it’s why God gave us the ritual of communion. The bread broken for us, the blood spilled for us — it’s the discipline of going back, over and over, of remembering how wonderful it is that Jesus gave himself for us. By reading the gospels and meditating on the cross we can go back.
The other thing I do is I ask myself, “What would life be like without him?” I imagine how life would look if Michael didn’t love me. Imagine what life would be like, if God didn’t love us. Imagine if Jesus hadn’t died for us.
It’s all too easy to take God’s love for granted. But it’s easy too, to be bowled over by it all over again. Where are you in your own relationship with God? Does it feel giddy like a valentine, or more like a mundane Tuesday evening? Do you feel close to God or far away?