When You Struggle To Believe God Loves You

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“I struggle to believe that God loves me.”

A dear friend emailed that to me months ago and I’ve carried it around in my heart ever since.

I understand what she means. Those feelings have bombarded me countless times as well. Often on days when despair overwhelms me. Days that begin by struggling to get out of bed, wondering why I should even go on. Days that are fueled only by duty, which is an excruciating way to live.

Those are the days in which I wondered: is there more to life than this? How can I believe God loves me when I’m existing at best and feeling shattered at worst?

I would look around at my friends’ lives and feel cheated. I knew they had their own struggles, but from my perspective, God streamed sunshine over their days while mine were overshadowed by clouds and pouring rain. It was hard to see God’s love in that.

And rain in my life usually came when I least expected it. When it was the most inconvenient. When it was the most painful.

The rain seemed to have no purpose but to bring upheaval and pain.

I struggled to see any good in it. Because in the midst of being shaped, it’s hard to see anything. When I am being pelted by driving rain, everything is clouded and gray. My vision is obscured. All I can think about is finding peace. Being dry. Dancing in the sunshine. And I wonder if I’ll ever get there.

But after the rain has passed, or even when it takes a temporary break, I can look around and see what God has produced through the slashing storm. A dependence on God that is unmistakable. A faith that has been tested. A trust that is unaffected by circumstances. When God shakes what can be shaken, what remains is lasting.

And that is a gift beyond all compare.

Joel 2:23 says, Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. (NLT)

When I get a glimpse of God’s perspective, I see my trials very differently. I see what they are producing in me, the ways they are shaping me and how they bring glory to God.

I can be grateful for what God is teaching me about Himself. My faith is often strengthened, my love for God deepened, and my worldly attachments seem less enticing.

And then I can thank God for the storm. I can see that it was brought out of extravagant love. I can see that the rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness.

The Bible shows me that rain is a gift from God. Rain yields fruit in our lives. With all sunshine and no rain, we become brittle and dried-up – useful for no one and nothing.

Abundant, life-giving fruit requires rain. DA Carson says, “One of the things held out to grieving or suffering believers is the prospect of being more fruitful than they could have ever imagined.”

So in the pouring rain, when our trials are fiercest, God is demonstrating His love for us most powerfully.  When we don’t even feel His presence, but have to rely on His promises, He is doing a deeper work than we could ever imagine.

Suffering changes us like nothing else can. It draws us to God. It makes us more compassionate and understanding and wise. It produces perseverance and teaches us how to really pray. It reframes our perspective.

Those who have suffered deeply know how to comfort others in their grief. They are less likely to draw straight lines between obedience and blessing because they understand there is mystery in suffering, in God, and in life. There are no easy answers with grief, and pretending to have them can seem superficial at best and cruel at worst. God and His ways are inscrutable and often we need to leave it at that without offering trite explanations.

No one can understand or explain another’s suffering. Just as I cannot fully understand or explain my own. I simply must trust that He is using all things for my good. To engage me rather than alienate me. To prosper me, not to harm me. To give me a hope and a future.

Without the Lord, these past 20 years would have made me bitter. Twenty years that have seen the death of my son, a debilitating disease, and a dissolved marriage, among other trials. But these 20 years have brought a closeness to Christ, an unshakeable joy, and a keener awareness of my sin. And because of Jesus, those blessings will ultimately outweigh all the pain.

My life has vacillated between glorious sunshine and terrible downpours. Right now I’m in sunshine, which may last a long time, or may simply be a break before the rain begins again.  I do not know.

But I do know that while I love the sunlight, I need the rain because it does the deepest work in my life. I do not wish a pain-free life on anyone that I love. A pain-free life is not a blessing. A pain-free life yields little of lasting value.

The rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness.

So I want to tell my dear friend:

“I understand how you feel. These relentless trials may make you feel that God doesn’t care, or doesn’t love you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even though God may feel far away, He is nearer now than He has ever been.

He is doing things in your life that will amaze you when you are able to step back and look at them. This torrential downpour in your life is indeed a sign of His love.

The rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness to you.”

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar
  • September 18, 2015 - 2:37 am

    Barbara d. - I believe ever so deeply in what you wrote today. My life has been very difficult but I wouldn’t have the relationship with my Lord today that brings great joy and peace otherwise. God is a mighty God. To the best of my ability I embrace my suffering and confess I’m afraid all at once. He lifts me from the miry pit of fear. God is good. May your friend find this to be the truth. Blessings to you.ReplyCancel

    • September 18, 2015 - 8:58 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you Barbara for sharing your experience and your words. God is so good.ReplyCancel

  • September 18, 2015 - 1:02 pm

    Carmen - You do have a way with words and your depth of heart comes through. I linked this post onto my FB profile. Hope that’s okay. Figured someone else may need some encouragement!ReplyCancel

  • September 18, 2015 - 7:17 pm

    Krista - Vaneetha, your words always bring such peace and encouragement to my heart. As I’m grieving my husband who passed away last month and left 2 small kids who miss him terribly, this post gave me continued hope that God is using this to draw us closer to himself. Closer than we would have ever got with a fairy-tale-perfect life.ReplyCancel

    • September 21, 2015 - 1:26 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Krista, I’m so very sorry. Praying now that God will draw you ever closer as you walk through these beyond difficult days. Only He can comfort our grieving hearts- I pray He will give you a supernatural sense of His presence and His love today.ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2015 - 1:20 am

    Mary Atuheire - I love reading your blogs. They are slowly changing my perspective on suffering and I am loving it.

    I struggled for a while and still struggle to believe and see God’s love for me. This is a good reminder. I am beginning to think God loves the people that suffer more 🙂

    Because they get to enjoy a deep closeness to him that we rarely can without suffering. If only they could see it that way. I pray that i may grow to a point that when suffering comes my way, instead of being quick to pray it away I may rejoice even though I am scared.ReplyCancel

    • September 21, 2015 - 1:28 pm

      Vaneetha - Mary, your words were such an incredible encouragement to me as I read them. That has been my prayer when I started this blog- that people would find hope in their suffering and joy in their trials as they bring them to Jesus. You said it so beautifully. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • October 14, 2015 - 2:44 pm

    Michele - Thank you so much for this! My life so often feels like a torrential downpour. But like you said, when there’s a breaking the rain I can see the fruit it’s producing and the love He’s been pouring down on me the entire time. I’m even starting to get better vision IN the storm, which is amazing.

    Your words are such a blessing and encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing!!ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2015 - 7:59 pm

      Vaneetha - Love what you said, Michele. What a gift to be able to see IN the storm.ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2015 - 10:30 am

    Tammy Gonzalez - I’m struggling to believe this for a friend who just experienced the loss of a second child. She and I met while our daughters were battling cancer. My little one died first, and her daughter passed away several years later. Now, just last night, her 9-year old son died as a result of a brain bleed. She’s not a believer. I so need wisdom on how to minister God’s grace to her in the midst of this tragedy–especially when I see so little fruit in my own life. But your words do bring hope, hope in the gracious love and power of God that goes beyond anything I can imagine. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • October 24, 2015 - 5:00 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Tammy. I’m praying for your precious friend as I write. There are no words for losses like that–only the Lord can bring true comfort in the face of such devastation. And I’m praying for you as you minister to her…ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2015 - 12:20 pm

    Janet - I’ve just today discovered your blog and already I feel we’re the closest of friends. Like you, my life has been a mountain range with deep, muddy valleys and heaven scraping peaks. After 56 years of hugging the roller coaster seat belt, I’m grateful to finally hear the love song God has sung over me for a lifetime. A symphony with great diversity – the order of the classical, the emotion of the blues, the fanfare of a marching band and the tenderness of an acoustic guitar. I wouldn’t trade my life, for this song is mine. It’s through the valleys that relationships are strengthened. I’m just so glad He Walks them with me, and that these old mud-stained clothes will one day be white as snow. But in the meantime, each spot is just another beautiful chorus of that love song.ReplyCancel

    • October 24, 2015 - 4:54 pm

      Vaneetha - Janet- what a beautiful way to describe the songs God sings over us. What an encouragement! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2015 - 8:18 pm

    Manoja - Thank you Vaneetha !!! To read your blog is such a blessing .ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2016 - 9:16 am

    Paula Gershoony - As I read your blog , I find more hope even just for today . Knowing no matter what God is good , and he wants the best for my life . Hi to suffer with daily pain . Physical pain . There are days where I cannot get out of bed , and days with the pain is not so bad and I can do my tasks , and even reaching deep down in my heart tasks . I find that over the years I am more reaching out to others for pain . Physical, emotional etc. I will stand on his help , and hope and my faith in him . Knowing I am blessed even through the pain .ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2016 - 10:18 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Paula- I am so sorry for all the pain in your life. But at the same time I am so grateful for your testimony of God’s grace in the midst of it. Praying now for extravagant grace and mercy over your day…and your life.ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2016 - 9:12 pm

    Brenda - Vaneetha, thank you so much for sharing this! These past few months have been a real downpour physically and emotional for me. Your post has brought so much encouragement to me. I know that even though the storm may seem rough, God’s love remains and for that I will be forever grateful! I will rejoice in my suffering for I know that the Lord will soon bring sunshine into my life once again.ReplyCancel

    • September 8, 2016 - 10:30 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry for the downpour, Brenda. Storms have a way of unsettling every part of our lives. I’m praying as I write this that you will feel God’s strong arms around you as you wait with Him for the sunshine.ReplyCancel

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