I have a hard time accepting that God loves me just the way I am. I experienced abuse growing up, and lived in a very dysfunctional family. My son had cancer and chemo at the age of 13. I married an emotionally, religiously abusive husband. I have a hard time knowing and accepting God accepts and loves me. I feel like maybe I am too much work, even for God. Can you help me?
It’s understandable to have those feelings – they come from an awareness of our neediness, our imperfection, our sinfulness and weakness and wounded-ness. From a human perspective, we really are hopeless… But that’s exactly why Jesus came to earth. If we could have saved/healed/perfected ourselves, he would never have had to come to earth in the first place. He knows our neediness better than anyone. And it doesn’t diminish his love at all. He himself pointed this out: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). And again: “I did not come to condemn the world, but the save the world” (John 12:47). The more you fill your mind and heart with that truth – through prayer and study of the faith, for example, through reading and experiencing God’s love in the sacraments – the more you will be able to respond with courage and faith to the lies and the darkness that try to make you think you are “too much work” for God. The key is that – giving yourself the chance to experience the truth of God’s limitless love, power, and wisdom, a little bit more every single day.
We have tried to produce some tools that can help people do that, and you may find them useful. First, there is a book that teaches you how to meditate in a Christian way, to meditate on the beauty and goodness of Jesus Christ, so as to let him win over your heart more and more every day. It’s called The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer. It’s available in multiple forms at Amazon, and as an App at iTunes. You can also buy it through this website, here.
Second, there are a whole series of do-it-yourself, online Catholic Retreat Guides that we have been producing. These are visually stimulating videos that help you meditate on the truth of God’s love. We try to publish a new one every month (one of our latest ones is about Easter and it’s called The Tomb and the Pearl). You can sign up to get updates at www.RCSpirituality.org. There, you can also see our library of past Retreat Guides. As you will find, those Guides can be read, listened to, or watched, online or after downloading. Each one is designed to help you understand and accept more fully the truth of God’s love for you, the truth that gradually, little by little, but surely and powerfully, will set you free from the darkness and the lies of this fallen world.
Lifting Up the Shield of Faith
Even for us Christians, moments of darkness and indescribable oppression do come sometimes. But then they pass, too, as I am sure you know. For those difficult moments, one thing that can really help is to memorize some verses from the Bible that we can call to mind when these storms hit us. We use the Word of God as a shield against these lies and attacks of the evil one, to which we are vulnerable because of our fallen nature: “In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
So, for example… God’s love for you NEVER dwindles or wavers – as he promises through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:3): “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jesus knows the difficulties you are going through, and he is right there with you: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). God will never, ever give up on you: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever” (Psalm 100:5). And of course, one of my very favorites, Psalm 23:
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Any thought entering your mind that tells you that God can’t love you, that God has given up on you, that his mercy is not strong enough to keep holding you and making you grow closer to him – any thought like that doesn’t come from God, it CAN’T come from God, because God actually IS love: “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
I hope these reflections help you and give you some comfort. Keep seeking the Lord’s face each day, and he will surely give you what you need to grow in courage, wisdom, and Christ-like love. I promise to pray for you.
God bless you! Fr John
Art for this post on whether I am too much work for God: The Shepherd’s Love, Pyrography on Poplar Wood, Uploaded by StefyMante, June 19, 2010, own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.