It’s a question as old as time. Can God stop loving me? In the Garden, the great tempter first sowed these seeds of doubt within the heart of humankind with his question, “Did God really say…?” Those seeds have germinated and propagated from one generation to the next across the millennia. Even the faithful can fall prey to doubting the permanence of God’s love.
Is there any hope of our breaking free from these doubts? How might we, once and for all, believe in God’s abiding, personal love for us?
When my children were small, I used to read them The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This short, rhythmic classic recounts the tale of a bunny who questions if he could run away beyond the reach of his mother’s love. Every time the young bunny declares how he will separate himself from his mother, she assures him she will already be waiting for him there – to love, protect, and care for him. Brown’s words rise and fall in a lilting cadence that helps assure the reader (and the young listener) that this parent’s love is indeed unfailing.
The ancient psalmist’s words from Psalm 139 evoke the same soothing confidence about our heavenly Father’s eternal love for us that we discover in Brown’s classic tale.
Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
The psalmist assures us there’s no place we can hide where God is not already waiting for us!
The God who chases after us
Perhaps you read these words from Psalm 139 and think, that’s all well and good for someone who hasn’t messed up as badly as I have. When I screw up, I just want to hide. Will God still chase after me when I try to hide from him?
King David, the author of this psalm, knew from personal experience the answer to that question. He was an adulterer, a murderer, an abuser of his power, and a liar. When confronted about his sinfulness, David recognized God wasn’t trying to strike him down. God was chasing after him to restore relationship with his beloved child. David responded with repentance, believing his confession would restore his relationship with God.
This same man, who believed ardently that God would always chase after him, penned these words in Psalm 51 about his own sinfulness.
Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
Our natural response to sin is shame. Like doubt, shame is as old as Eden. Our response to shame is to hide, creating a chasm between us and God. But even in the Garden, where humanity hid as a result of their sin, God’s response was to draw near. When we finally grasp God’s capacity to forgive, confession of sin ceases being something we fear.
Confession becomes a gateway to intimacy with God.
God convicts us of sin not to condemn us but to correct us and restore us to right relationship with him.
The God who won’t reject us
David lives like an open book before his God, because he knows God won’t turn away from him—even if he discovers sins like adultery, murder, and cover-up campaigns. With confidence he invites God’s inspection of his life – not because he believes it to be free from wrongdoing, but because he understands that true intimacy with God begins when we stop hiding and allow our sinfulness to be laid bare before him.
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Ps. 139:23-24)
David understands the sting and shame of personal sinfulness, but he no longer wants to hide from his God. He desires deeper intimacy with God. He is confident that even when our lives are put under the microscope and God discovers our deepest hidden sins, he won’t reject us. Instead, David’s plea is that God would continue leading him on the road to eternal life. The implication of these verses is that the gift of confession offers us a clean slate which allows us to walk in the way of righteousness once again.
Confession allows us to come out of hiding and move toward the God who’s always chasing after us.
The mighty and fallible King David understands that God won’t buckle under the weight of our sin. He already bore the full weight of it on Calvary. The unfathomable mystery of God’s love for us is this—the more we sin, the more his grace abounds toward us and the more he wants to draw near to us.
Can God ever stop loving me?
And he can never stop loving you either.