Someone very dear to me confessed to me once ‘but I just don’t love God like that! if heaven is all white robes, playing harps and praising God all day, I’m not even sure I want to go there”
This may be a trite and imperfect description of heaven uttered in a huff of irritation, but the point stands, if we don’t love God and desire to see and be with God more than we enjoy a good burger or a good night’s sleep then why in the world would we want to go to heaven?
I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that so many people see death as a horrible evil and why the chief goal in life seems to be to live forever?
I suppose at this point we could argue about what the details of heaven are going to be like, but that’s not really what this article is about.
This article is about loving God… or, more specifically, for when we don’t feel like we love Him that much… or not enough, or not “as much as everybody else”.
Let me give you a quick reality check:
Nobody is born with a effusive, perfect, over the top love for God.
Such love has to be chosen, fostered, pursued.
We are born with the capacity to love, to love deeply, intensely, and even painfully, but we are born a blank slate. (Hello, free will).
We are born with yearning hearts that desperately long for bonding. Usually, if we are the “lucky ones”, it bonds to our parents, and to the things that they love, but as we grow, our capacity and desire for love also grows. It seeks more to bond to – and this, as we know (typically from personal experience), can go horribly wrong – ie. our younger selves used to not see drinking or unhealthy relationships as “bad choices”, we only saw them as loving “fun” over “boring”, and loving “excitement” over “sage advice”.
But, this capacity for love could be channeled for incredible good.
An Infinite Capacity to Love
To be created in the image of God, a God who is love means that we were created with an infinite capacity for love, a love that is capable of eternal growth and expansion sufficient to continually further grasp the infinity of God.
This is why we can attempt to fill it with everything and still be dissatisfied because our capacity for love is so much greater than all the finitude of the created universe.
This explains why the heart is always grasping. always wanting more, always desiring to improve its situation, never satisfied with what it has, always feeling the lack of something, because it has the desire to realize its capacity for love.
This is why God is the only reality that can satisfy our desire for love, because our desire to love is infinite.
But, it is always in a process of growth.
It stretches with us as we age and mature, and suffer.
The question is, can we control what we love?
Popular opinion would be “no”, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we play the victim card. But the real truth is, that most often we do not desire to control what we love.
BUT, if what we already love is never going to fill us, and loving God would, then, I ask you, Why not?
Channeling our Capacity for Love
When we are young we learn to love by example. We naturally come to love what our parents love (for the most part). We love what we are exposed to, what the people we love get excited about, what is familiar, comforting and easy… but, as we get older we begin to have to make choices. This world simply tries to pull our hearts in too many different directions and in our finitude we can only really go one, we begin to have to choose what we will love.
This ability to choose what we let into our hearts and what must remain by the wayside is a sign of maturity, of growth, of focus. and it provides for the ability to make progress towards what we love. This is why the happiness experts say, “Do what you love! Identify your core values and let them direct the focus of your actions.”
This concept is important because what we love gives us the desire to prioritize our lives according to what we value, and the strength to sacrifice lesser goods for those we view as higher (Jordan Peterson calls this the “The hallmark of maturity”).
In order for marriage to work, I can’t just tell myself, “I love my husband, therefore I will remain strong when I feel nothing but annoyance and frustration”. I can’t just cast off my child when they are embarrassing me in public. No, at least for me, sometimes, I have to replace this phrase with “I choose my husband/child – Even though I’m frustrated”. Mentally, I repeat to myself, “I choose you again, even when you are the least ‘loveable'”.
This choosing of the other person even when its hard or when they are not deserving of our love is what eventually allows the loving feelings to return.
This is what it means to call love a choice.
The Result of Choosing Love
The beauty of real love, once it begins to take genuine hold of our hearts, is that it makes focus just a little bit more simple. When we begin to love new things, the ones we used to love begin to disappear, forgotten naturally in their incompatibility with our new love. Such forgetfulness isn’t as painful because the joy of the greater love is so much more, that the lesser things slip away almost unnoticed.
How to Choose God
You may say, Well, I’ve tried the whole religion thing, I’ve gone to church and didn’t get much out of it. “It’s not for me” etc.
But, God doesn’t really take fair-weather friends lightly… and the thing is, He knows. He knows how serious you are about your pursuit of Him.
Or do you want Him? (Luke 10:42)
What are you willing to do to show how serious you are about this desire for relationship? What other loves are you willing to give up that He may take their place in your heart?
Our God is a jealous God – Exodus 20:5
And what are you willing to do to actively pursue Him? To study His Word? To spend time in His presence.
Could you not stay and watch even one hour with me? – Matthew 26:40
At first it is a simple Math problem:
- What do I need to eliminate from my life to have more room for God? AND
- What do I need to add to my life prepare my heart to receive Him and recognize Him.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44
But the very last key is critical.
You can’t force yourself to love God.
Instead, you ask God to increase your love for Him.
Back up your “love” with actions. Put your money where your mouth is. If this little thing would increase my love for God would I do it? What you put into this relationship will be what you get out (times a hundred – Mark 10:29-30)
All we can do is make our meager attempts to prepare the space for Him. We do not control how or when He will come into the place we are trying to prepare. We can only invite Him, ask Him, beg Him to come, even if all we have to offer is a stable. (Read also: Invite God into your Mess)
In the end, He will do the coming, He will do the cleaning, the transforming, the enlightening. He will do EVERYTHING, we just have to be ready, willing, and ALL in. (Read also: Is your Heart Fertile Ground?)
If you seek it like silver / and search it out like hidden treasure,
Then you will discern the fear of the LORD / and discover the knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:4-5
So, When you feel like you just don’t love God enough
Here are the most important points.
- You are pretty much right, but that’s not a good reason to have a pity party and play the victim card. Nobody loves God enough. But, it is fairly straightforward to begin doing something about it.
- You are made for love of God so it will fulfill you unlike any other love – but its a process – not automatic, not instantaneous,
- You have to choose this. (Hello, free will) It’s not something you are born with – not something some people have and other people just don’t (rather, something some people cultivate and are open to and something some people haven’t/don’t)
- The feelings will follow. You don’t necessarily FEEL effusive love for God first – but that doesn’t make you broken – Remember, God is looking for love like His, Unconditional. Even to the cross – ie. even when, and especially when, it hurts. PLUS, if your love for God isn’t all touchy feely all the time, you are actually at an ADVANTAGE!!!! (Read more: Is my Love for God too Emotional? and How Genuine is my Relationship with God – A 10 Question Quiz)
- In the end, you are really not in control. Yes, you leaned in, but He is equally free and may test your genuineness and your commitment before flooding into your life. But, be reassured, He will never be outdone in generosity. (Mark 10:29-30)