What does God’s love feel like? Is it warm and fuzzy? In opening our hearts to let God love us, do we experience pleasant sensations, like an encouraging embrace?
I don’t think so.
We are creatures of flesh and what we understand most easily are physical sensations. If something feels good, then we are inclined to do it. If something is painful, then we tend to avoid it. Although the knowledge/experience of divine love is so deeply wonderful that we desire it always once we know/experience it, getting to that place, coming to that state of being where we are peacefully joyful in God’s love… well, that isn’t always a pleasant journey. In fact, I would venture to say that opening ourselves up to let God love us is hardly ever a pleasant journey.
But, oh, what a destination.
God’s invitation to receive the endless bounty of His love is an invitation to walk through fire. Like in the song, Holy Darkness, God declares to us:
“I have tried you in fires of affliction; I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness, there I will plant my seed.
I have taught you the price of compassion; you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves.”
This is the love that saves us from failing as human beings. This is the love that heals the soul, brightens the mind, satisfies the heart, leads the will to eternal destiny, and emboldens loving action. But, it cannot be known through the surface things of the world. We cannot see God’s love with our eyes, hear it with our ears, smell it, taste it, or touch it with our skins. We don’t physically sense Divine love, but we can know/experience what it does. God’s love, agape, transforms burdens into blessings, difficulties into opportunities, disappointments into fulfillment, sorrows into joys, and death into life. If only we would let God love us…
It is this “letting” that is the most trying and painful part of salvation. How are we to receive God’s love? Christ’s human arms are opened widest to Divine Love when they are stretched apart and nailed to the Cross. “Take up your cross and follow me,” he tells us.
Those moments in our lives when we are suffering in the world, when we feel that God has abandoned us – those are the times that we are being crucified with Christ.
Will we fight these moments of suffering and receive nothing from them, nothing but frustration, anger, agony, and misery? Or will we accept these moments on the Cross, even lovingly embrace them, and receive from them the endless goodness, courage, healing, and peaceful joy of God’s love?
“In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul.”
When we suffer, with “Heaven’s answer hidden from our sight”, we are on the brink of glory. There will be no fanfare, no fireworks, no parades, no exciting revelry when we are opened and receive God’s love – just as there were none on the first Easter. The glory will be beyond what we can think, what we can imagine, and what we can experience through our physical senses. God loving us does not feel warm and fuzzy, but, rather, deeply abiding, never ending, pure, and truly and fully good.
It isn’t all happy, happy, roses and sunshine all of the time. For, every glorious rose has a thorn and every sun that rises must also set. Let us not fear the dark nights of the soul. Rather, may we remember that, although everything else will fall away, God’s love is eternal. Let us allow Him to embrace us in the Holy Darkness.
In the season of Lent, when we more profoundly examine ourselves and our relationship with God, I will be taking this song and the truth that it expresses as my faith facilitator for this First Friday of March.
Oh, Sacred Heart of Jesus,
you bear the burden of my sorrows
and take my pain as your own;
Break open my heart with yours
so that it will not be merely aching,
but rather flooded by your grace,
with the sacred strength of weakness.
Then, may I,
broken and battered in this world,
in the stillness and silence of the night,
receive the gift of your everlasting love,
lifted up in your everlasting life.
© 2015 Christina Chase
[This is part of the Faith Facilitators series. For more, click here.]
 Holy Darkness, © 1988, 1993, Daniel L Schutte. Published by OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213