When God looks at you, what expression do you picture Him having on His face?
A few weeks ago, one of the pastors at my church asked my community group that question. I think she quoted from Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” My pastor wanted to know if we picture Him rejoicing over us when He looks at us.
Rejoicing over me with shouts of joy? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time picturing that. At best, I can see the quiet love–a look of indulgent satisfaction, and like I said, that’s at best, when I’ve done something I think is especially good. Even then, I’m not sure of that look. After all, even my best is not good enough–every good deed is tainted by a little of the wrong motivation. I can back this up with Scripture: “There is none righteous, not even one…All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10,12).
The very fact that I’ll never be good enough to merit God’s approval on my own is the reason I need Jesus to cover me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus’ sacrifice, and I am then approved. Romans 5:8-9 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” This is true, and I can’t say how glad I am that God loved us enough to do this, that Jesus was willing to die for us. However, there’s something unsatisfactory in thinking that the only reason God might rejoice over me is because He’s actually looking at Christ. If He truly loved me and the rest of the world enough to give His only Son (John 3:16) to die for us, He doesn’t just love us through the lens of Christ. He loved us before Christ died.
I asked my pastor afterwards to help me understand this. I know that as a parent, when my children are misbehaving, at best I’m disappointed and sad. At worst, I’m angry. I definitely don’t look at them with a smile on my face during those times, and I know that, as I just said, not even my most righteous acts are perfect, not perfect enough for a perfect God. She said she thinks the analogy of a parent with a child breaks down in this case. She wanted me to imagine someone I loved (not a husband) who is more of an equal to me, like a brother or a friend. If that person starts doing wrong, I won’t be happy about it, but I will still feel love for them more than anger. I will be sad about it, but I will still feel the love just as strongly because I am not responsible for their upbringing. On top of that, my pastor said that God will never be disappointed in us because He already knows how we will act and of what we are and are not capable–you can’t disappoint Someone who is omniscient.
This made sense to me, and I know God loves me even when I sin, but I still couldn’t picture Him rejoicing over me at any time, not to mention with shouts of joy! So I asked God if He would show me if He ever looks at me that way.
The next day was Sunday. I was very excited to get to take part in corporate worship, something I don’t often get to do. I threw my heart into worship, praising Him with all I had, and it felt wonderful to do so. Suddenly, a picture from nowhere came into my head–a picture of Little E as she had been a day or two before, looking up at me with adoring eyes, telling me how much she loved me, and reaching up as high as she could to hug and kiss me. I felt strongly that God had given me this picture to show me what I looked like to Him right then and to remind me of what my reaction had been when Little E expressed her affection to me. Of course, I had bent down and loved her right back! It had filled my heart with joy, and although I hadn’t shouted with joy, I overflowed with it inside. This, it seemed God was telling me, was how He felt toward me at that moment.
God, the King of all kings, who sits enthroned on high, looked at me with that kind of Daddy love when I worshiped Him. I can’t understand it or make any sense of it, but I’m happy to receive that love. I hope you are able to feel His love for you today. May Christ “dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).