It was only midway through the week, and I had already reached my breaking point. I was just plain tired. Tired of doing laundry, of caring for the kids, of homeschooling, blogging – tired of every single thing I did every day. I had had enough. I had a wonderful life, but I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t understand why.
So I went up to my room, and I cried – again. I had just heard a wonderful sermon on how self-centeredness is the root of all grief. I knew that me thinking about myself was a big part of the problem, but I didn’t know why, or how to get rid of it.
You see, I wasn’t a self-centered person in the traditional way: I spend my days, intentionally and purposefully and eagerly caring for others. I want it that way. Self-centeredness wasn’t plaguing me in the traditional “I’m going to do whatever I want” way. Instead, it was plaguing me in an entirely different way.
In my younger years, my teens and twenties, I went through some pretty rough stuff. My parents divorced, which was extremely difficult for me. The next almost two decades were spent with me searching desperately for the acceptance I felt I had lost when my parents divorced. I got into, at age 14, an abusive relationship. My-older-than-me boyfriend would beat me, assault me and threaten to take my life for 3 of the 4 years we were together. What followed after I finally broke free of that relationship was a plethora of bad decisions that led to a lot of people hurting me, both physically and emotionally. I won’t share all of that now, for time’s sake, but suffice to say it’d make a great book some day.
But the problem was that although my life was good now, I had a whole big bunch of sadness and grief stored up inside of me from all that I had experienced in those years, and no matter how many counselors and prayer ministers I saw, no matter how much I talked it out with the Lord or anyone else, no matter how many books on healing emotionally I read, I couldn’t make it go away.
So as I pondered the message I had heard that day on self-centeredness, I cried out to the Lord, “Please show me how to make it go away, Lord. I don’t know how. I don’t want to be thinking about this stuff anymore but I can’t make it stop hurting.”
Here’s what happened next: On the sermon that I had heard that day, the minister happened to mention his prayer line number, which he rarely, if ever, had mentioned before in all of the sermons that I had watched of his, and there were hundreds. Figuring this must be a sign, I called for prayer, briefly explained the problem, and the wonderful gal, Selena was her name, talked with me, comforted me, shared a personal story with me about overcoming fear, and then prayed with me.
On the phone, I didn’t feel anything spectacular, although I did feel a bit better when I hung up. But it was after I hung up the phone that the Lord spoke to me:
Laurie, you’ve been trying to earn my love, and the love of those around you. But what you don’t understand is that you already have my love, and that my love for you is so grand, so all-encompassing, that if you’ll understand it and accept it, that it will negate any other needs you have in your life. This revelation will free you from the need to obtain love from others, but instead, get your focus on loving others like I love you. This will automatically draw them toward you, and them loving you back is an extra blessing, but even if they don’t, My love for you is so grand that it won’t hurt you if someone else rejects you.
The Lord was showing me what He meant when He said 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear”. Immediately, for the first time in three plus decades, the pressure was lifted off of my chest, and I just didn’t care anymore. Not in a bad way, but in a “My God loves me just as I am” kind of a way.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I had a peaceful heart. I spent the evening with my family, went to bed and woke up refreshed, again for the first time in over 30 years.
As I went downstairs the next morning to pray, I pondered all that had happened the day before, and the Lord gave me a life-changing revelation. He said:
The revelation of My love for people is the key to getting them to not sin. You see, all sin comes from a need to feel loved, to feel happy, to feel accepted. But once people get the revelation of my great love for them out of their heads and down into their hearts, they no longer look to satisfy themselves, whether through people or through things, because they are already satisfied. It’s at that point that not sinning isn’t about wanting to please Me or do well, but instead, not sinning is about not needing to sin because you are loved and you know it. You feel it. And you receive it. And you don’t need anything else.
People have a great misunderstanding of God’s character. They don’t understand His grand goodness and His desire for us to have a GOOD life because that’s not how things work in the world. In the world, in every single thing we do, man judges us on a performance basis, giving you good when you “deserve” good, and evil when you “deserve” evil. People spend much time trying to earn God’s love, subconciously usually, and they get it wrong almost every time, because they think that they can earn themselves out of trouble, or worse yet, that if God wants to inflict harm or bad things on His people, that’s His right and they have no say in the matter. They go to church, they volunteer, they “be good” in order to please God, but they cannot please God in this way because even in our goodness, we are wretched in His sight because He is so holy. God is only good, and He wants only good for His people, no matter what your preacher or anybody else may tell you. But NOTHING we could ever do could make us not wretched in His sight because His holiness is so grand and His goodness is so big. Nothing but Jesus, that is.
With Jesus, we’ve won the lottery, so to speak. When Jesus came, died on the cross and rose again, the first thing He did before He sat down at the right hand of the Father was that He put a permanent pair of rose-colored glass on God. God now sees people through the lens of Jesus, His perfect Son. No matter what you do, or don’t do, God is so pleased with you He cannot contain Himself. His love for you is so overwhelming that, if you choose to receive this all-encompassing love, it can allow you to conquer every problem you’ve ever had. And at that point, you almost automatically love others with the love of Christ, thereby spreading the message of salvation simply with your actions, effortlessly, because you have allowed yourself to be filled up with His grand love for you!
The problem here is that we often won’t receive that grand love because we think that we don’t deserve it. Notice how many “we’s” there were in that last statement? Self-centeredness is indeed the root of all grief.
So, how do you get this grand revelation of God’s great love for you down into your heart? Get yourself into the Word and into spending time with God. Talk with Him, share with Him. One of the other things that the Lord told me throughout all of this is that He doesn’t command us to read the Word in order that we may gain “points” with Him. He has us read and study the Word because once we understand the Word in its entirety, it will bless us by showing us how to live in the blessings that He has for people. Most people read the Word and only understand that God gets angry, and they think it’s because the disobedience of the people offends God. But although He does command our respect, that’s not the total issue here - mostly, it frustrates God because He has to watch His people create a life of hell on earth for themselves because they’re not following the map. God LOVES us and planned a life of blessing for us, but we keep screwing it up by not following the map, and hurting ourselves and all of those around us, and that’s what frustrates God, not the fact that we are “dissing” Him. God’s big enough and strong enough and powerful enough to take being “dissed”. But it hurts Him to the core to see His beloved creation suffer. Once we get the revelation that God wants us to follow His ways because He LOVES us, the entire game of life changes, for the better!