Whether you grew up in the church or came to Christ as an adult, one of the truths about God that we all are reminded of over and over is His complete, unconditional, perfect love for each of us.
Yet many of us have a hard time grasping what it means to be loved by God because we have a hard time loving ourselves. Perhaps the wounds of our past or the weight of our conscience might cause us to look in the mirror and ask “How can God love me when I hate myself?”
God loves us because love is inherent in His nature. Read on to receive some encouragement in God’s love to overcome feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and uselessness.
Living in a Broken World
One of the most obvious obstacles that we face when contemplating God’s love is the fact that the world is a very unloving place. We are surrounded by evil and suffering. Many of us battle with depression and anxiety that make it difficult to experience the fullness of God’s love.
Yet, it is the love of God that compels Him to enter into this fallen world so that He can rescue us from the brokenness of the world. In doing so, God invites us to experience victory in His love:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:37-39
So with this truth in mind, let us examine God’s love and see how it helps us to overcome feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and uselessness.
God is Love
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7-8
Love is so much a part of God’s character and nature that He is love. For this reason, there is no true love apart from God. God showed his love, John continues, by sending his one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (v 10). All love starts with God’s love for us.
So it is because of God’s love for us that we have the capacity to love others (v 11). And it is by God’s love (expressed in our love for others) that we know He lives in us (v 12).
Still, most of us are not able to simply read an encouraging passage, shrug off whatever negative feelings we have, and feel the love. The brokenness of our world makes it difficult—if not impossible—to feel God’s love so deeply.
But God, in His love, works with us and in us to overcome the thoughts and feelings that work against His love. So we may still “rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16), even when we don’t feel loved or lovable.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ JesusRomans 8:1
We have written extensively about God’s forgiveness on this site. Each of us has sin in our lives that God longs to forgive, and He exhibits great patience in working out our sins as we grow in our faith.
All of us struggle with sin. Paul lamented his inability to do what he ought to do (Romans 7:21-25). David found only turmoil in hiding his sin (Psalm 32:3-5). And God had mercy on both of them.
Some of us have been conditioned by our past—sometimes even by our church experience—to let the sorrow of guilt weigh us down. We are made to believe that our sin is too great to forgive—even for God. Yet if God can forgive David (an adulterer and murderer) and Paul (a persecutor and executioner of Christians), we are not out of reach of His forgiveness, either.
So, when we confess our sins to God, He does not chastise us like we chastise ourselves, but He allows our sorrow to produce joy:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you… At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.2 Corinthians 7:10-11
This is the joy of knowing that we are forgiven. God completed our rescue even while we were still sinners because He has loved us from the start.
One side-effect of struggling with guilt is that our sin sometimes convinces us that we have no value to God. Even if we do not struggle with guilt, many of us have had damaging experiences with parents, spouses, and others who did not treat us with the love that we should have expected.
Yet even before all of this, God saw us, knew us, and loved us:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.Psalm 139:13-16
I invite everyone to meditate on this wonderful truth. God has always known you and has always loved you. Before anybody else placed conditions on their love, God already loved you with His complete and perfect love.
The Psalmist builds to this truth by contemplating how intimately God knows our hearts and minds (vs 1-4). From there, he describes how God is with us in all times and all places (vs 7-12).
With the Psalmist, we arrive at the wonderful conclusion that the One who knew us first, and knows us best is the One that loves us the most!
Even though we are born into sin and into a fallen world, God promises that His love will not abandon us to our guilt and to the coldness of the world. Instead, the Psalmist concludes, His love remains with us and leads us, despite the ugliness of the world:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24
Even when we embrace the truth that we are forgiven by God and valued by God, many of us might still struggle to find purpose in our lives. We might read of courageous heroes of faith, such as Daniel or Paul, and feel inadequate. We might admire modern teachers and missionaries in our midst and wish that we had the ability to reach people and serve people the way that they do.
But you don’t have to be a great teacher or missionary in order to be useful to God. While some spiritual gifts are very visible, all of the gifts are valuable, and every believer has something to contribute:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.1 Corinthians 12:4-6
For every Mother Theresa that goes into the depths of poverty to share God’s love, there are dozens of believers who pray with encouragement or give of their own resources to make that work possible.
For every Billy Graham whose eloquent presentation of the gospel reaches countless ears, there are teams of administrators and helpers behind the scenes contributing their own gifts to that work.
Each of us has a purpose and a function in God’s kingdom. If you are not connected with a local church, I encourage you to seek one out. It is the body (many parts working together) that provides our outlet for service to God’s kingdom.
Perhaps more importantly, the church is a place where we can grow in God’s love and overcome the negative feelings that inhibit our experience of God’s love. It is in Christian fellowship that we are reminded of God’s love for each and every one of us:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35