May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. — Ephesians 3:19 NLT
Pipín Ferreras wants to go deep, deeper than any person has ever gone. You and I are content with 10 or 20 feet of water. Certain risktakers descend 40, maybe 50. Not Pipín. This legendary Cuban diver has descended into 531 feet of ocean water, armed with nothing but flippers, a wet suit, deep resolve, and one breath of air.
His round trip lasted three minutes and twelve seconds. To prepare for such a dive, he loads his lungs with 8.2 liters of air — nearly twice the capacity of a normal human being — inhaling and exhaling for several minutes, his windpipe sounding like a bicycle pump. He then wraps his knees around the crossbar of an aluminum sled that lowers him to the sea bottom.1
No free diver has gone farther. Still, he wants more. Though he’s acquainted with water pressure that tested World War II submarines, it’s not enough. The mystery of the deep calls him. He wants to go deeper.
Could I interest you in a similar ear-popping descent? Not into the waters of the ocean, but into the limitless love of God.
May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God Himself. — Ephesians 3:17-19 TLB
When Paul wants to describe the love of God, he can’t avoid the word deep. Dig “deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” (Ephesians 3:17). Discover “how deep… His love really is” (Ephesians 3:18).
Envision Ferreras deep beneath the ocean surface. Having plunged the equivalent of five stories, where can he turn and not see water? To the right, to the left, beneath him, above him — the common consistency of his world is water. Water defines his dives, dictates his direction, liberates him, limits him. His world is water.
Can a person go equally deep into God’s love? Sink so deep that he or she sees nothing but? David Brainerd, the eighteenth-century missionary to American Indians, would say so. He journaled:
I withdrew to my usual place of retirement, in great tranquility. I knew only to breathe out my desire for a perfect conformity to Him in all things. God was so precious that the world with all its enjoyments seemed infinitely vile. I had no more desire for the favor of men than for pebbles. At noon I had the most ardent longings after God which I ever felt in my life.
In my secret retirement, I could do nothing but tell my dear Lord in a sweet calmness that He knew I desired nothing but Him, nothing but holiness, that He had given me these desires and He only could give the thing desired.
I never seemed to be so unhinged from myself, and to be so wholly devoted to God.
My heart was swallowed up in God most of the day.2
You will need a descent into such love on your new-beginning journey. Scripture offers an anchor. Grab hold of this verse and let it lower you down:
God is love. — 1 John 4:16 NLT
One word into the passage reveals the supreme surprise of God’s love — it has nothing to do with you. Others love you because of you, because your dimples dip when you smile or your rhetoric charms when you flirt. Some people love you because of you. Not God. He loves you because He is He. He loves you because He decides to. Self-generated, uncaused, and spontaneous, His constant-level love depends on His choice to give it.
The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you. — Deuteronomy 7:7-8
You don’t influence God’s love. You can’t impact the treeness of a tree, the skyness of the sky, or the rockness of a rock. Nor can you affect the love of God. If you could, John would have used more ink: “God is occasional love” or “sporadic love” or “ fair-weather love.” If your actions altered His devotion, then God would not be love; indeed, He would be human, for this is human love.
And you’ve had enough of human love. Haven’t you? Enough guys wooing you with Elvis-impersonator sincerity. Enough tabloids telling you that true love is just a diet away. Enough helium-filled expectations of bosses and parents and pastors. Enough mornings smelling like the mistakes you made while searching for love the night before.
Don’t you need a fountain of love that won’t run dry? You’ll find one on a stone-cropped hill outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus hangs, cross nailed and thorn crowned. When you feel unloved, ascend this mount. Meditate long and hard on heaven’s love for you. Both eyes beaten shut, shoulders as raw as ground beef, lips bloody and split. Fists of hair yanked from his beard. Gasps of air escaping his lungs. As you peer into the crimsoned face of heaven’s only Son, remember this:
God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. — Romans 5:8 NLT
Don’t trust other yardsticks. We often do. The sight of the healthy or successful prompts us to conclude, God must really love him. He’s so blessed with health, money, good looks, and skill.
Or we gravitate to the other extreme. Lonely and frail in the hospital bed, we deduce, God does not love me. How could He? Look at me.
Rebuff such thoughts!
Success signals God’s love no more than struggles indicate the lack of it.
The definitive, God-sanctioned gauge is not a good day or a bad break but the dying hours of His Son. Consider them often. Let the gap between trips to the cross diminish daily. Discover what Brainerd meant when he said, “My heart was swallowed up in God most of the day.” Accept this invitation of Jesus:
Abide in My love. — John 15:9 NASB
When you abide somewhere, you live there. You grow familiar with the surroundings. You don’t pull in the driveway and ask, “Where is the garage?” You don’t consult the blueprint to find the kitchen. To abide is to be at home.
To abide in Christ’s love is to make His love your home. Not a roadside park or hotel room you occasionally visit, but your preferred dwelling. You rest in Him. Eat in Him. When thunder claps, you step beneath His roof. His walls secure you from the winds. His fireplace warms you from the winters of life. As John urged,
We take up permanent residence in a life of love. — 1 John 4:17 The Message
You abandon the old house of false love and move into His home of real love.
Adapting to this new home takes time. First few nights in a new home you can wake up and walk into a wall. I did. Not in a new home, but in a motel. Climbed out of bed to get a glass of water, turned left, and flattened my nose. The dimensions to the room were different.
The dimensions of God’s love are different too. You’ve lived a life in a house of imperfect love. You think God is going to cut you as the coach did, or abandon you as your father did, or judge you as false religion did, or curse you as your friend did. He won’t, but it takes time to be convinced.
For that reason abide in Him. Hang on to Christ the same way a branch clutches the vine. According to Jesus the branch models His definition of abiding.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. — John 15:4 NASB
My friend Keith took his wife, Sarah, to Cozumel, Mexico, to celebrate their anniversary. Sarah loves to snorkel. Give her fins, a mask, and a breathing tube, and watch her go deep. Down she swims, searching for the mysteries below.
Keith’s idea of snorkeling includes fins, a mask, and a breathing tube, but it also includes a bellyboard. The surface satisfies him.
Sarah, however, convinced him to take the plunge. Forty feet offshore, she shouted for him to paddle out. He did. The two plunged into the water where she showed him a twenty-foot-tall submerged cross. “If I’d had another breath,” he confessed, “the sight would have taken it away.”
Jesus beckons you to descend and see the same. Forget surface glances.
No more sunburned back. Go deep. Take a breath and descend so deeply into His love that you see nothing else.
Join the psalmist in saying:
Whom have I in Heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…
My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me, O My people.” And my heart responds “Lord, I am coming.” — Psalm 73:25-26 NIV; Psalm 27:8 TLB
- Gary Smith, “The Rapture of the Deep,” Sports Illustrated, 16 June 2003, 62–78.
- David Brainerd, quoted in Cynthia Heald, “Becoming a Friend of God,” Discipleship Journal, no. 54 (1989): 22.
Excerpted with permission from Begin Again by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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Is there a better resolution for 2021 than to love Jesus more and to sink in His love? I don’t think so! Let’s dive in! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full