Last week I went to a coffee shop to spend some time with Jesus. I tried to read but it was hard to really focus on what I was reading. It wasn’t though that I didn’t have a desire to do so or didn’t want to pursue God because I was so distracted by my own problems or random thoughts. I was experiencing so much of God’s presence that it was hard to really think clearly. His holy spirit was bubbling inside of me and I was so full of joy. I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt so loved reminiscing about how I experienced God recklessly pursuing me through my wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ the previous week while spreading the gospel and loving people on the beach in Florida. I don’t think I have ever felt or seen so much love in a group of people as I did during our time together. The bond we shared was incredible and is what I have been searching so long for.
Growing up was really hard. Very rarely did I feel like I was worth getting to know. I was so insecure and struggled so much to make close friends. I was constantly comparing myself to others. I felt like I always had to prove myself so people would like me. I felt like I had to always get drunk because some people seemed to worship me and like me better when I was in that state of mind. And at the end of the day, I felt like I cared way more about people than they cared for me. I felt like I wasn’t worth fighting for.
But God has shocked my world and the incredible and genuine love and acceptance I have received from other Christians has been mind-blowing. It doesn’t make sense. Without a drip of alcohol, on my trip I laughed harder and was filled with more joy than ever before. Hardly ever last week did I feel insecure around my brothers and sisters. Not once did I feel left out or was lonely. When I shared intimately about my life and my brokenness I felt no shame. I felt so much love that some embarrassing details just flowed out that I didn’t intend to even say. I have shared my story with many people before. But never like this. From this confidence, I was even able to share my full story with strangers on the beach with the slightest bit of nervousness. God has given me a crazy life and has allowed painful things to happen, but it is all for a purpose. It’s all for his glory. And I can’t help from sharing His relentless power to people who have never experienced this kind of love.
The love that exists in the body of Christ is radical. There were many people on this trip I didn’t know, but even from day one, I had no doubt that everyone would accept me. I experienced God’s Holy Spirit in a way I never had before. Despite the hard work, rejections, and the hours and hours I spent with people, very rarely did I feel drained. There may be some on the trip that may be a little surprised, but I have always been an introvert. Being around people for long periods of time exhausts me. But maybe for the first time in my life, I felt refreshed constantly being surrounded by people. Even after a 15-hour car ride home, I didn’t want to leave. I could have stayed in the car for hours. The reason why I think all of this was happening was because I was with people so on fire for Jesus. God’s spirit was so active. Jesus was offering his living water through my newfound friends.
If you have doubts about the existence of God because you can’t see him, I dare you to surround yourself around a community that radically loves Jesus. You will see and experience a love that can’t be explained. The other night I heard of a student who went on a different spring break trip who was an atheist coming in. However, by the end he was eager to get involved with the church and learn more. That’s the power of Christ. There is something so different about strong Christian communities, and the more I enter them, I am more and more convinced that God is constantly pursuing me. Being surrounded by a community of believers is a huge reason I first believed and I am eternally grateful for the people God put in my life to point me to Christ.
My fellow brothers and sisters, we must constantly remember that our actions speak way louder than any truth we may share. Jesus tells us that people will know that we are his disciples by the way we love each other (John 13:35). Surround yourself with a community of passionate believers to reach people who are desperately looking for love and acceptance. Never underestimate the incredible power of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of you because is the same spirit that lifted Jesus out of the grave (Eph 1:19-20). But remain humble, because we never earned this love. We don’t deserve it. Without God, we are incapable of providing reckless, sacrificial love because love comes from Him, not us. Only with God can we love without wanting to get anything in return. God was never lonely and had abundant joy before we existed with his Son and the Holy Spirit. He didn’t create us because he wanted an ego boost from our worship. He doesn’t need anything from us (Acts 17: 25). He is completely secure in who he is without us. But he created us and sacrificed his son so we could experience the fullness of the love he experiences.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” –1 John 4:7-12