Relationships are what make our lives interesting. Sometimes interesting is good and other times interesting is a challenge. Our relationships can be a source of richness and joy. They can also be a source of frustration and disappointment. The relationships that are closest to us are sometimes the ones that can be the most complicated. They call forth from us intentional effort and thoughtful interaction. Even then, they are not always what we need, expect, or want them to be.
Our relationship with God presents its own challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge in our relationship with God is when we try to figure out who God is. There is certainly no shortage of images and ideas about who God is. Many of the portrayals of God that have been passed on to us through the years are not so helpful when it comes to our relationship with God. God is often presented as angry and vindictive. God demands perfection and punishes us when we fail to meet God’s expectations. Such images of God make it difficult for most of us to let ourselves fall freely and fully into the kind of intimate love relationship that God so desires to have with us. As sometimes happens in our human relationships, we find ourselves waiting anxiously for something negative to happen. If our understanding of God is angry and punitive, we may even feel that we deserve something negative to happen. Or we find ourselves putting distance between us and God. It is only natural to want to protect ourselves from emotional and spiritual pain.
What we often forget or too easily overlook is that God created us in God’s own image. We were made to be in a relationship with God. That is what God designed us for. Just as our actions and behaviors have put stress on our relationship with God, so too have the thoughts and ideas expressed about who God is distorted our understanding of God. Yet, neither our actions nor our misconceptions have changed who God is or God’s purpose in creating us. God made us to love us, and be loved by us. And so God does love us, freely and unconditionally.
We are all too aware of our shortcomings, weaknesses and failures, so it is often difficult to imagine being loved with the kind of love that God offers to us. What is absolutely mind blowing is that God’s love is greater than our shortcomings, weaknesses and failures. God demonstrated the breadth and depth of his love for each of us through Jesus Christ. In Christ on the cross, God was reconciling Godself to the world. That is, God in Christ, made things right between us and God. Whatever would keep us from God or prevent us from experiencing God’s love is gone. We are forgiven again and again and again.
Even in our state of forgiveness, we can be weighed down by the burdens of life. While God is always faithful and just to forgive us, we are not always so ready to forgive ourselves. So we carry our failures with us, unable to let them go and move beyond them. They get heavy and they can make life miserable. Their weight robs us of the joy and peace that comes from being loved by God. God gives us the freedom to let go of those past failures and mistakes. In the context of our relationship with God, we can simply give those shortcomings and weaknesses to God. We need not be afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed. God wants us to be free from the power of sin and death in our lives. God wants for us to fully experience the joy and peace of being in relationship with God. For that very reason God is always near us — not to catch us or punish us — but to receive our burdens and hear our confessions that we might feel again the depth of God’s love.