Many psychologists have observed that no matter how secure and self-confident a person may appear, everyone is anxious and insecure in some way. Regardless of our physical condition, our financial situation, or our social standing, we all long for a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives.
We all long for a love that is stable, unconditional, and freely given. While human love is powerful in and of itself, only Jesus can meet all of our needs. This is why St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.”
It seems that everyone has different times of openness to the Lord, moments when they are able to recognize their need for the Lord. Let’s look a little more closely at St. Augustine’s life as an illustration. Augustine was an educated man, a brilliant teacher, and a philosopher who sought truth in pagan religions. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian who prayed constantly for her son. But as hard as Monica prayed, and as much as she tried to reach Augustine with the gospel, it took many years and some very difficult situations before her words could penetrate Augustine’s heart and open him to Christ.
In the end, it wasn’t Monica’s words or her ability to philosophize that changed Augustine. It was her love, her prayer, and the fact that she was always available to him, ready to help him when his time finally came. Her love and concern for Augustine never wavered. As we learn to love people as faithfully as Monica loved Augustine, we too stand a chance of being there when the moment comes for them—the time when they recognize their need to experience God’s love. Then we can share with them the same love of God that has given us such hope and confidence.
What might such a sharing sound like? What kinds of things might we want to say to someone? There is no single script that answers every person’s needs. As we said above, even Jesus varied his words and approach. Yet there are some key elements that are central to the message of God’s love. In the next few paragraphs, we offer an example of some of the things we can share with those we love.
A Love That Pardons and Restores. “You may find it hard to believe that God could love you so much as to forgive all your sins. I found it hard, too. Deep inside, I would sometimes have a sense of unworthiness, a belief that I didn’t deserve to be loved as unconditionally as I was told God loved me. And do you know what? I was right! None of us deserves such love. But that doesn’t matter to God. He loves us anyway. He looks beyond the things we’ve done and sees us as his children created in his image and likeness.
“I’ve come to realize that nothing I’ve done in the past or will do in the future could ever alter God’s love for me, and it’s the same for you too. His love is so strong that he willingly took on all the sin and darkness in your heart and mine and overcame it with his goodness and holiness. Jesus went so far as to surrender to death on a cross just to remove every obstacle that kept us from him.
“It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve come to realize a little bit of the immensity of Jesus’ love for us. Think about everything he did when he was on the earth: He healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave sinners, and released those in bondage. Everything he said and did revealed the lengths to which God would go to release us from sin. All he asks of us—of you and me—is the same thing he asked of his listeners two thousand years ago: ‘Repent, and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15). Just as he told a woman caught in sin, he tells us, ‘Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again’ (John 8:10,11).
“If you’re anything like me, you probably know that some of the things you’ve done—maybe even some of the things you’re doing now—are not pleasing to God. Our sins block us from receiving his love, and this is why Jesus calls us to repent. He doesn’t want us to feel condemned. He wants us to turn to him, accept the forgiveness he won for us, and ask for the power of his Holy Spirit to help us stay faithful to him.
An Ongoing Relationship. “You know me well enough to know that I’m no saint myself. I’ve done some pretty selfish and unloving things at times. But I know that Jesus has already died for the wrongs I’ve done and the wrongs done to me. His death atoned for every single human transgression. My sin and weakness—and yours as well—may have cut us off from God, but because of Jesus, we can be forgiven and restored.
“In the Book of Jeremiah, God said, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11). God really does have a beautiful plan for our lives. He wants to free us from the things that drag us down. He wants to fill us with his love and lift us up with the knowledge of his promises. All you need to do is pray, read Scripture, and ask Jesus to come into your life.
“It’s okay to put Jesus to the test. If he really is the Son of God, then he must be able to reveal himself to you personally. If he really does love you this deeply, how could he not answer your prayer?”
Sharing the Love of Christ. Remember, there is no perfect formula or script. The previous paragraphs spoke of God’s love, our sin, and the forgiveness available in Jesus. However we get these points across, all that really matters is that we pray for people, love them, and speak from the heart about our own experience of Christ. God can do a lot with an open heart and a mind docile to the Holy Spirit. Let’s all strive to become “all things to all people” in the hope of bringing them to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge.