Rain pummeled the metal roof and siding of our home as gusts of wind whipped the treetops outside my window. A blaze of lightning cast skeletal shadows on my bedroom wall. As thunder clapped I quaked and pulled the covers around my face. God must be angry tonight, I thought.
The journey from faith to assurance
By Cheyenne Francis
Rain pummeled the metal roof and siding of our home as gusts of wind whipped the treetops outside my window. A blaze of lightning cast skeletal shadows on my bedroom wall. As thunder clapped I quaked and pulled the covers around my face. God must be angry tonight, I thought. No doubt I had been the one to stir up His wrath. “God,” I whimpered, “go ahead and take me like Jonah, so that my whole family doesn’t have to die.”
Long after the summer storm subsided, my young heart still quivered. What if a tornado had ripped our house apart, or I had been struck by lightning? Surely I would awake in the wrong resurrection, only to be consumed in hell. That’s what happens to people who don’t obey God, and I surely hadn’t figured out how to keep from disobeying Him.
Searching for God’s Love
The Bible stories Mom read us at bedtime said God loved people; but He also seemed rather free with His punishments. For example, the stories of Jonah, the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah told about those who experienced God’s wrath. My Sabbath school teacher talked about God’s love, and I’d grown up singing “Jesus Loves Me”; still, I couldn’t quite figure things out. For all His professions of love, God certainly did have strict rules. I was supposed to obey because I loved Him, but so far I hadn’t been able to generate enough love to keep me from even the simplest infractions, such as bickering with my brother.
Outside Sabbath school and children’s books, love seemed often ignored in my circle of Adventist friends and family. Everyone, it seemed, knew about God’s love, but the people I looked up to felt that those who harped on love also had a tendency to downplay obedience. Not wanting to be guilty of that, they focused instead on pertinent “present truth” topics that pointed out the signs of the times and helped us get our act together. They didn’t waste much time on such basics as love.
Recognizing God’s Love
In the middle of all this I read the book My Life Today, by Ellen White, and subscribed to a junior-teen magazine called Young Disciple. Through them I began to understand salvation and God’s true intentions toward me. I saw in the lives of Bible heroes, reformers, martyrs, and missionaries that following God brings the best kind of happiness. I learned about surrendering my will to His will, and the power He gives to overcome. To my great surprise, it actually worked in real life! I learned how to study my Bible to understand God’s true character. As I pondered the cross and Christ’s earthly life, I understood why we sang “Jesus Loves Me.”
Slowly God revealed Himself to me, and slowly I gave myself to Him. With a new perspective on love and obedience, I began to believe I could be saved. Now that my view of God had shifted, I even found myself wanting to please Him. I’d never been happier!
Soon I noticed God’s love surfacing in everyday life. I started seeing His love in nature, in answered prayers, in small daily blessings. Now that I understood that Jesus wasn’t asking something impossible of me, that He overcame for me and now enabled me to live victoriously, His love seemed more relevant and, frankly, more genuine.
Still, wasn’t love elementary, and shouldn’t I be moving on to something more complicated and challenging? That’s what I’d been taught. Yet I began to see that “elementary” also means “fundamental.” Love isn’t merely beginner’s stuff—it’s the foundation that gives stability, meaning, and purpose to every aspect of life. Love is the agent that enables us to understand God and become like Him.
Ellen White wrote: “The first step toward salvation is to respond to the drawing of the love of Christ. . . . It is that [men and women] may understand the joy of forgiveness, the peace of God, that Christ draws them through the manifestation of His love. If they respond to His drawing, yielding their hearts to His grace, He will lead them on step by step, to a full knowledge of Himself, and this is life eternal.”1
She also wrote: “Such love is without a parallel. . . . Theme for the most profound meditation! The matchless love of God for a world that did not love Him! The thought has a subduing power upon the soul and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God.”2
Yet how little I let God’s matchless love subdue the barriers locked around my soul. How often I went to secondary sources for approval, acceptance, and a sense of well-being. How much I belittled and sabotaged myself when I could have experienced worth and stability built on the strongest foundation imaginable.
Challenged to Hold On
I didn’t recognize the chasm in my heart until I experienced a year that shook my inner foundations. God used common events (albeit traumatic ones) to show me that I had been depending on others rather than on Him. That year I broke off a serious relationship, moved away from my home and workplace of eight years, and began examining my childhood family experiences in an objective light. With supportive friends and church family members now hundreds of miles away, my family ties in a jumble, and a state of shattered, aching confusion in my heart, I found my soul desolate and tattered.
As I floundered for peace and inner stability, begging Christ for help, a glowing theme started shining through Scripture. It had always been there, but now I paid attention to the best, most unfathomable news in the Book: I have incalculable worth, based not on my performance, talents, or circumstances, but on the devoted, abiding, unshakable love of God.
“Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you” (Isa. 43:4).
“The Lord delights in you” (Isa. 62:4).
What else could matter in view of that? In amazement and gratitude
I began highlighting in pink, like little love notes, every Bible verse that showed me God’s love and my worth to Him. Old, familiar passages quickly took on new, radiant beauty.
It took me more than a decade to realize it, but now I know that while I’ll never comprehend my worth to Him, I can believe it and build my life on it.
“Live in contact with the living Christ,” wrote Ellen White, “and He will hold you firmly by a hand that will never let go. Know and believe the love that God has to us, and you are secure; that love is a fortress impregnable to all the delusions and assaults of Satan.”3
Now when I’m discouraged, tempted, or lonely, I open my Bible and look for pink texts, or for new verses to highlight. I trust those promises more than my feelings, more than my circumstances, more than anything else in the world. I know without doubt that I am cherished.
This is the message we are called to live. Even though we can’t explain His love, can’t describe its vastness and tenderness, we can show those around us—our families, friends, coworkers, even the people we meet in shops and businesses—how much they are loved. Love flows from Christ’s heart, melting indifference and making everything relevant!
The awesome love of God is the most powerful message we have to share with the world. And the best way to share it is to live it.
1-God’s Amazing Grace (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1973), p. 99.
2-Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 15.
3-Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1896), p. 119.
I am scheduled for major but non-urgent surgery in the next few months, and I may need a blood transfusion. Do Seventh-day Adventists agree to blood transfusions? Are they safe?