Each if us, at one time or another in the midst of grief, pain, exhaustion, or boredom, wonders if God cares about me personally?
A son of a former colleague suffered a neuropsychiatric disorder that required special attention at times in his fourth-grade church school classroom and made him “different” in the perceptions of the other children who could harry him like a pack of wolves.
He came home one afternoon weary and sad. At bed time, he told his mother, “Nobody loves me.”
“That’s not true, Jason,” she said. Daddy loves you, I love you and God loves you.”
“God doesn’t love me,” said the distressed little boy.
“Yes, he does love you very much. What would it take to prove to you that God loves you?”
“If Tiger would come and sleep on my bed tonight, I would know that God loves me,” Jason said.
“Oh not that . . . anything but Tiger,” his Mom thought to herself. Tiger was the family’s half-wild buccaneer of a tom-cat, tough and independent. He rarely came in at night, preferring to roam the neighborhood to enforce his dominance over other cats and dogs.
“You know Tiger likes to sleep outside. Isn’t there something else that would prove to you that God loves you?”
“No!” Jason said, near the end of his rope. He said through tears, “If God loves me he’ll have Tiger come and sleep with me.”
“Do you want to ask Jesus to send Tiger in to sleep with you?” his Mom warily asked.
“OK,” you pray and then I’ll pray,” she said.
“Jason began, “Dear Jesus, if you love me, please have Tiger come and sleep with me on my bed tonight . . .”
He had barely begun with eyes squeezed tight than Tiger trotted through the door, leaped on the bed and curled up next to Jason.”
Now, it was his Mom’s turn for tears. Jason had his reassurance of God’s love and so did she.
Years passed by. Jason’s seventh-grade Bible teacher gave the students an assignment to write an essay about a time when they had experienced God’s love. Writing was a struggle for Jason, but he had this story to tell and he wrote it up and turned it in. His last sentence was, “This is how I learned that God loved me.”
His Mom was proud of his effort and looked forward to his teacher’s comments. The paper was returned with just one red mark. The word “me” was crossed out and replaced with an interlineated “us.” The teacher had depersonalized Jason’s God.
Fortunately, Jason’s Mom helped him understand that God really and specifically loved him, but obviously there are those who don’t think, or may not dare to believe, that way.
I have been thinking about Jesus’ personal love as I prepare for a Good Friday Service built around the seven last things that he said from the cross.
In the midst of all of the anguish, pain, taunts and turmoil as he hung from the cross, Jesus looked down and saw his mother standing next to his disciple, John. Jesus took care of her. “He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (John 19:26-27).
Looking out for men, women and children with compassion is the heart of Jesus. He did his first miracle so a bridegroom would not lose face before his guests (John 2:1-11). He opened a stay at the home of Simon and Andrew by healing Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever (Mark 1:29-31). His gut wrenched with pity at the sight of a shamed, disfigured leper and he reached out and touched the man to heal him (Mark 1:40-42).
Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in front of a hard-hearted congregation of Pharisees (Mark 3:1-6). He went out of his way to heal the gravely-ill servant of a Roman Centurion (Luke 7:1-10). He then encountered a grieving widow at the funeral of her only son, comforted her and raised her son from the dead (Luke 7:11-15).
He responded to a woman who reached out and touched him for healing in a dense crowd even though he was on an urgent mission to help a dying girl (Luke 8:42-48). When Jesus raised the little girl from the dead, his immediate concern was for her hunger and physical strength and he asked that she be given something to eat (Luke 8:55).
Jesus called out an ailing, crippled woman in front of another synagogue full of stern, disapproving Pharisees and healed her, and didn’t flinch when they tried to shame him for doing so (Luke 13:10-17). He did the same thing for another ailing man (Luke 14:1-6).
Peter blundered into an embarrassing commitment for Jesus to pay the temple tax. Jesus graciously bailed him out with a delightful face-saving miracle.
Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, made a scene in a crowd while desperately trying to get Jesus’ attention as he passed by on his final trip into Jerusalem. “Jesus stood still,” so the man could be brought to him. Jesus asked him what he wanted and gave the man his sight (Luke 18:35-43).
He stood down a crowd of stone-wielding men looking to murder an adulteress (John 81-11). He called out to a disreputable tax collector named Zacchaeus and invited himself to the shamed man’s house for lunch in front of a crowd (Luke 19:1-10).
Jesus stripped down, took a basin of water and a towel and bathed the dirty feet of each of his disciples in turn (John 13:1-12). He defended Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, against sharp criticism of her displays of devotion (Matt 26:6-13; Luke 10:38-42).
There he was at the cross, making sure the needs of his widowed mother were met. After his resurrection, he made breakfast on the beach for his shamed, grieving disciples (John 21).
These are only the stories of Jesus’ personal love for others that came readily to mind as I wrote this, but there are many more. “Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so,” as we learned in the song of our childhood.
The Apostle Paul was a brilliant theologian and debater. He was the primary author of much that we know as Christian doctrine. Yet, he asked the Romans, “Do you despise the riches of (God’s) kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4).
Jesus gave everything he had to us on the cross. It’s the choice he made out of love for us. He asks everything from us so he can become our entire life (Gal 2:20; Col 3:1-4). It’s the choice we are asked to make out of love for him.
Because it is love, Tiger climbing on Jason’s bed is God’s rule, not his exception. In heaven, he will make it a point to cup our tear-stained faces in his hands and wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Whatever you may be going through right now, God loves you and wants the best for you. You can “cast all your cares on him, for he cares about you” (1 Pet 5:7). That’s his final answer.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.