When You Need to Feel Like God Loves You

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I don’t generally do New Year’s resolutions. However, at this time of year, I see the value in reflecting on the past year and meditating on ways to do things differently in the new year or improve things that aren’t working (even if it doesn’t involve a list).

Just like some of you who may be reading this, I have got some areas of my life that haven’t been working so well for me lately. And thus, when I listened to a Christmas Eve sermon which centered on Revelation 12:11, I decided that I wanted my word of the year to be “overcome.” I know that there are some patterns of behavior that are holding me back. Even as a blogger who writes about healing and spiritual growth, I am ever in process myself. And — just from undergoing some healing these past few years, I know that I don’t have the strength to overcome these areas on my own. And so, I have been praying about these areas and asking Jesus to help me.

One such area I have been in need of an intervention in is in the area of God’s love. I know. I have written numerous blog posts on the subject. However, it’s been an area I’ve struggled with at different intervals of my life because of past events that like to surface, difficult circumstances that make it challenging to trace God’s hand, and lies of the enemy that try to tempt me once again as they have in the past. I’ll just be honest with you: I don’t feel God’s love in a tangible way all of the time even though I can point to ways He has rescued me in my life, comforted me, come through for me.

Recently, I prayed, God, help me to feel your love. Why don’t I always feel it? I then went about my day and forgot I had even asked. On a whim, not even remembering that I had asked this question, I went by the bookshelf and picked up Breaking Free by Beth Moore. These were the words I read on the page I opened:

I continue to see this statement in my mail: ‘I have such trouble really believing and accepting how much God loves me.’ So I began to ask God, ‘Lord, why do we have so much trouble believing and accepting Your love for us?’ I offered God multiple-choice answers to my own question: ‘Is it our backgrounds? Our childhood hurts? The unsound teachings we’ve received? The unloving people who surround us?’ I would have gone on and on except that He seemed to interrupt me — and He had the gall not to choose one of my multiple-choice answers.

As clearly as a bell, God spoke to my heart through His Spirit and said, ‘The answer to your question is the sin of unbelief.’ The thought never crossed my mind. Since then, it’s never left my mind.

Well, let me tell you. I almost fell over in shock. I received this book from a friend about five years ago. I read it then, but I had no recollection of the words that lay before me. In addition, I wasn’t searching out this section of the book or expecting there to be an answer for me within its pages. If anything, the fact that He answered me so readily testified to me of God’s care and love right then.

You see, I had been waiting to feel God’s love, and I do feel it at times. But Moore stresses rightly that His love is something we have to believe, not always just wait to feel.

The Bible tells us this: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Most of us would have to think twice about dying for someone we love, let alone someone who didn’t even appreciate the gift. Think about it. Jesus died knowing that some of us would be flippant about His act while others of us would reject His offer.

In addition, if that weren’t enough, Jesus didn’t come with pomp and circumstance, putting on airs. He downgraded from the splendor of heaven to dwell with us here. He demanded none of the prestige that was due Him — to offer a way out of the mess that we created.

And if you need one more example of His great love, we need only think back to the creation story where God made us as the climax of His creation. We weren’t an afterthought or on the same level as the animals and plants. He set us above them — to rule over them. We were made in the likeness of God; as one commentator put it – we were made to be God’s “shadow.” He saw fit to give us His own attributes and make us in His own image.

Many of us feel it’s impossible that God would love us because of how others have treated us or because we have have even rejected ourselves, but the painful truth is that when we don’t accept that God loves us, we are participating in unbelief. As Moore argues later in the chapter, “Unbelief regarding the love of God is the ultimate slap in His face. The world came into being from the foundation of God’s love. God nailed down His love for us on the cross. Can you imagine the grief of our unbelief after all He’s done?”

On a much smaller scale, it might be like us presenting our child with a lavish gift and a position to work for us and them saying to us, I will take the gift and the position, but I still don’t feel like it’s mine. We would want to hit them over the head and say, Wake up, dummy! Aren’t you enjoying the benefits of this gift even as we speak and yet you deny it’s yours?

A stronghold is something we lift up and attach ourselves to — whether that be a thought pattern or an action. But ultimately, that thought or action opposes God’s Word. Unbelief of God’s love can become a stronghold. To demolish the stronghold of unbelief of God’s love, we need to tear down the lies that He doesn’t love us or that we are unlovable and replace that with belief in God’s truth declared in His Word.

In a project I have been working on lately, this idea has continually popped up in the Bible stories I have been studying: the path of belief versus unbelief that God offers. Often, God surprises me with His answers. They don’t always seem that logical. Rather than 2 + 2 = 4, the answer is instead 23 or squirrel or the color blue. I wouldn’t think that belief is the key to experiencing God’s love.

Eve, when tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden to eat the fruit, did so because she entered into disbelief. She stepped away from believing God had her best in mind (when He warned her not to eat the fruit) and believed that God was holding out on her by placing a restriction on that fruit, even though God had done everything to prove otherwise by placing her in a lovely garden with all of her needs met. It didn’t matter what she felt at the moment. The truth, whether she believed it or not, was that God did love her and had forbidden her from eating the fruit because He was protecting her. The truth remained even when she stepped out of belief and aligned herself with Satan and got out of alignment with God.

The Bible tells us that we are dearly loved by God (Eph. 5:1,2; Col. 3:12). Dearly loved means that we can be rooted in a deep, unwavering belief of God’s love that permeates our every action. Ultimately, all of us need a conviction of God’s love to operate in His power and will — because otherwise we will fall into unbelief on the days we don’t feel like His love is there.

How about you? Do you struggle to feel God’s love? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Rejection: Why Don’t I Like Myself?

She walked past me, and I caught sight of the stump of her right arm and the deep pock marks on her face.

This was not the first time I had seen her. She worked at my doctor’s office and had conducted a few billing transactions for me. She had always been friendly and cordial.

But this time when I saw her, something was different. I felt two words press down into my soul like boot marks on muddy soil: Self-rejection. Anger. Although I knew very little about this woman, I suddenly knew so much about her. I felt the pressure again on my spirit. Those words again: Self-rejection. Anger.

Are you serious, God? Do you want me to say something to her? Although I felt compassion for her, I most certainly did not want to say anything to her. I most certainly did not want to ask her if those words meant anything to her. I most certainly did not want to get involved and embarrass her by bringing up a painful past where perhaps those words had begun to define who she was.

How I started not liking myself

If her story was anything like mine, I could trace my own dislike of myself back to when I was a child. I had developed an anxiety very early on about my worth in relationship to others. The feelings had developed because we lived in a house that was a never-done work-in-process with particle board floors, door-less cupboards, and knob-less doors.

These feelings of inadequacy intensified when I went to school in shabby hand-me-downs and developed much later than my peers. I was scorned for being skinny, unfashionable, and poor. And without even knowing it, I began to feel less than other people. I masked this pain with a brave front, but all the while I had a negative tape playing in my head.

I felt angry at myself for not measuring up. I felt angry at God for making a “mistake.” I felt angry at the cruelty of my friends. I didn’t know that the relationship I had with myself was one of the most important  — the one that would impact how I felt about God and others. I didn’t know that self-rejection would separate me from my peers even more than I already felt separated.

When this scorn for myself got to a level where constantly beating myself up was a normal part of each day, I had to find an out to overcome the negative voices. My method for relieving myself of my pain and feeling good about myself was looking to others to fill what I felt was empty in myself. I vowed to not upset or confront those around me so that I could avoid rejection. I became a perfectionist to perform enough so that I could be useful and acceptable to convince myself and others of my worth.

I married young and used my husband’s attention and love to try to feel good about myself. Even as a married woman, I became flirtatious with the men around me to attempt to further convince myself that I was beautiful and smart. I became a workaholic to try to out-perform others and be the best so that, again, I could quiet the voice inside myself that said I was not worthy.

What is self-rejection and self-hatred?

According to a 1990 radio message by Charles Stanley, self-rejection is generated from “chronic feelings of unworthiness.” People who have problems with self-rejection are “willing to base their self-worth on the opinions of others rather than on [their] relationship to God.” Causes for self-rejection can include “an early-in-life deformity, deep emotional hurt from childhood, death of a parent, abandonment, divorce, abuse, guilt from past mistakes, and criticism from others.”

I didn’t know for the longest time what a healthy self-image even looked like and through some study I discovered that God really wants me to be confident in the person He has made me to be. When I turn against myself, I am essentially turning against God and telling him that what he created is defective. 

In addition, self-rejection is a strategy Satan uses to get us out of relationship with God and relationship with others. It is based on lies from the master of lies himself. When I look back at pictures of myself and see a beautiful, brown-haired girl, I feel so absolutely sad because the way I saw myself — and still see myself at times — was and is so very distorted.

Because of the lies I began speaking over myself (mainly those I assumed were true or believed from the words of a small handful of people), I stopped seeing myself the way God saw me and instead embraced a version of myself that simply wasn’t true.

What I have learned in my journey to a healthy self-worth is that a confident person does not base his or her self-worth on the opinions of others. A confident person gets his approval from God. As Joyce Meyer says in Approval Addiction: 

We can enter the rest of God concerning what people think of us and whether they approve of us. We can become so secure in Christ that as long as we know our heart is right, we know whatever people think of us is between them and God and is not our concern.”

Meyer gives the example of Paul as one confident in his position in Christ. She notes that in 1 Cor. 4 we see a situation in which Paul is being judged regarding his faithfulness. Paul responds to the criticism by saying that he is concerned with God’s judgment rather than man’s, emphasizing, “I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself” (I Cor. 4:3).

What is encouraging to me (and what Meyer stresses) is that Paul had people questioning him and yet he chose not to let their accusations define him. Although he was concerned about his reputation among men, his primary concern was a clear conscience before God.

I don’t know about you but I struggle with that kind of confidence.

Where does my self-worth and sense of acceptance come from?

What Paul knew about having a healthy identity and what I am learning is that I can be confident because of Him who lives in me and what He has done for me. I can choose to accept and love myself as a child of God because He has claimed me and cancelled my failings. I am acceptable because of what Christ has done in me and not because of what I have done for myself.

It takes the pressure off when I acknowledge this because I don’t have to worry about gaining the approval of others. I won’t please everyone around me all of the time. I simply have to follow Him where He leads and depend on Him in my moments of insecurity when I am afraid I won’t get it right.

When I hear a negative thought creep in such as “There is something wrong with you” or “No one likes you” — I can immediately reject it as a thought from Satan. God convicts me of wrong actions that need to be addressed, but his conviction never comes to destroy me but always to restore me.

As Stanley notes in his radio address, turning away from self-rejection involves identifying the feelings of rejection, rejecting the feelings of rejection and affirming that you are “unconditionally loved, completely forgiven, totally accepted and complete in Christ.”

To get to that place of acceptance of myself, I have had to forgive myself for not being perfect; forgive my parents for not parenting me perfectly; forgive my tormentors for making fun of me; and forgive God for giving me parts of my story that I thought were imperfect.

Self-Acceptance: How can I like myself?

The woman at the doctor’s office. I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know her story. But in some ways I did. I didn’t have to know every in and in out of her past to see the scars left behind. I felt it so strongly again when I was sitting in the room waiting for the doctor — to tell her my own tale of overcoming my own self-rejection and forgiving those who had hurt me.

As if to confirm my assignment, I caught sight of the woman on my way out of the office. She was hurrying along, papers clipped under her disfigured arm. Coward that I am, I did not stop her then. I needed time to examine this, think.

I made my next appointment and left. It was not until a week later that I called the office and with a shaky voice told her on the phone that I felt that God had something for me to tell her.

She didn’t say much in response but thanked me for my call. I hope that my words to her will begin a process in her that He began in me some time ago — of learning to accept His love and His version of me.

And I hope my words will inspire a work in you if self-rejection or self-hatred is a struggle, knowing that there is a God who loves you and wants to restore you to Himself.

Getting there means believing what He says about you and resisting messages from Satan or peers that would tell you otherwise — and taking yourself off trial.

Related Bible Verses:

1 Corinthians 4:3: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be servant of Christ.”

 Related Resources:

Charles Stanley, a pastor and author, suffered rejection as a child and has written extensively about the the damaging effects of rejection and self-rejection. Click here for his devotional on self-rejection featured on Crosswalk online magazine or here for notes from his radio message.

Have you experienced rejection and as a result find yourself trying to perform to avoid rejection from those around you? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself or saying no because you fear others’ reactions? Joyce Meyer talks about how to not let the desire for others’ approval dominate your life in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone.

Photo Credit: Celeste Lindell, Flickr

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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