How Do I Love God and Other People When the Feelings Aren’t Present?

Question from a reader:

I recently read your book In Light of Eternity and have some questions. One, the first step is to love God and love man, page 147. As a Christian, I talk to God each day, but have only had Him talk to me twice. I appreciate what He does for me, but I can't see how that is love.

Two, the love man part is also a problem. Other than my wife of 20 years, I have no desire to even talk to anyone else. I have a few friends that are OK, but most people are just in my way when I try to accomplish my daily tasks. Why do I want more people in Heaven? What good are they to me?

Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:

Thanks for your questions. They both seem to stem from a definition of love that differs from the biblical perspective.

Question one implies that, in order to love you, God must “talk” to you. And question two implies that you see no personal value in loving others. I wish we could sit across the table from each other with a cup of something hot and delve into why you appear to view love as a transaction rather than a relationship.

Love is not a contract in which one party must fulfill its obligations in order to receive love. I’m really grateful that God wants a relationship with us and not just lists of responsibilities we must fulfill in order to earn His love.

Love is a sacrificial attitude of service which acts for the good of those we love. Probably the easiest illustration of this would be a parent’s love for a newborn. That tiny human will demand a parent’s attention at all hours of the day and night, dragging them out of their nightly stupor to be fed on demand, cleaned up after pooping and never even say thanks. Day after day after day.

We act like that toward God. We demand and whine and expect Him to answer us the way we want to be answered, immediately if not sooner. In return, He loves us, feeds us, and cleans us up whether we ever thank Him or not.

God is sovereign. He deserves our praise, our respect, and our deepest thanks. God is also not silent, though I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many who’ve heard Him speak to them directly. All creation shouts of His existence and glory. His Bible speaks volumes about His love for us and His perfect plan and His impeccable character. Next time you are tempted to think that He doesn’t love you, read Luke 23 and remember it was for you.

As far as loving others, when we love someone we want their best, and introducing them to our Savior is probably the single most loving thing we can do for them. Again, it’s not a transaction where we ask “what’s in it for me?”

I’ve found that the more deeply I fall in love with Jesus the more love flows from Him through me to others. Falling in love with Him wasn’t something that happened overnight. He was so persistent in showing me His goodness and love, finally even I couldn’t miss the memo. I find myself spending more and more time in His Word and listening to good words about Him and less time even wanting to do things that used to captivate me.

And as my love becomes stronger, His love seems bigger and pretty soon it overflows in the desire to serve others. I was very much a list-maker and a “doer” and no one would have accused me of being a people person. I wanted to know my responsibility and be left alone to complete it. If there was spare time, people were okay. Now I see serving and loving God by serving and loving people as my reason for breathing. And if there’s spare time, I’ll check off some to-do boxes. Funny thing is, my lawn still gets mowed, and I haven’t missed a meal but now I’m happy about it all because there’s an eternal purpose.

I hope that you will seek out a mature believer that you can trust with your story and who will walk with you as you seek to learn what our Father's love means and how that love can be part of your world. "Jesus loves you" isn't just a song for kids, it's the Gospel truth. I pray that you will discover that love for yourself on more than an intellectual level.

In the meantime, in addition to marinating in God's Word, I recommend the following books which may help you see love as more relational and less transactional.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund

Epic by John Eldredge

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, our hearts will follow. Consider serving others with your time and talents, and giving generously to Kingdom causes (no, this isn't a plug for a gift to EPM) as a way to move "love" from a concept in your head to a new paradigm for your heart. Is there someone in particular you'd like to feel love for? Find ways to meet some of their needs without any expectation for reciprocation. At first you may feel a bit like a hypocrite, but you would be unique indeed if your feelings didn't (perhaps sooner than later) follow your actions.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9).

I hope this helps answer your questions. Chase after God and ask Him to help you see how much He loves you and how you can best love Him. The rest of this will make sense if you do.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.