By Darlene Franklin
Zero percent variance. God’s love never changes. At all. If God pelts the earth with a meteor storm of His love, it doesn’t diminish. (Psalm 36:5 MSG) We don’t have the under or detour around His love. It fills every crook of the known and the unknown. (Ephesians 3:19, Romans 8:39, NIV)
That’s foundational Biblical fact. Apart from God’s love and holiness, the Christian faith makes little sense.
Unfortunately, the average pew warmer doesn’t feel God’s love 24/7. Their experience is more like a magic trick. Consider the following illustration.
An empty cup sits next to the
full container of God’s love.
God’s agape showers nature with times, seasons, beauty, warmth, food to eat and the earth to explore. His written word shouts in glorious prose such as the verses shared above as well as the history of seekers after God. We read about babies held in the arms of barren woman, of David dancing before the ark on the way to Jerusalem. The Living Word spelled it out in flesh, demonstrating how we should love one another.
Compared to that abundance, I’m often tempted to feel like Sarai before the miracle of Isaac, before laughter.
Helen Keller lived in a void absent of sight, sound, or speech. No one would have blamed her for feeling empty, but instead she said, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”
We refuse the provided cup but instead use a self-made cone, which fails.
God poured His loving protection over the Israelites for forty years. He provided for every need without fail, but they still didn’t believe in His faithfulness.
When a spring didn’t appear to quench their thirst, they begged for Moses’s help. He made a terrible choice: he fashioned a drinking cup of his own design. His staff became a cone when he struck the rock. Because Moses didn’t seek water in the waiting cup, speaking to the rock as God had instructed, the Lord was greatly displeased. As a result, for reasons I confess I don’t completely understand, God denied him entrance into the promised land.
I know what it’s like to live with someone who soaks love yet remains empty. My daughter had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It was like traveling through a black hole that ate my flesh and spat out dry bones.
No human love could fill a void that vast. BPD couldn’t be healed, but a person with the illness could adapt, survive, and even thrive.
Whether people suffer from some form of short-term mental illness, a disorder, or just the highs and lows of life, many have experienced a dark place. They seek God, begging for His love, and instead it seems He is hiding. (Isaiah 64:7)
Push the magic another step in your imagination: Suppose both the cup and the jug appear empty.
Like the milk in the magic trick, God’s love doesn’t disappear. But sometimes it’s transparent and not visible to the human eye.
Roman philosopher Seneca pointed out that every new beginning comes from other beginning’s end. Joseph understood that. He became Pharaoh’s second-in-command after he had been both a slave and a prisoner.
All my self-striving and handmade containers are doomed to failure. Only after I accept the fact that no amount of effort can make my sixty-year-old body do the work of a young adult does the murk that’s been hiding God’s glory wash away. I sense God rubbing His hands together. “I’ve been waiting for you to join Me. Let go and watch Me go to work.”
Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, is famous for saying he found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. When people look for God’s love and don’t see it, they can cling to the fact it’s still there.
Back to the full jug and empty cup.
Milk is poured into the glass so that milk appears in both the jug and the cup.
Ebenezer Scrooge was so starved for love that he didn’t realize his cup was worse than empty. It had shattered when Marley died. Only after he resolved his past and understood his present did he go from wishing the needy would die and “decrease the surplus population” to vowing to honor Christmas in his heart.
Lights shine brightest in the darkness. God’s love offers a new beginning that no amount of failure can stall. No matter how much He pours into people, past, present, and future, and He’s as full as ever.
During my college years (I attended a Bible college), I wrote a term paper on God’s love in Paul’s letters. I had no idea how necessary the verses, theories and patterns I uncovered would be throughout my life. I expect many a pastor has had the same experience.
My cup has appeared empty many times.
- Studied piano for twelve years before being told I wasn’t good enough.
- Married for life—divorced after twelve years.
- Trained for missionary service—kicked out of two churches.
I thought I reached rock bottom when my son was taken from the home as a teenager. Instead, when I felt cold inside, God’s love pulsed within that steel core and kept me going when I felt hopeless.
Those trials trained me for my daughter’s death. I felt numb, but not unloved. I experienced it in the words and acts and gifts of countless friends, work, church, community, writing community, internet friends. We encouraged each other.
When I couldn’t see God’s love in my drinking cup, He was feeding me, keeping me alive and healing me from pain.
Now I face another passage, moving into my senior years and the limitations they bring. By now I know the promise is no illusion. God’s love is real, more real than anything I know, and it is the one thing that will never fail.
Even if it took 10,000 tries for me to open my eyes to the brilliant light of God’s love.
Sponsored by Darlene Franklin, author of A 12-Monoth Guide to Better Prayer for Women