CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
By Edie Edmondson
It is so hard feeling this way. It helps to understand the feeling and know that it is actually a very common feeling. Everyone feels that way at times, and the underlying thoughts and beliefs that lead to that feeling can vary. But the true source of that feeling is Satan. Whether he uses insecurity, guilt, the actions of others, or something else, he manipulates us to believe we are either unlovable or unloved, whichever best suits his purpose. And his purpose is always to keep us away from our Creator and Savior and make our witness ineffective. John 10:10 (NIV) says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." Feeling unloved is overwhelming — it steals joy, kills the desire to love and serve others, and destroys hope.
And it has nothing to do with knowing you are loved. You can know God loves you, but if you don't feel His love, that can overpower what you know. It's the same for knowing family, friends, and the church love you as well. Feeling unloved convinces you their love is not real, or that they only love you because they have to. And the worst part of feeling unloved is feeling alone — like you're the only one in the world who feels this way. Trust me, you're not.
For believers, feeling unloved despite knowing God loves you and Christ died for your sins (the ultimate act of love) may lead to questioning your faith or even questioning God (and that's okay; it's perfectly normal). Non-believers' only experience and understanding of love is based on imperfect human examples and therefore an imperfect understanding of love — and you can't truly know you are loved if you don't know what true love is. There are several things you can do to help you through this, but someone just telling you God loves you or that he/she loves you, no matter how true, will not overcome your feeling of being unloved.
As temporal beings, we often need tangible, visible demonstrations of what we yearn for before our knowledge and feelings can align. For this reason, the most important thing you can do is reach out to someone in your life that you trust — a parent, sibling, friend, significant other, or pastor. Whomever you reach out to, I recommend he or she be a strong Christian who demonstrates Christ's love on a regular basis. It's possible he or she may not realize the depth of your pain when you first reach out — you've probably been doing your best to hide the depth of your true feelings. But it is incumbent on you to ensure he or she understands this is an all-consuming feeling, not just a passing episode.
The main reason reaching out to someone is so important is because we are told to bear each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2). We are meant to be in fellowship — and that doesn't mean just going to church/Bible studies or hanging out and putting on a happy face. We are meant to be in true relationship with one another, which is a necessary part of feeling loved. If everything is superficial, there is no real connection; and without real connection there can't be a true relationship. But part of being in true relationship is being vulnerable. And this is scary — especially when you're already emotionally fragile.
Opening up to someone means revealing your true self — which leaves you open to misunderstanding, hurt, and even rejection. Already feeling unloved, you focus on your perceived negatives and figure that's what other people see too. But revealing your true self also opens you up to acceptance, openness, and love. When we only present an image of who we want others to see, others are going to reflect back a superficial image of who they want you to see. When you make yourself vulnerable, especially in a one-on-one setting, the other person responds by opening him/herself up to you. At this point, a true relationship can develop, and so can love. And it won't just be a feeling — it will be a true merging of your knowledge and feelings and faith that there is love. And now you're on your way to experiencing the second half of John 10:10: "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
While reaching out is the most important thing you can do initially, there are other things you can (and should) do at the same time that can help. First, you must recognize you are at war with Satan (Ephesians 6:12), and you need to put on the armor of God for battle (Ephesians 6:13-18). You should always be ready for the attacks because Satan is a relentless enemy. Continually pray for God's peace and strength through the battles. And when Satan is attacking you with feelings of being unloved, recite verses (e.g., 1 John 4:18-19; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; Jeremiah 29:11) that tell him differently, and keep repeating them until the negative feelings have passed. Feeling unloved is from him, and he is the father of lies (John 8:44).
You can also volunteer. When you reach out and help others who are suffering and vulnerable, you forget about your own issues and feel compassion and love for those you help. And when they express their gratitude and appreciation out of their suffering and vulnerability, you can't help but see and feel love in return.
Finally, recognize that overwhelming feelings of being unloved in the face of knowledge to the contrary is a possible sign of depression. We live in a fallen world, and mental health issues are a consequence of the fall. There is no shame in having a condition you cannot control; but there is strength in seeking and getting professional help. If despite your best efforts to reach out to someone and develop a relationship over time does not alleviate the feelings, I encourage you to reach out to a professional counselor (again, preferably a Christian) who can help you at this level.
For more, see "Does God love me?"
Image Credit: Unsplash; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Depression | Hardships | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 5-16-16