Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Monday, January 19, 2009
God's Love is Always Available
Here's another great article that I received from a friend on Facebook. It is by the former head of the GOA, Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory.
Fear arises from the absence of God's love in a person's life. Of course, God's love is always available to anyone who wishes to receive it. But many times, we ignore the hand that God lovingly holds out to comfort, encourage and guide us into his family circle. When we neglect or turn away from his love, worries, anxieties, and finally deep fears may grab hold of us.
Yet, when we open ourselves to God's love and let his compassion and concern for us fill our lives, fear fades and eventually disappears. As St John puts it in his First Epistle "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..."
Why does a lack of love cause us to be fearful? St John goes on to explain that fear is linked to punishment, while God's love through the sacrifice of his Son has removed the threat of ultimate punishment. Yet many times, we allow the power of God's love to slip away from us, and the dread of punishment to creep back in.
Sometimes, this happens because we disobey God in some way and, as a result, we develop a guilty conscience. There's a very deep sense within us that if we violate God's laws or step outside his will, something bad may happen. Some punishment may strike.
Some might argue that such feelings of guilt are unhealthy, and we should do everything in our power, through psychotherapy or any other means, to get rid of them. But I'm not so sure. I think that feelings of guilt, those prickings of a conscience that has been violated by certain improper or immoral acts, may be a very healthy thing. After all the rules of behavior that God has established in this world are not optional. The universe operates according to certain laws relating to our health, our sexuality, our personal morality, and our relationships. And there are likely to be consequences if we decide we won't follow these laws.
Still, I'm not one of those people who believes that God will routinely reach down from some seat in heaven and smack us if we step out of line. The way he operates is generally much more loving, subtle, and parental than that. More often, when we step outside of God's will and begin trying to live by our own wills, we'll get a sense that something is not quite right. Often, we may first experience anxiety; then, a wave of fear may sweep over us, as we wonder where our lives are going and what traps we may fall into...
God offers his love to us in a direct, warm, caring beam of divine light. His love streams directly from his heart to ours. All we need do is receive, in order to enjoy it fully and bask in its comforting rays. But for us to receive God's love in its fullness, we must have a genuine relationship with him in our innermost beings. It's essential that we in some sense be in union with him as a result of a decision to love, trust and follow his Son. Then, when we've established and developed such a relationship, we find that we, in turn, can become human channels for the great powerful agape love that we've received from God. We can return love to him, and we can also express this same love to others, in much the same way God has expressed it to us.
Archbishop Iakovos from Faith For A Lifetime: A Spiritual Journey, pp. 48,100-101 Doubleday 1988 010909