“My life changed when I realized Jesus really loves me,” recalled a friend. I drew a quick, short breath, startled not at what he said, but by the fact he was the third person in the short span of one year to say this same thing verbatim. All three had been believers for quite some time beforehand—trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and grateful for it—yet for each there had arrived an epiphany point in life when eyes opened, barriers fell, love flowed and life changed. Their stories resonated with me, for my life, too, had changed when I realized Jesus really loves me. I had begun a daily pattern of reading God’s word, then writing down what it was saying to me, how it was affecting me and, in turn, my response. Soon I began to sense more deeply both God’s immeasurable love for all of humankind and His personal love for me. The palpable presence of His Spirit opened this heart to joy, and over time I have found myself criticizing less and caring more, stressing less and resting more, doubting less and trusting more. He was doing in His love what I couldn’t do by my will—He was changing me. Thankfully, He still is; it’s a process.
Of the disciples, it was John who understood—or at least expressed—most deeply the intimacy of Jesus’ personal love. Five times in his gospel account, this former fisherman self-identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”1 This was not to suggest the Messiah loved him more than the others: all of the disciples rightly could have realized the same for themselves as well, and perhaps each of them did. Rather, John’s confession was a matter of identity, as if to confess, “my worth is complete in this, and only this: Jesus loves me.” John savored this wonder; he embraced it and expressed it over and over again as if to process the unfathomable. Jesus really loved him, and his life had changed.
Jesus once urged His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,”2 and indeed sometimes the most vital next step for us in life is to stop for a time and rest in His love for us. Perhaps for you today this means reminiscing on specific things He has done for you—and in you—in the past. Maybe it is going on a walk with God, speaking openly and listening quietly to Him who calls us His friends. Priority time in the word of God is reliably transformational, for through the word of God the Spirit of God speaks the truth of His love into our longing soul. As He leads, sit with this for a while, contemplate God’s love for you, and take it personally.
Father, your word says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”3 Calm me, that I would be still before you and know your love for me. I give thanks to you, for you are good, and your love endures forever.4 Amen.
Savor these Biblical promises of God’s personal love:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)
[Jesus prays to the Father for us:] “I have made you known to them … in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10)
1 See John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; and 21:20.
2 Mark 6:31
3 Psalm 46:10
4 1 Chronicles 16:34