but everyone!

God has illumined for us a way out of the darkness, a path forward. Why would we let anything get in the way of that? We are so loved. We are of great value. We are so important! This sometimes seems impossible to believe, especially when people have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents and peers, or when we feel like love is something that has to be earned.

As you all know, Ken and I coached Mary Ellen’s first grade Upward Basketball team this year. Over the course of the season, the team members and their families all became rather close. At the final practice of the season, Ken gathered the girls for one last huddle before they headed home. He had the girls stand in a circle, and he looked at each one of them and said, “I want you to know that you are a wonderful person. God loves you so very much. I love you very much. I am a much better person for having to come to know you.” The interesting thing about this was that it seemed to make the girls rather uncomfortable. They appeared to have a hard time listening to this.

And you know, sometimes it is hard for us to hear and believe that we are loved so very much. Or maybe we are afraid to acknowledge that we are loved because we know how very vulnerable that makes us. Or perhaps we don’t want the dark spots of our souls to be revealed. Sometimes it’s difficult to walk out of the darkness. It can be hard to believe in and to trust God’s love described in John’s words, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believe in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” God so loves the world. God so loves everyone. God so loves you. God so loves me. Try saying that to yourself slowly, with you name at the end. Reflect quietly on God saying that to you right this very moment!

Without those words from God, all we see is darkness. All we often hear are angry voices, put-downs, bitter rejections and total despair. And all of that darkness may not be just coming from other people; it just might be coming from within our minds as well. A few years ago, when I was leading student ministry, I had a difficult conversation with a very faithful and active student. This young person was a believer of God in Christ Jesus, and yet, she was in this deep haze of depression because she felt that God was angry with her and that she didn’t measure up. She felt that she was not good enough for God’s grace. She had grown up in the church and since proclaiming her faith in Christ, she had tried so hard to be what she thought was the “perfect Christian.” But she had failed every time. She had missed the mark. By her own admission, she was a horrible sinner. And as she sat in my office, broken and torn down, she whispered, “How could God possibly love me?”

After a few moments of searching for the right words, I lifted up the tried and true.