Ok, so I know I talk a lot about the love of God. A lot. It’s so vital, it’s so transformational, it’s so captivating… The way that God loves us with this undeserved, unmerited, gracious love.
But, do you know what?
This is important.
God also likes you.
He really does.
I know, I know, that sounds so simple that it’s almost-too-basic-for-words, but hear me out.
Because sometimes we can know and believe and hold onto the fact that God loves us. But not actually live as if He likes us.
One of my young people said to me the other day, ‘Peta, I know what you’ll say. You’ll say that God loves me. But, the thing is, He’s God. He loves everybody. That’s what He does. That doesn’t mean He actually likes…me.’
Ok. Where do you go with that one?
But I did understand what this girl was talking about. I really did. Because it can sometimes feel like there’s a disconnect between this incredible love that we read about in the Bible, and believe in, and press into… And our daily reality.
And that disconnect can be called many things… But I think that often, it’s called offense.
Seriously, I think the main reasons we fall into this cycle of thinking and living is because we’re offended. At God.
It looks like this.
We might believe in God, and know the Word, and still be going through the motions of following Him, but inside, where no one sees, we’ve become offended. Life hasn’t worked out the way we wanted. God didn’t seem to answer us in the way we expected. It’s just been so long in such a hard place. God seems to be silent and on mute. We are comparing ourselves and our lives to everyone else. And God has allowed it to happen, or caused it to happen, or not stopped it from happening… Whatever His deal is. And we might still be praying and reading our Bibles and going to church… But secretly, inside of our hearts where no one else sees, we’re offended at Him. Because surely if He was really God and really good, He would have done something? Wouldn’t He? I mean, He’s God?
Sound familar at all?
I mean, you know God loves You. You know Jesus died for You. But… Well… Maybe it just doesn’t feel like He likes you so much.
In Matthew 11, Jesus says these words: ‘Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.’
And it comes right into this passage in a way that leaves me going, ‘What does this mean Jesus? Why is this here?’
Because Jesus was talking to his disciples and to John’s disciples. He was talking to those who followed Him. Those who wanted to believe in Him. Those who had already left it all behind for Him. He was talking to a group of men who had followed John the Baptist, the forerunner, the man who is about to be put to death for his faith and his stand for righteousness. A group of people who are probably wondering why Jesus isn’t storming the prison and doing a miracle to get John set free. And a group of men who will soon have to cope with the reality that John has been killed. And left wondering why.
And I am left thinking that there’s something really important for us in these words.
Because they point to the fact that we have to sometimes trust Jesus’ leadership before we see the outcome of a situation. Or when the outcome of a situation isn’t what we expected. We have to run to Him and not away from Him, trusting that He is good. Still good. Still in control. Even when we can’t see clearly. Or understand fully.
It’s like when Lazarus dies (John 11). And we see Mary, for the first time, not run to Jesus. She’s sent word to Him in the complete faith that He will come and heal her brother. She has this incredible history of sitting at the feet of Jesus. He has defended her as someone who understands the one thing that is needed. But then… Jesus doesn’t come. He’s late. And her brother dies.
And we are left at this point in the story where you can almost feel her pain… And her offense. Because Jesus comes, but it’s too late. And Lazarus is dead. And Mary, the same Mary who you couldn’t drag away from the company of Jesus previously, doesn’t even go out to meet Him. Mary stayed at home. Because she knows that He can heal. And she believes He’s the Messiah. Which makes it all the more painful that He didn’t come and answer her prayers in the way she expected.
And finally, when Jesus asks for her by name, she goes to Him, but it’s with all her questions and all her doubts and all her not-understanding-the-purpose… ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’.
And how does Jesus respond? Because He loves Mary as her God… But He also loves her as her friend. He connects with her in her brokenness. He likes her. And in this moment, He weeps with her. He takes her in her offense, and He doesn’t offer words of explanation, He just shares her pain. It’s like everything within her might have been wanting to resist Him, but He just meets her in that place where her resistance is shattered.
And we know the end of the story. The greater miracle. Lazarus isn’t just healed, He’s raised from the dead. Jesus was never late. Mary’s weeping is turned into rejoicing. And she has learnt a lesson that propels her into the abandoned and sacrificial worship that we see follow as she pours her precious perfume on the feet of Jesus. She has learnt that worship is about this unhindered connection between us and Jesus. That in our pain and in our offense and in our reality, we run to Him and not away, knowing that He meets us, knowing that we can trust Him always, and knowing that He can remove any barrier.
Allowing our disillusionment to cause us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. To be illuminated by Him and the greater reality of His Light. Trusting that He knows the end of the story even when we don’t.
God wants all of us. All. But so often I hold back from Him because I’ve been hurt. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it. Sometimes it’s deliberate. But whatever the reason, the cause, or the nature, it always leaves me in an unfulfilled and distant place.
Pressing through offense is hard. I remember resolving to do this when I was in a really difficult season, and I used to sit at my piano and literally sing myself into the truth that God was God and God was good. Even when it didn’t feel like it. And every morning I would begin there. Literally. Sometimes, I would open the Word and sing a passage and straight away have this revelation and strength from God. But somedays, on the really tough days, it would take 2 hours. But I knew that I couldn’t leave that place until I knew, that I knew, that I knew… That I could say He was good and believe it in my heart.
There’s this great quote that says, ‘You will either die in your sin and lose your way. Or you will die to yourself’, and that’s our choice. Because if we hold onto our offense, and let it fester in the recesses of our hearts, then we will never be able to die completely to ourselves.We’ll hold back from God. And unless we die completely to ourselves, we will never have the unhindered connection of worship that He longs to have with us.
But in our surrender. Our surrender of our offense. Our surrender of our pride. Our surrender of our sin. It’s in that place where the real joy of being both completely loved and completely liked by God really kicks in. Because Holy Spirit is our friend. Our best friend. He who loves to dwell within us and to engage with us and to flow from us.
God loves me. He loves you. We are His beloved and the desire of His heart.
But He also likes us.
He likes me.
He wants to hang out with me, He wants to hold onto me, He wants my full heart and my complete mind and my total strength. He enjoys spending time with me. He loves it when I sing to Him. He thinks it’s the best things when I dance before Him. He likes my art. He laughs lovingly at my quirky clothes. He has a plan for me. He made me… Me. And yes, He wants me to keep changing and keep growing and keep running, but He loves me in the journey.
God likes us.
And that is a truth that really turns our mourning into dancing.