She sat across from me in a quiet coffee shop. Her shoulders seemed to stoop from carrying an invisible weight. “I’m trying so hard,” she said, “and it just never seems to be enough.” I nodded my head in understanding. I’ve heard similar confessions from women around the world. The words show up in my inbox. They’re whispered to me after speaking engagements. I hear them often as a life coach. And, of course, I’ve said them myself.
After years of struggling with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, I realized we have two choices: we can believe in and receive God’s passionate and perfect love for us, or we can spend our lives trying to be perfect to make sure we’re loved.
Living in Love
Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you sick of striving? Aren’t you ready to let go of all that worry? Then let today be the day when everything starts changing for you, like it did for me. God doesn’t want us to live in fear. He has given everything so we can live in love instead.
Love is where we must always begin with God. “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (). Through the years I’ve looked into the eyes of hurting women and asked, “Do you really believe God loves you—not just tolerates you?” Most often the reaction is tears springing to their eyes.
Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that God simply “puts up with us” because he has to. We’re the naughty children who drive him crazy, but he has to be our parent anyway. I believe at the root of every human quest for perfection is a misunderstanding of God’s love for us.
Our hearts are made for love. If we don’t think we can freely receive it, we’ll try to earn it. Every woman (and man) needs to understand certain truths about the way God sees us:
God doesn’t just love you; he is love. It’s the essence of his character.
God can’t be unloving. It’s simply not possible. His love is far different from what we’ve experienced from other people.
God’s love has no limits. You can’t wear him out or be too much for him to handle. He doesn’t grow tired. He doesn’t have bad days. His response to you doesn’t depend on his mood or energy level. There’s never an end to his love for you.
God’s love has no expectations. In every human relationship we encounter expectations, but God doesn’t have any for us. He already knows our hearts; we can’t surprise or disappoint him.
God’s love has no requirements. We’re used to relationships in which we’re made to feel, “If you do ‘X,’ I will love you.” God’s love is unconditional. God loved all of us while we were . Nothing can separate us now.
God’s love is not dependent on us. Human love is often determined by our actions, but God loves us because that’s who he is. It’s part of his character. He will always love us, no matter what we do.
God’s love has our ultimate good in mind. Because he doesn’t need our love, God can do what is best for us even if it’s not what we want. Other people may make choices that aren’t really beneficial to us just so we won’t get upset with them, but God is independent of us and doesn’t need our approval.
God’s love can’t be earned; it can only be received. We can win the affections of others through our actions. God’s love is only and always a gift of grace. We can never be good enough to gain his love and never bad enough to lose it.
Accepting the Cross
In He Loves Me! Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection, author Wayne Jacobsen says:
Two thousand years of religious tradition have inculcated in us the mistaken notion that God’s love is something we earn. If we do what pleases him, he loves us; if not, he doesn’t. Giving that up isn’t easy. Moving from a performance-based religious ethic to a relationship deeply rooted in the Father’s affection is no small transition.
This transition is one we have to make, though, if we’re ever going to beat that feeling of “never being enough” because God’s love is the only thing that can truly defeat it.
God’s love is bigger and vaster than we can ever fathom. It can never be fully understood, only gratefully received. And it certainly can’t be possessed through our actions. Either God’s love is real and what Jesus did on the cross is enough, or we’re all doomed. There is no in-between. Trying to be perfect is an illusion.
It’s time to decide once and for all: Is God’s love real or not? We can live a lifetime saying we believe it is and living like it’s not.
Truly embracing God’s love in our lives can begin with this simple prayer: “God, I’ve been trying so hard to be ‘good enough’ for you and others. I’m exhausted and ready for a new way of living. Please help me receive your love and rest in it. I love you too. Amen.” If that prayer doesn’t feel like enough—that we should do more—then that’s exactly why we need to be praying it.
When we remember God’s perfect and passionate love, we regain perspective. As much as it feels like it on some days, the world is not on our shoulders; it’s in God’s hands. And we are too. He loves us in ways far beyond what we can even comprehend, as high as the stars, as endless as the sky. All we have to do is receive that love and respond to it.
It’s both the simplest and the hardest thing to do because everything within us wants to prove our worth and earn affection. Instead, we can stop and fix our eyes on the only one who is worthy of our worship. When we look to God, we see who we truly are: imperfect people who are infinitely, perfectly loved.
A few months later I met with my friend at a coffee shop again. She sat a little taller in her seat, and there was finally a smile on her face. She even looked a bit younger. As we talked, I realized her demeanor reminded me of something I’d seen before. After thinking about it for a moment, the answer came in a flash of understanding. I leaned across the table and said, “You look like a daughter who knows her daddy loves her.”
Without even pausing for a second she nodded and replied with a smile, “Yes, he really does.”