Love Never Fails

When I was two and a half years old my biological father brought my brother and me over to his mother’s house for dinner. He was a single dad trying to raise two children at the age of twenty-three. He must have been exhausted and overwhelmed. After dinner he told his mom he was going to take a walk. And he never came back.

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After a few weeks of waiting for his return, my grandmother (also a single parent and working for seventy-five dollars a week) called my maternal grandparents (whose daughter had already abandoned us), asking them to help care for my brother and I until her son returned. They said they would, but instead of taking us home to their house they took us to Montgomery County Children and Youth Services, and we entered the foster care system. My grandmother tried to explain to the social workers that a mistake had been made and that she would take care of us. However, because she was neither our mother or father she was not able to bring us home. She spent the next two years visiting us about every other week under the supervision of case workers until we were adopted.

Although I did not remember these details as a child, I knew I had been abandoned, and the effects of this followed me well into adulthood. They were compounded in my adoptive family as I learned at an early age that love was conditional – based on whether I was good or good enough. I learned that love did not last forever, and I was not worthy of it.

When I was growing up I would sit in church and hear the minister talk of “Our Heavenly Father” – how God was our Father – and I would cringe. I had two fathers who had abandoned me – one physically and another emotionally – so, I had a difficult time believing that God’s love for me was going to last forever. I just wasn’t worthy of His love. My image of God and my understanding of His love were wrong. I thought I knew all about fathers and their so-called “love.” I was comparing God to my earthly fathers and was sure that He, too, would abandon me. It took me years of Bible study, prayer and seeking after God to discover just how wrong I was about who He was.

According to Bible Gateway, the phrase, “his love endures forever” appears forty-three times in the NIV Bible. All but six of those references appear in the book of Psalms and are repeated most frequently in chapter 136.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

The writer of this song first states who God is, reminding us of His character and recounting what He did as Creator.  For the rest of Psalm 136 the psalmist lists the ways that God worked in the lives of the Israelites: rescuing them from slavery, providing food and land for them, helping them to win battles, and blessing them.  All these actions point them (and us) to His everlasting love.  A love that endures over time.  A love that never fails.  I can almost hear a music director leading God’s people in this responsive song, proclaiming each statement and then the congregation responding with a loud refrain, “His love endures forever!”

I used to count and recount all the ways I had been abandoned; let down by people – people whose love tired of me. It used to be what defined me. I was abandoned. I was lied to. I was cheated. I was unwanted. I was unloved. I was abused. But, I have learned over time that when I focus on my circumstances and what has been done to me bitterness only grows where love was meant to be. I am learning that if I fix my eyes on God’s character, creation and acts of faithfulness in my life instead of the people who have hurt me then I can see His enduring love.  If I focus not on what has been done to me, but what was done for me by my Savior then I am motivated to love others.  To replace bitterness with love.

Every once in a while the fear of abandonment rears its ugly head in my adult life, and I have to go back to what I know to be true.  God has promised that He will never leave me or forsake me.  His love endures forever.  It is not based on who I am, but who He is, and His love never fails.

onethingremains
“One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture


JH profile pic

Jennifer Hiltebeitel and her husband, Eric, live in Malvern and have been members of Hope for almost 20 years. They found this church through the yellow pages in the phone book about three weeks after they returned from their honeymoon. Jennifer is the Director of the Orphan-Widow Ministry at Hope, leads a small group of 7th-8th grade girls on Sunday mornings and looks forward to studying God’s Word every week with her Morning Light friends on Wednesday mornings. She and Eric are blessed with two daughters, Skyler (16) and Cameron (12).

 

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