How do you know that God really loves you? What makes you so sure of it? The first thought may be to count up all the blessings in your life, to consider all the good things that are happening around you. However, if that were the only basis for an assurance of God’s love, then people would doubt his love every time something was lost or seemed to go wrong. God’s love would be called into question every time a job was lost, a loved one died or a terminally ill disease was discovered. So how do you live with a deep and profound sense of God’s love, no matter what you have or what is happening in your life?
The cradle of Christ
One place to begin is to consider God’s gift of his Son. Think of it like this. If someone gave you a few dollars or a few hours of their time to help you out, you might think, “This person cares about me.” But what if someone sacrificially gave you $1,000 and a week’s worth of their time? You would probably think, “Wow, this person really loves me.”
The principle is simple: love gives to others at a cost. Love is best demonstrated in the act of sacrificial giving. This is why Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The measure of God’s love was displayed in the sacrificial gift of his Son. That’s why Jesus didn’t simply say, “For God loved the world.” He said, “For God so loved the world.” His emphasis was on the degree of God’s love given to a world that didn’t deserve it. Even when the world turned its back on God, God didn’t turn his back on the world.
Yet someone might say, “But that’s all in the past tense. How do I know that God loves me that way today?” The Apostle Paul wrote to the church and affirmed, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Paul’s logic is that if God did not hold back in meeting your ultimate need, then he also will not hold back in meeting your immediate needs. If God didn’t hold back on you in the past, he’s not going to hold back on you now.
The cross of Christ
Another place to turn for assurance of God’s love is the cross of Christ. Love is not a superficial sentimentality; it’s service, sacrifice and selflessness. The test of love is the length to which it is willing to go for the redemptive good of another, so just look at the lengths that God went to: he was not only willing to become a man, he was willing to pay the penalty for sin upon the cross. In fact, he was more than willing; he actually did it. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 8:5). The Apostle John said, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). Therefore, the basis for knowing God’s love is not just the giving of his Son but also the death of his Son. In other words, it’s not just the cradle of Christ that proves God loves you; it’s the cross of Christ.
The character of Christians
Lastly, another way God’s love is demonstrated is through the loving character of Christians expressed to others. Christians are meant to be people who live to give instead of live to get. But how does that happen when people can often be so difficult to love? Sacrificial love displayed to others is possible when you do what Tim Keller calls “love philanthropy.” Philanthropists are usually people who can afford to give out of the abundance of what they already have without expecting or demanding something in return. Generous donors give not in order to get something, but because they already have something.
In the same way, God’s love is poured into the hearts of people not to be hoarded but to be shared with others. God wants people to give a generous amount of love to others, not in order to get it back but because they already have all the love they could ever hope to receive in Jesus. Christians are to “keep themselves in the love of God” (Jude 21) in order to express that same love to others. Christians are called to love others like God loved them, not just verbally but by showing it through sacrificial acts of giving.
So in those moments of doubt, when it seems like God has turned his back on you, remember to look to the cradle and the cross of Christ. Turn your eyes to the unchangeable and undeniable fact of history, that God sacrificially gave his Son, and his Son sacrificially gave his life to demonstrate his never-ending love for you. Moreover, this God promises to not withhold one thing that you need in order to fulfill his call upon your life.
Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.