The Incomprehensible Love of God
“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (ESV)
My husband is deployed right now, so our relationship is sustained through FaceTime while he’s gone. A relationship through the phone is nothing compared to physically being face to face. A FaceTime call goodnight is nothing compared to snuggling up to him as he securely hugs me into the smell of his T-shirt that brings me deep comfort. Through FaceTime, I know that my husband loves me. I still get to spend time with him, and I can even feel his love through conversation – but nothing compares to being face to face. Right now, we know only in part what one day we will know in full – and that is God’s love. We live in an imperfect world contaminated by sin, so our knowledge of love is equivalent to a FaceTime call. My relationship with my husband right now is not limited because he is withholding anything from me; it’s just because of the circumstances of a deployment. In the same way, God does not withhold any love from us. The circumstances of living in a fallen world limit our understanding of His abundant love. Although this can initially seem discouraging, it is comforting to know that the love that waits for us is more powerful than we could ever imagine. One day we will know God’s love in full, just as He fully knows us right now.
God wants us to comprehend His love as deeply as we possibly can, even in our limited capacity. The strength it takes to know God’s love has to come through Him. Ephesians 3:15-18 says, “According to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
When trying to grasp the love of God, we first have to acknowledge that our experience is not the defining factor of love. Brokenness is woven through our DNA. Our human experience is nothing short of difficult. The purity and unselfish nature of God’s love is foreign to our earthly image of love. When relationships with our parents, spouses, children, or friends seem whole, they still don’t compare to the level of God’s love. Additionally, when our relationships fail us, it does not negate the love of God. Our relationships or circumstances, whether good or bad, are not what defines love. It is easy to let our pain define love, which creates a love that is disfigured and fragmented. It’s easy to believe a narrative that love leaves, love fails us, and love disappoints. When we get caught up in thinking our relationships are the essence of true love – putting marriage, family, or friendships on a pedestal – we will always end up disappointed because people cannot offer us a perfect love. While the connection we have through human relationships can exemplify a physically and emotionally beautiful illustration of love, it still will never measure up to the all-encompassing love of God. In the same way we can only comprehend God’s love partially right now, we also have to acknowledge that our human relationships do not define love. These understandings make it possible to know the breadth and length and height of God’s love.
God doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to love. He is love (1 John 4:16), so everything He does flows fiercely from a place of love. If you have ever stood at the bank of a river that moves with a force so powerful it could pull you off your feet and suck you under, you can picture the kind of love God has. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of human sin, God made the first sacrifice that came from a place of love: making garments of skin for their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In John 19-20 God made the final and deepest sacrifice that came from a place of love – Jesus’s perfect life, brutal death, and glorious resurrection from the grave. Because of this sacrifice, we never have to be separated from the love of God again. This was the greatest example of love and leaves us with no reason to distrust His love. Jesus was and is the walking, breathing incarnation of love and His continual interceding on our behalf is the incessant breath of God giving us life. Even though we may doubt God’s love because of our tendency to wander, we never have to doubt because of His unchanging nature.
Even when we understand this picture of His active love, our insecurities tend to get in the way of being confident in His love for us. Psalm 139 says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
God has searched me. He knows my thoughts before they even take form in my mind. He knows my words before they travel from my mouth to someone else’s ears and yet he still loves me. When I think of the majority of my thoughts, words, and actions, I’m sad to say that they’re probably not something I’d go running to God with to display proudly before Him. My prayer of repentance at the end of most days makes me want to hide from God, knowing I have failed over and over – but He doesn’t want me to run and hide. He wants me to come to Him, not like a scared child afraid of a beating, but like a child who is confident of their Father’s love. I can be confident that He will never leave me, never forsake me, never make fun of me, and never use my weaknesses against me. I can be confident of His patience, His kindness, His goodness. God’s love already knows us fully, so there is no reason to hide. This only closes our hearts off to the love He has freely given us and wants us to know. Hiding from God only ruins the greatest experience on this side of Heaven – which is knowing that God welcomes you with an unconditional, fierce embrace. His love ushered the world into existence, so it has the power to usher our broken, insecure hearts close to His.
Romans 8:38-39 is one of the most comforting verses for a heart prone to doubt and insecurity. Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing of the physical or spiritual world can ever separate us from the love of God. Our sin or shame can make us blind to God’s love, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Living blind to God’s love not only limits the goodness we can experience in our lifetime, but it actually denies the very nature of our God. Nothing can separate you from the love of God when you know Jesus as your Savior, and He only wants you to know Him deeper as life goes on.
Why would we turn down the opportunity to know a limitless love that knows us fully and will never let us go? Our lives are not exempt from hardship and tragedy (John 16:33). Knowing God’s love does not mean experiencing a life apart from hardship. Knowing God’s love means knowing hope within and beyond hardship. He invites us to know the breadth, width, and height of His love. Letting ourselves get in the way of that only limits the most authentic joy we have the chance of knowing in this life. God’s love brings courage to shattered hearts. God’s love brings eternal depth to difficult circumstances. God’s love brings light to the darkness, meaning to our struggles, and fullness to our limitations. While we can never fully comprehend the love of God, we can be confident that it is true. One day we will know His limitless love fully and it will sweep us under the current with a force like nothing we’ve known before.
Take some time this week to reflect on God’s wondrous love. Journal through the following questions or find a friend or mentor to discuss them with.
1. What circumstances or relationships in your life have shaped how you view love?
2. What does God’s word say about His love?
3. How can you show God’s love to someone in your life this week?
If you’ve never experienced the love of God before, or you have questions about who He is check out our “What Does It Mean to be a Christian?” page.
The ESV Bible. Crossway, 2001, www.esv.org/.