For many years, I struggled to believe that God really loves me. I grew up hearing that He did, and I thought I believed it, but I didn’t REALLY believe it deep down in my spirit. It comes from growing up with conditional love. Because I didn’t really believe He loved me, I was scared whenever I “failed” God that He would be disappointed or angry with me. And any time something bad happened, I thought God was punishing me for something. Recognizing that this was a problem, about ten years ago I began to pray Ephesians 3:17-19 for myself:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I guess I kind of expected that God would just sort of “wave His magic wand” and impart this knowledge in my spirit. Silly me. Instead, Not long after I began to pray, He allowed me to suffer from several bouts of Mono, chronic sinus infections, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
I don’t know how much you know about CFS. Doctors (at least, back then) don’t know what causes it or how to cure it, but they treat it with vitamins, medication to help a sufferer sleep, and mild exercise. It is very difficult debilitating. My specialist told me of one of her patients, a young woman, who had to quit her job and move back into her parents’ home because she was so tired and weak. Usually if a person gets tired, she can rest and recuperate. However, CFS is like running on empty. Rest doesn’t always restore, and pushing myself to accomplish tasks only made me even more tired and weak. On my best days with CFS, I was able to do light housekeeping and cook meals. On my worse days I’d go back to bed as soon my husband got up in the morning. There were times when I cried out of complete exhaustion.
It was a terrible condition to contemplate having for the rest of my life. However, I didn’t ask God to heal me because I felt He had something very important to teach me through it. Gradually I began to trust Him with my illness, and to depend on Him moment by moment for strength, and then to thank Him for each task I was able to accomplish, and finally to thank Him for the CFS itself. I began to consider CFS as a “strangely-wrapped gift”–an awesome gift that was wrapped in suffering–that He would use for my spiritual benefit. HB, our friend and small group leader, said that he felt God would heal me when I had learned the lessons God wanted to teach me through it.
One of the most difficult things about CFS was that I could no longer DO anything to win approval. I could barely do my tasks at home, and I couldn’t serve in any way at church. I really struggled with not being able to “earn my keep” at home or church, and not being a creative Mom for our (then) young son. I thought that I was a burden to EJ and surely he’d eventually get tired of me and ditch me. And I couldn’t DO anything for God so He’d probably abandon me too. This may sound ridiculous, but it was very difficult for me not to be able to perform when I’ve always been a pleaser and won acceptance and love through DOing.
Then one day, like a thunder bolt zapping my spirit, I finally REALLY comprehended that God loves me. I mean REALLY loves me. As a line in a Michael Card song says, I understood that God “cannot love more and He will not love less.” I realized that I do–and indeed CANNOT–be good enough to earn His love, but HE is good enough to love me. His love is not based on what I do for Him, but on who HE is.
The day I understood this truth, everyone suddenly began to pray for my healing. EJ said he was praying for my healing. HB said, “Now it is time to pray for healing.” My small group prayed for my healing. The woman who cut my hair said she was praying for my healing. Most of these people did not understand at that time the tremendous truth I had finally comprehended. HB had our prayer group at church gather around me and pray for my healing while our pastor anointed my head with oil. I felt touched by their prayer. I felt humbled. I also felt something was different within me, but I had never been prayed for or anointed like that, and I had never experienced major healing like that (it was stories that happened to OTHER people) so I didn’t fully believe that I had been healed. But I WAS. I had strength and energy. I physically pushed myself to test my healing…and I was able to work hard and not be depleted.
The physical healing was CFS was amazing. However, the most wonderful thing was not the physical healing, but my grasp of “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Never again have I had any doubt that He loves me, and loves me completely.
In the Bible, the disciple John referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loves” (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). Before I was healed of CFSCFS, after I understood how greatly Jesus loves me, I realized that John wasn’t saying that He was Jesus’ favorite, he wasn’t saying that Jesus loved the others less, but he was merely stating his comprehension of how deeply Jesus loves HIM. This truth was important to him. I think he was marveling over it, as much as I do.
Much as John wrote referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” I began to refer to myself as the “Beloved Daughter of God.” I am not saying that I am God’s favorite. No! This phrase is a statement of my understanding of how deeply God loves me. It is a declaration of the greatness of God’s grace and love and mercy that reaches down to love me. And that is why I refer to myself as the beloved daughter of God.