Author Brennan Manning touches on a mystery that has long been a struggle in my Christian faith: How do I begin to love God?
So much of my evangelical background focuses on emotions and passion, being on fire for God and committing to a relationship with all sincerity. If you aren’t “feeling it,” it’s hard to know what to do next.
I learned the hard way that you can’t learn your way into loving God or make yourself love God out of duty or obligation, because this is what good Christians do.
Manning’s solution is striking, simple, and the best kind of news: we love God because he first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). In fact, the foundation of Christianity, the cross, and healthy Christian religious practice and spirituality is the love of God that preempts all of our best efforts.
We must go out into a desert of some kind (your backyard will do) and come into a personal experience of the awesome love of God. Then we will nod in knowing agreement with that gifted English mystic Julian of Norwich, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us—that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek.
Do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious, that He cares about you? Do you really believe that He is always, unfailingly present to you as companion and support? Do you really believe that God is love?
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