How deep, How wide, How high

When was the last time you sat and really thought deeply about how much you are loved?

I don’t mean the fleeting acknowledgement that you’re a Christian now, so you’re a sinner saved by grace and you know God loves you*.

I mean, when did you last allow the holes in your heart to be filled once again by the resonating, perfumed, purifying truth that God’s redeeming, reconciling, passionate, self-sacrificing, aching love pursued you, sought you, gave everything for you? When did you last stop long enough for this fact to penetrate the deepest, darkest parts of your heart and fill your soul to overflowing?

In the run up to Easter this year, my Bible readings turned to the words and actions of my wonderful Jesus during his time on earth. Over and over again I read of his compassion for the people he met. So often when he could have carried on his way, he allowed his time to be interrupted by desperate, broken people who wanted his attention, love, time, healing and kindness. Sometimes they had the courage to call out to him as he passed by their home; other times they snuck into his presence, too ashamed to ask for their heart’s desire. And he never turned them away, never let them down. Not once.

When we are hurting, when we suffer, when we are afraid, it is all too easy to start believing that God’s compassion for us must have evaporated – that He doesn’t love us and care about us, that he doesn’t mind us suffering and can’t want what is best for us because of what we’re going through. Perhaps He’s as fickle as we are. Perhaps we were mistaken about Him after all. As we tread water in our place of pain, spluttering as the waves of stormy times engulf us, we can’t see a lifeboat, a lighthouse, a lifeline anywhere. We wonder where Jesus is now, when we need him most, and we start to believe that right there in that salty, overwhelming sea, we will drown before he comes running across the water to rescue us, before we see our situation change. We tell ourselves that we’ve been forgotten, that help is not coming.

In this lonely place it’s so easy to begin to catalogue all the friends, family and acquaintances that you know whose lives seem to look so very different to yours. Where you know barrenness, struggle and lack, you can see only the fullness, richness and success that others are making of their lives. Where they are flying, you feel that you’re sinking – that you’ve been sinking for a very long time now in fact. Where those around you are being blessed, especially in the areas that you’re crying out to God for, you start to believe that He loves them but He doesn’t love you, because if He did you wouldn’t be going through what you’re going through.

But the truth is, my friend, social media is a liar and the ‘I’m fine’ conversations at church on a Sunday are a cover-up.

None of us are immune to trials and disappointment. We might not all be going through hardships at the same time – one person’s summer months are another’s coldest, darkest winter – but we are all bruised at heart and simply trying to figure out how to do this thing called life. I suspect if you conducted a survey, not one person would say that life had gone exactly the way they had hoped and planned.

In our Bibles God makes it clear that following Him doesn’t bring immunity from the tough stuff – and this honesty doesn’t bring us much comfort. But we can’t say He didn’t warn us! Yet more importantly, our suffering isn’t God’s intention and it certainly wasn’t His original design for us when He created us.

In our pain, we equate suffering with being forgotten by the One who loves us most. We forget that God’s heart is full of compassion for us at all times. Suffering is not a sign of how he loves us – fully loving us was a done deal the minute he thought you and me up. His love for us doesn’t change – and we have to dig our heels in and remember the unchanging nature of God even as our circumstances throw us about. We have to remember to trust our Father first and foremost.

God has been spending every day since the beginning of time devising ways to win us back to Him so that He can love us. And His Ultimate Plan was Jesus.

Jesus’s willingness to die on the cross that first Easter was the final and complete extension of the compassion he displayed on earth, revealing his full heart of love for us. And Jesus’s actions on earth were a reflection of His Father’s heart in heaven.

Someday soon, these violent, wintry winds will calm, these calamitous seas will still and your little boat will tootle along once again in the warm sunny breeze of a summer’s day, as you carry on your way. It’s a cliché and we hear it a lot, but the truth is seasons do change, and what you’re going through won’t stay like this forever.

But one thing won’t change: the Father’s love for you. And so this really is the most pressing question, the one you’ll spend your whole life getting to grips with: Do you really understand yet just how much the Father loves you?

*Want to know more about who God is and how much He loves you? Check this out here.

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