Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
An interesting religious conversation began last night in which I and a young man somewhat disagreed. My original statement suggested that feeling unworthy of God’s love is a catalyst for rebellious behavior.
The young man said that feeling worthy of God’s favor, like He owes us something, propels us into making arrogant choices. A third member of the group said we were both saying the same thing in different ways. I don’t know about that.
While pregnant with my second son, I was aware of possible concerns for his safety. My prayer was that God would spare my baby and take me if it had to be a trade-off. As a mother I instinctively knew love for my son and would have sacrificed for him even though he could not yet have done anything to deserve it.
This love just is. My son deserves love because he exists, and love from me because I helped to give him life. He does not have to earn it. As he grew, his choices did not always make me happy, yet he never ceased deserving my love. If I were to choose to not love him, it would be I who is failing, not him.
I’m a human parent whose love is mixed up with flaws and bad attitudes, sicknesses and absences… but God is not like me. He is the perfect Father. We deserve his love simply because he bestows it on us. This inherent value means there is also an inherent deserving of love and kindness.
I understand that we christian folk sometimes get caught up in rule following. It is easier to do than to abide by love every day. However, our rules often lead to intolerance and arguments simply because we are imperfect. Our definitions of worthiness and ‘deservedness’ can get in the way of this simple truth – God loves those he created and wants to spend forever with all.
If I approach God with the attitude “I do not deserve anything good. God grants me pity and I owe him,” I might turn from him like I have turned from people who think I am nothing. Maybe with that attitude I will not love others, preferring to judge.
Likewise, if my mantra is “There is nothing wrong with me, I do not need God,” pride will lead me away from him. I will create rules which may or may not be kind.
However, if I believe, “I deserve love and kindness because I exist,” I will want to honor the heavenly Father who placed me here and never lets me go. Recognizing all life as sacred, I will want to extend love and kindness to others. With humility, I will understand our common value. How can I hate when I know you are loved by God as much as me?
I cannot earn God’s love, but he grants it to me even when I’m selfish and hurtful. Why? Because he chooses to, that’s all.
None of us could have done anything to deserve such sacrifice as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Yet God believes we deserve this mercy, and proved it by following through with the least selfish parental love ever known.
That kindness leads me to recognize who is God (it is not any of us), confess my sins, and believe Jesus took my punishment once and for all. I am drawn to honoring God because his love is pure and unfailing.
When we know we are inherently deserving of love, we are less threatened by fear, and better able to extend kindness to suffering people in our world.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos