A few months ago, I had a week to decide between two jobs that would set me on two divergent career paths. From what I could tell, each job would allow me to use my passions and my gifts, leaving me without a clue about which choice was right. So I called mentors and friends, read through the book of Matthew, prayed and prayed, and studiously avoided sending the final email that would solidify my choice one way or another.
I didn’t want to choose either job because I was afraid of choosing the wrong one. I was afraid that God wouldn’t love me if I chose the “unholy” calling instead of the “holy” one, or chose the “holy” one for the wrong reason. So I prayed for a clear sign: God, would you show me which job to take?
The clarity I wanted was not the clarity I needed. I wanted clarity about which path to take, but I needed clarity about the God I serve. On the morning of day seven, I went for a run while listening to a sermon. During mile two, as the pastor continued outlining what it does and does not mean to obey God’s will, I broke down crying. It sounds hokey (and maybe it is) but I can’t put it any better than this: at that moment, the only, overwhelming thought in my brain was that God loves me.
Sometimes the most seemingly elementary of truths are the hardest to comprehend. Since I was little, I’ve sung “Jesus loves me.” I’ve memorized “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) and proclaimed that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16). Yet I had been trying to earn the same love I had been freely given. The effort was subconscious—if you’d asked me whether I believed I could earn God’s favor, I would have denied it wholeheartedly—but some part of me was still laboring, still earning. I feared that if I made the wrong choice, God would not love me.
How terrifying it is to think that we will fall off the pages of the book if we don’t choose the right adventure. But that is not the Love with which we have been loved. No, the Love that gave itself up for sinners holds onto us and does not let go. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love,” John writes in 1 John 4:18. The answer to fear is not performance. The answer to fear is love, and that Love is perfected in us when we abide in God and God in us (1 John 4:16-17). Love is perfected in us not when we do, not when we choose, not when we act, but when we abide. To abide is to stay, to remain. God’s love is perfected in us not when we do, but when we are rooted in Him.
I did not need to know which job to choose in order to win God’s love, and neither do you, in whatever choice you have before you. His love is freely given rather than earned: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are loved not because of anything we have achieved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. So when we sing “Jesus loves me,” we can trust that, truly, He does.