By Victoria York
“Yahweh your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring you quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17).
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–God the Father so fully loves and delights in His children He can hardly wait to bless us. Too often, however, we view His love as more dutiful and clinical than extravagant and demonstrative. We mistakenly believe His affection is a by-product of our good behavior, and so we’re plagued by anxiety and guilt, forever wondering if we’re measuring up to His expectations. Too often, we confess with our mouths (and perhaps believe with our intellect) that we’re saved by grace alone and that we cannot be “good enough” to merit God’s love, and yet our hearts lag behind.
The beautiful truth is that God’s love for us is unconditional (that is, comprehensive and all-inclusive) and absolute (as far-reaching as possible, and then beyond that). His love toward those who are His is unbound by any restricting, limiting, or modifying circumstance — including our behavior. “I give them eternal life,” He says. “No one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). We can rest securely in His love, which is never unpredictable, never fickle.
God’s Fatherly Love
If this sort of love seems too good to be true, think of the intensity of devotion you felt years ago when your children were small — or last week when your grandchild’s fuzzy head was tucked under your chin during her nap. Now consider the third sentence in the verse from Zephaniah: “He will bring you quietness with His love.” This line has been rendered in numerous ways by translators because it has several possible meanings, yet each is more reassuring than the next. It certainly depicts the calming effect a parent’s love has on a child who knows that he or she is treasured, but it can also mean that God will be silent in His love.
I remember being speechless with love and tenderness while watching my first grandchild, Zoe, as she slept or played — moments when words would have been simultaneously too much and not enough. (I’ve since tried to remember this during those frustrating seasons when it seems God is being far too quiet!)
This phrase also implies our Father, because of His love for us, rests in silent satisfaction, making no mention of our sins. He isn’t blind to or flippant about our infractions, yet the idea here is one of quiet contentment born of deep affection.
God’s Passionate Love
Zephaniah 3:17 beautifully describes the love of a parent toward a child, but also that of a bridegroom toward his beloved. Consider that God “will delight in [us] with shouts of joy.” This phrase implies pleasure and exultation to the point of singing, shouting, and leaping with joy. As any young lover knows, sometimes there’s no better way to give voice to one’s feelings than with a song, a shout, or a leap in the air. God is — to use a popular expression — an incurable romantic. You might feel uncomfortable thinking of Him in this way, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s reflect for a moment.
Think about the way you felt and behaved when you first fell in love. No doubt you were obsessed with your sweetheart. You gave your attention to nothing and no one else. The moment you woke, and as you drifted to sleep, that person was on your mind. Do you know this is but a shadow of what God feels for you? Has anyone ever gone so completely “over the top” or done anything as extreme as what He did in giving His beloved Son so He could be with us forever?
Receiving God’s Love
How should we respond to a love like this? The answer is so simple that many believers miss it: receive His love with open arms. Few things are as heartbreaking as desiring to lavish a loved one with blessings, affection, and attention only to be rebuffed. But oh, the pleasure we take in the one who not only loves us in return but who also receives our attentions enthusiastically and appreciatively! This is why the greatest gift we can give someone who loves us is to allow that person to do so extravagantly.
Nevertheless, many of us balk at our Father’s attempts to draw us to Himself. To be honest, we’re unnerved by such an unconditional and absolute love. First, we sense we don’t deserve to be loved in that way. Additionally, to receive such a love implies a stark vulnerability. It means allowing another to see into our core, so we back away, eager to regain a little distance.
Yet, we were created by love itself (or, more accurately, Himself, for God is love). We were created to receive His affections, to allow Him to braid our spirit with His. Absolutely nothing else will satisfy the restlessness with which we all struggle except to allow Him to quiet us with His love.
Today, the Lord says, “I delight in you. I want to serenade you and enjoy you. Will you receive My love?” How will you answer?
Victoria York is owner of Word Nerd Solutions, a writing, editing, and workplace training business. She also assists her husband, Kenny, founder of a mobile food pantry in Clarksville, Tenn. This article first appeared in Mature Living, a LifeWay publication. More information can be accessed at LifeWay.com/magazines.