How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

God is love.

We hear this all the time whenever his name is mentioned. We are told in Scripture that his character is the very essence of love. Yet we make the mistake of defining his love in terms of what we habitually think it is, rather than first coming to an understanding what his love actually means, and then measuring ours in the light of it.

Too often we assume that God’s love is that warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we “fall in love” with someone. Or when we have those really good, happy butterflies in the stomach about almost anything, even our favorite ice cream.

But God’s love goes right to the core of who he is. It’s often the tough love we experience before we ever get to the warm and fuzzy part. Many come to the love and forgiveness of God only after first hitting the proverbial brick wall. If we’re running away at full speed from his will and purpose, we may meet God on the road in the most unpleasant way we could ever imagine—an auto accident, hospital stay, long-term illness, stuck in a career going nowhere or worse—south, bankruptcy, or whatever else it takes. Often he needs to get our attention before we ever gain or return to an interest in him or his kingdom. And if he doesn’t take some direct steps toward us in the first place, then we never do get around to taking an interest.

The truth is that however painful God’s tough love may seem at the moment, it’s actually his care that’s really behind the events that lead us to the place he’s prepared for us. And God is so serious about his purpose that he doesn’t care in the least if we don’t put our stamp of approval on his toughness. Nothing causes him to waver for a second from the best he determines for us.

That’s how strong his love is. He’s not like the pushover grandparent who easily gives in to whatever the grandchild wants, but he is constantly on the watch for anything that may put his beloved in jeopardy. He knows what he wants for and from us, and stays on course in bringing it all to pass.

Since his love is so much wider and deeper than any human love could ever be, his severity in maintaining it will be so much greater than ours. We may groan and complain all the way, but he’ll not loosen his grip on us just because it’s uncomfortable for us—or because we feel like it’s not fair!

God’s love exceeds ours at every point. Are we patient toward those whom we love? He’s more so. Do we want to give them the moon for Christmas? So it is with God. Do we want to see the very best for them in life? It’s no less with God. His love contains all the best aspects of ours and none of the worst. It’s better, higher, and longer lasting than ours. It’s superior in every way it can be measured, and is never less than ours in any respect. It’s always and in every way in perfect alignment with his perfect character.

With the maturity of our faith comes a happy and relaxed appreciation of his love. We are more at ease with the nature (as well as the mysteries) of his great care for us when we gain in knowledge of who he is and what it is he wants of us. We may stumble and fumble frequently in our perception of his love (particularly when he doesn’t give us what we want when we want it), but things do get brighter and clearer as the years go by.

So don’t be surprised if you have to dump that old, adolescent picture of God and his love as you move into the adult years. And don’t forget, God never “falls in love.” He loves deliberately and purposefully, and so (to our great relief) he never “falls out of love” either.

If you’re just not “feeling the love” this Christmas season, turn the focus away from self and toward Jesus—do acts of “good will” in his name. Here’s an Advent challenge: Find a box and each day put some items you don’t need or haven’t used in a while and on 20 December give it to a charitable organization. Or, give to someone you know who could be blessed by your generosity—this could even be a loving message, card, note of encouragement, or a gift!

Every time we actively are involved in ministry with others towards others, we will sense the excitement of God’s presence and his overwhelming love for us.

Join us this Advent season and let the One True Light dispel any cold darkness and hopelessness that may have penetrated the depths of your being.

To God be the glory!