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Reality Check: God Actually Loves You!

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

****Somehow I accidentally deleted this, so here it is again....****

My name is Kelsea. You may know my name, but do you truly know me? I have several ideas for blogs and have even started writing a couple, but I can’t put them out there without clarifying what I mean when I talk about the heart and the love of God. Sadly, the Christian community at large seems to believe and put out major misconceptions regarding the love and heart of God that are not at all Biblically backed. I firmly believe that many people who do not believe in God, were turned off by this misrepresentation, not by God himself.

I am lucky because I have a dad who loves me much like God loves us. One of the most moving experiences of my life happened maybe six months after my divorce. I was miserable, lost, and angry. My dad did some small thing to set me off, and I lost it on him. Yelling, screaming, swearing, and being so mean to him for no reason, I stormed off in my car. I knew I was wrong, but I was so broken I didn’t have much in me. I barely sent out a text that said, “I’m sorry.” I had no other words, no energy for explaining myself. That was all I could muster. My dad replied a simple, “I love you.” I cried in my car and that marked a turning point in my life.

Not to say that my dad doesn’t offer advice. He advised me not to get married the first time around, he advised me not to be with my ex fiancé who ended up breaking my heart into a thousand little pieces, he advised me to hold my tongue and wait until I was calm to text my brother when he took golf clubs without asking (I didn’t listen and this turned into a huge fight.) I can’t even begin to tell you how many times he has given me great advice that I ignored and ended up coming to the same conclusion, very painfully, that my dad gave me in the first place. He didn’t give me the advice so that he could throw it in my face when I failed, hold it over me, or be mad when I didn’t listen. It was given because he loves me. Love and compassion are the response I get when I foolishly don’t listen and need to learn things the hard way. This is the heart of our Heavenly Father. He gives us wisdom and guidance because he loves us and wants us to be happy. Not to sit there waiting for us to screw up so he can punish and condemn us. He certainly does not need the church members judging and pointing out the error of other people’s ways. People don’t need someone to tell them when they are wrong, or to be told “I told you so.” They already know. They need someone to love them unconditionally because that is the birthplace of true change.

When I stopped going to church, and after falling on my face in front of everyone I knew and being divorced at twenty three years old, I was able to drop the need to look “perfect.” My relationship with God went from being, me, the church, the church’s expectations, and God to something much more simple. It became me and God. It was then that I was able to exhale and truly understand the verse, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” My relationship with Jesus blossomed. I began to know Him with a depth that I didn’t know was possible. It was deeply personal. He wasn’t a song or a message on Sunday. He was my breath. My relationship with God became real and authentic. The bigness of God encompassed me. I learned that He could handle me. All of me. Even the ugly parts, and I can’t describe the love and freedom I found in Christ Jesus. Leaving the church was the only way that was possible for me. I was someone who grew up very churched, and despite having parents who understood God’s grace and love, I had a skewed image of the heart of God given from an out of tune modern day church as a collective. I needed to start from square one. My military friends used to say, “keep it stupid simple,” and there is a lot of truth in that. I believe that the church, meaning all of us in the body of Christ, should be focusing on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In other words, love. The Bible can be and is interpreted by different people and denominations in different ways. One thing that can’t be misinterpreted is that God calls us to love. 1 John 4:16 says, “And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them.” Also, the Bible is clear as we go on to 1 John 4:18 when it says that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Lead people to Jesus and His love, and let Him do the heavy lifting of changing behaviors because He will in His own way and His own time. He has a plan for each and every one of us. Trust God, and trust love. After all, God is love. Trying to make people act how we think they should be acting is telling them that they and Jesus Christ inside of them are incapable of working out their salvation on their own. Right vs wrong and good vs bad is a dualistic mindset getting people back on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which we have no business being on. Galatians 5:1 is clear, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty where which Christ has set us free. Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (which is the law).

You may say, “what about the prophets who were sent to warn people?” I’d respond by saying that the warning style of prophesy is more akin to the Old Testament way. John the Baptist brought a new style of prophet and Jesus called him the greatest of all the prophets (Luke 7:28). He prepared people by sharing the good news and that the Promised One is on the way. From what I have seen, the Bible doesn’t indicate that it is the church’s job to doom and gloom people into changing. In fact, just the opposite, Galatians 2:21 says “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if the righteous come by law, then Christ is dead is vain.” To put people back under legalism is cheapening Christ’s gift of the cross. If someone truly knows God, that will change them. We facilitate that change by pointing people to the heart of God. People may not change in the time frame we would hope, and frankly, the church needs to hear that, that is none of our business. This is where I think the church fails people and themselves. We want people to change and perfect their behavior to be good or holy enough, representing to the world that God’s love is conditional and making people feel like they could never measure up. When according to what I am reading in the Bible, that is totally inaccurate and taking the word out of context. From what I’ve observed in most churches, there are degrees of “sinners” depending on the church, but for most churches, people like the gays, are unpardonable and unable to be a part of the clique unless they renounce their gayness and change. Then you have your sinners who are not ex-communicated from the church but are not worthy enough to be in ministry. For example, I know this girl who wanted to get involved as a greeter in a church, but they found out that she lived with the father of her child and wasn’t married, so she wasn’t worthy of the position and could not be of service in the kingdom of God. Everyone is now praying for her and concerned for her. She’s a Christian who isn’t “walking the walk” good enough. Then we have the sinners who don’t really count, like the gossipers, the greedy, the envious, the arrogant, and the judgers. They rank as acceptable and ministry worthy. I don’t understand where these churches are getting this ranking system, because the Bible I’m reading says that “There is no one righteous not even one.” Romans 3:10 “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 “No one will be held righteous in Gods sight by the works of the law” Romans 3:20. Romans 1:29-32 slams every single person I know as wicked sinners who deserve death in the eyes of the law. There is no discrimination or ranking system. We are literally all put on the same playing field as the murders here. I find it rather audacious to be standing in judgement of anyone after reading that. If someone was to miss that point, I think chapter 2 covers how God feels about the people who judge others. Thank God for his free gift of forgiveness through Christ Jesus! Romans 3:24

When we truly know and understand the heart of God, we WANT to follow His word because we understand that He put guidelines there out of His deep love and genuine care for us. Following the guidelines God has laid out for us will help us achieve an “Earth like it is in heaven” as described in the Lord’s Prayer. Not because He is a petty dictator who demands we do what He says or else. Many churches that I have been a part of seem to think of God as some needy, self-exalting Being who sees His children as dumb worthless rags who can’t trust their own hearts and need to comply to His will. This way of thinking is dysfunctional at best and more accurately, abuse. It’s extremely sad because that is not at all depicting the heart of the God I know. People follow Him out of fear of hell or fear of His wrath rather than out of being in awe of Him and His unconditional, unending, agape love for His beloved children. The Bible tells us that we were made in His image and that since the cross, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and we have the mind of Christ. I would dare say, that the biggest way the enemy attacks us is from within making us think we are not seen by God as His precious, perfect, and beloved children.

While many Christians know His name, they don’t know or understand His essence at all, and from a parent’s perspective, I imagine that breaks His heart. I know for me, in the first year of our marriage, we struggled a bit to know each other and see each other’s hearts. Erik would attribute things to me and say that I was thinking or feeling things that were so off base. It hurt me to think that he thought of me that way, and I so desperately wanted him to understand my heart. It was in those moments that I experienced a sliver of what that must feel like for God being so widely misunderstood and having His word being taken out of context. Just as Erik has made it his mission to truly know and understand my heart and not jump to conclusions about me, I’d challenge you to seek God and His heart for yourself. Don’t just buy into what you hear from the pulpit. God is love, and He adores you.

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I've come to realize that not all churches are created equally. Spiritual abuse and church hurt are everywhere, and the damage done in these situations is unfathomable. I see you. I hear you. And, I'm so sorry you have experienced these things. I know, though, that God will use you. He already is. Praying you find a community of believers who get it!!!

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Joanne Viola
Joanne Viola
Jan 27, 2023

You are blessed with an earthly father and a spiritual father who love you deeply. May you lean into hearing and obeying the voice of our God, Who will always guide us in the right path.

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