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If you have a sense that God loves you, how do you perceive that?


Quill
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I hope this is not too woo-woo for people to break down into something I can understand, but I would like some insight on this. 

I am reading an interesting book, Unoffendable, which is about exactly what it sounds like: how to not be angry and upset so much. This is specifically a Christian book, so there is one aspect that I find hard to relate to. In fact, this has been hard for me to relate to for always, or at least for the past 15 years or so. I have never really understood how someone can believe God loves them. 

Is it some sort of feeling that washes over you when you pray or worship? Is it like, you look at your physical life, see predominantly good things, and conclude that you must be specially loved by God, (which is clearly shaky ground because if those good things go away, what new conclusion do you have to draw)? 

Even when it comes to other humans, I don’t really feel “loved” most of the time. I feel like people are happy to have me around because I’m dead useful and it would be annoying if I were not around because who would fill up the soap dispenser? (HaHa.) Also, people speak of loving unconditionally, but I don’t think that is really true except for some instances of loving one’s own children. Even then, I wonder, because if one’s child grew up to be a pediphile or a terrorist, one would probably, objectively, cease to love that child. The person might love the idea of that child from long ago, or love what could have been, but some actions kill love, even a very special bond like mother-child. 

I do believe love and chronic anger are antithetical to one another and, by tapping in to love, anger dissipates. That is the premise in the book I am reading. Maybe I am just an utter cynic; maybe I have some ASD spectrum issue where I don’t really understand the possibility of boundless love, but it would be handy if I could tap real love. I have always admired the serene people who radiate peace and who are so unflappable. But they also (well, anecdotally, in my experience) are people who gush everyday how thankful they are that God rescued them and that God loves them utterly and would give up His Son for them. I just don’t feel that. I wish I could believe that I am preciously, incredibly, pricelessly valuable just because I exist, and I do think I would feel much more at peace if I did, but I currently don’t. So I don’t know how or if it is possible for me to really have that serenity if I remain unconvinced that I am loved just exactly as I am. 

Here we go. Hit submit. 

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I get you.  For me I know that G-d loves me (but I am not entirely sure G-d likes me IYKWIM).  My world fell apart in 2016 when my sister died.  My husband ignored my pleas for his support, my oldest son started to act in a way that still boggles my mind, and a myriad of very large and very small things all combined to bring me to my knees.  After a year of wondering if G-d did love me, my husband came around through therapy.  My best friend walked away as well as my spiritual/religious guide at that time. My son still acts in a manner that hurts my soul.  But I see that I am making it through and that G-d loves me enough to give me at least my husband and our marriage back.  I think I feel it in the manner of the Jewish song from the Passover Seder, Dayenu, It would have been enough.  Anything that I get now, I am grateful for and G-d love falls in that place.

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Hmm, well the idea that a mother would automatically stop loving their child if they committed a heinous crime like you describe isnt something I can agree with. Yes, some mothers will but it certainly isn't a given. I hope that if I'm ever put in that situation I'm still able to love my child. I'd likely not like them though.

As for God's love, it is just a Truth I know and am comforted by. He loves everyone so focusing on the good in my life has nothing to do with it. I actually feel closer to him during the shitty times in life because no matter what happens on this Earth, I know God loves me. Ultimately, that is the only thing that matters. A regular prayer life helps to keep me from thinking differently in bad times or good.

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6 minutes ago, texasmom33 said:

The Bible. I read the Bible everyday. And The Word, that’s how I know. I just do. The older I get, the more I see it. But I do know. 

That answer probably isn’t much help to you, but that’s the only thing I can offer. Read it. Study it. Pray on it. Without doing those things though, I think it could be pretty easy to not feel anything. Relationships run two ways, so there is effort required I think on the humans behalf, not to be loved- He loves everyone regardless of their position on him or what they do-, but to be enough in the relationship to feel the love. After all, a person can love you from afar and if  you never bother to speak to them you wouldn’t know it. I don’t think it’s necessarily different with God. I also don’t think you should be afraid to ask him if it’s something you truly seek. You aren’t the only person that feels that way. 

You might read the book on Mother Teresa’s letters. I don’t have it in front of me to give you the title, but I will repost later if you want it. 

Yes.  The only way I know is to be reminded of it over and over.  

And sometimes I'll just know it, and sometimes I will feel like "no, God doesn't love me or care about me at all."

Is it some sort of feeling that washes over you when you pray or worship? Is it like, you look at your physical life, see predominantly good things, and conclude that you must be specially loved by God, (which is clearly shaky ground because if those good things go away, what new conclusion do you have to draw)? 

Absolutely not. This is dangerous thinking. God tells us over and over that we will suffer, that we won't always experience "good things."  

I'm not saying it's easy.  I struggle regularly.  I read a lot of the "How long, O Lord?" psalms. 

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I think God's love for us is a difficult concept for the human brain to fathom. There are so many things we experience on earth that seem to show us the contrary of love. I certainly don't have any answers, but I do suspect that our brains and our experience are probably too myopic to grasp the fullness of God's love in the scope of the universe. We are "me" focused quite often and equate "love" with good stuff happening, like a young child who may see getting candy as a great thing and the person who gives it to them as showing love. Someone who denies them candy as being unloving. 

I think we need to be reminded that God loves us in spite of everything that we experience, and we need to be reminded of that over and over and over. For many, the reminding is enhanced by attending church and/or reading the bible; for others they are reminded through praying. Sometimes being outside experiencing nature reminds us of God's love in creating the world.

Sadly, I think the most unreliable way of understanding God's love is through the love of other humans. Even with the best of intentions, we are imperfect. I know I am, and that is really hard to face when I wish I was much better at showing love.

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Hi Quill, I will try and answer from my experience as best I can. Apologies up front if I'm rambly, I'm only halfway through my 2nd cup of coffee. <grin>

For me personally, I primarily feel or acknowledge God's love for mankind vs. for me personally, and I am one of mankind, and so the things I view as evidence of God's love are evidence (to me) of His love for humanity, and myself as part of humanity. So, a beautiful sunset that I see at the end of a horrible day reminds me of God's love, because there's really no *reason* that sunsets have to be beautiful, but God created them that way, for us to appreciate. Not that I think that particular sunset is a gift just for me that day, but that it makes me remember God loves us. 

But, backing up, the first thing is that I believe the Bible to be true. In that, I read in too many places to count that God loves me. That he created me (us), that we are loved, cherished, treasured. In all of the things God created in the universe, God declared only humanity to be "very good." Or rather, only declared His creation to be "very good" after He'd created humanity. All throughout the Bible, over and over and over, it tells of God's love for us. He sent His son to die, so we could live. So He could spend eternity with us. So *we* could spend eternity with *Him.* 

If you don't believe the Bible, then that won't make sense, because as you read it you'll see stories of God punishing his people. Killing them. Creating the very system that means we *can't* get to heaven & eternity on our own, because of our sin, and you'll say "if he really loved humanity, he would not have created a system that we can't live up to in the first place...." and so none of the rest will make any sense. But, it's like parents and children (or that is how I understand it). I don't let my kids run wild and do whatever they want; they have consequences in place for their actions if they choose to misbehave. When I discipline them, it is *because* I love them, because I have the big picture in mind. God is the same way, only more so. The things that happen here are aimed at getting as many people as possible ready for eternity, so even bad things may result in a positive outcome at some point; we can't know, because we don't have God's view of eternity. 

So....going forward again, anything I see as evidence of God's love for me, comes first from a place of believing the Bible, and trusting that God's love is eternal -- not in the sense of "he'll always love me" which is true, too, but in the sense of "his love for me is based in & rooted in eternity, not my tiny slice of the here & now." So....when I see a beautiful sunset on a crappy day, I am reminded, "God didn't have to make sunsets pretty. He chose to, for no other reason than to give us something to appreciate."  When a stranger pays me a kindness, I am reminded that we are to love one another, because God loves us.

When something miraculous happens -- for ex, my husband smelling a gas leak & his brain registering it quickly enough to not turn on the light when he opened the door, a lightswitch that always sparked, in a room full of gas, and instead he opened the door, turned off the gas, kept us outside, and we all survived, when if he'd flipped that light switch (his hand was literally reaching for the switch), the spark would have very likely ignited the gas, which would have caused at least a fire if not an explosion, which would have at least injured or maybe killed my husband -- when something like that happens, because I do believe the Bible, because I do live my life from a place of attributing stuff like that to God, I am reminded that God loves us. And in that moment, yes, I mean specifically us, my family. Had my husband not smelled the gas, had the light switch sparked and the worst happened and my husband died.....I think I still would have been grateful for whichever kids survived, that "thank God" they weren't up to the door yet when the house blew. Even as I would have been insanely grief stricken at the loss of my husband, had it gone that way. It would have been impossibly hard, but I would have been surrounded by friends and family, and as I've gotten through other losses, I would have relied on God to get me through even that. That moment would not be a moment I look back on and think "Wow, God really loves me" but something else would have been. 

Does this mean I'm just an ostrich with my head in the sand, counting the good as proof God loves me, and ignoring the bad when I should be stacking it up against the good? No. I don't do that in my human relationships, I don't do it with God. My husband does good things, bad things, and everything in between. My mom does more bad than good sometimes. But my husband made a vow to me, to love me, for better or worse, etc. and I to him. So I treasure the good things and forgive the bad, just as he does with me. It -- love-- is not a balance sheet with the good in one column, the bad in another, and a running total proving or disproving how much someone does or does not love. I know my husband loves me because he makes my coffee in the morning. He calls me on his way home from work. He checks on me throughout the day. He cooks breakfast for dinner every Wednesday. He won't let me mow. He changes my oil for me. He lets me sew all night on Friday nights while he plays video games with the kids. He doesn't care that it took me a year to sew on a missing button on a pair of his shorts. Even the fact he gets annoyed that I like Grey's Anatomy, or drink a 2nd glass of wine some nights, are evidence to me that he loves me....because he doesn't want me drunk, he doesn't want me crossing a line there, he cares what I put into my system, what I expose myself to, that I'm not doing things that go against the morals I have. Even when we disagree, I know he loves me.

Same with God. Good days or bad days, doesn't matter. I know that God loves me. Not because He tells me, out loud; neither (very much) does my husband. I look for it. I find it. I have my eyes and heart and soul and mind attuned to it, listening for it, and so I see it. In the sunsets. In the fact that, before my first son was born premature, a dear friend had very premature triplets, who all made it. So when my turn came for the NICU, I had seen that God could be faithful in that, and I was not afraid. And so when my 2nd son, and my 3rd son, were also premature, and my 3rd son even more so, I had seen God work before, and I was able to trust Him, no matter what. In losing my stepmom, who I knew was a Christian, and so I knew was finally free of the MS that had crippled her for all of her adult life, and so I knew her suffering was over, even though the pain of missing her still hurts almost 10 years later. Even just this week, in reflecting back on the abuse I was dealt at the hands of my stepdad, as I sat with my son and had a "discussion" about parents and children and all of that horridness I endured was able to be an example to my son about some stuff he needed to hear. In the fact that, while I was enduring the horridness, I was spending more & more & more time with my grandparents so that I never lost hope or gave up, because I had their love as a shield around me. In the fact that, as things escalated, mom & stepdad divorced, and as mom fought for rights to their son, and stepdad turned the fight to even more abuse of myself and my sister, my mom gave up. To protect us, she let go her son. A choice no parent should have to make, but she did. In, as I mentioned, the fact that my husband smelled the gas and didn't flip the light switch. In the friendships, and the time without them, in Brazil, in how even when we were "alone" we were never alone. In losing one house (while house-hunting) to end up in a different one, one we couldn't imagine missing out on. 

I know God loves me, I feel that He loves me, because I look for it. The same way I do in human relationships. The same way I do with my youngest, who has developmental delays and has never once, in all his 13 years, verbally said I love you to me. Ever. He can, he's capable, he's verbal. But he's never said it out loud. Yet I know he loves me, I feel loved by him every day. Because I look for it. Because I believe it to be true, I know it's there. 

I don't know, I fear I've just rambled and not made any sense, but.....that's it. I have had exactly one tangible moment of feeling God's love as well, but mostly, I believe the Bible, I believe God loves me, and so I look for, and find, evidence of that all around me, every day. Not that he loves me more than anyone else, or in any different way than he loves the rest of humanity, but as part of humanity, I am loved. 

I've no idea if that helps you or not, but.....that's it. 

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16 minutes ago, Arctic Mama said:

Feelings are crap and unreliable.  I feel all sorts of things that are dodgy, at best, in their connection to the actual situation.  

 

I judge the love of God with my mind and reasoning based on his revelation in scripture.  Feeling it day to day just depends on the mood I’m in and what I’m choosing to focus my mind upon.  And that’s just it - feelings are a choice and dependent on me.  Nobody can make me feel anything.  So basing my choices or worth on my feelings is ridiculous - they’re quicksand. Whenever my feelings are out of touch with my knowledge, that’s when I recenter myself on what I know to be true of the character of God and *choose*, with intent, to feel a different way.

 

Not feeling loved or known by God is my problem, not his.  Does that make sense?  If I control how I’m feeling and responding to a situation, all I have to do is release the things holding me back from feeling the way I *know* is true.  It’s simple, but not easy.  

 

And I ageee with the others - looking at life circumstances and concluding you are more or less loved by God is dangerous, unbiblical nonsense.  Suffering doesn’t correlate with worth and it sure as heck doesn’t correlate with love.  God doesn’t promise anyone a suffering free life and pain, even agonizing amounts of it, doesn’t reflect upon my worth as his creation.  In fact, in my time of most intense, out of control suffering, that was when I felt God so near. I could depend upon nothing else.  It was terrible and it was powerful and humbling.  I almost resent the easy times, because it is so tempting to be lulled into laziness and complacency and think *I* am the one in control when I’m not absolutely forced to my knees in dependence on him.

This!! 

Also adding that life in a community of believers also grounds me in the reality of the gospel. (part of which is God's love for me.) The power of the Word preached, sung and prayed in corporate worship is mysterious and impossible to measure, yet real and substantial. Weighty. The truth becomes more deeply a part of me when I participate in worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

American evangelicalism, besides being  intensely emotive and theologically light in the last 100 years, has become even more individualistic. That is part of our cultural heritage as Americans, but it unhelpful. The strong emphasis on community and particularly community over time and space, especially in worship, is part of what draws so may people to liturgical traditions within Christianity, I think. A sense of permanence, of eternity, of Truth that does not change is hard to come by in a church that constantly changes it's theology and worship to reflect (imitate) pop culture.  

 

 

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27 minutes ago, texasmom33 said:

The Bible. I read the Bible everyday. And The Word, that’s how I know. I just do. The older I get, the more I see it. But I do know. 

That answer probably isn’t much help to you, but that’s the only thing I can offer. Read it. Study it. Pray on it. Without doing those things though, I think it could be pretty easy to not feel anything. Relationships run two ways, so there is effort required I think on the humans behalf, not to be loved- He loves everyone regardless of their position on him or what they do-, but to be enough in the relationship to feel the love. After all, a person can love you from afar and if  you never bother to speak to them you wouldn’t know it. I don’t think it’s necessarily different with God. I also don’t think you should be afraid to ask him if it’s something you truly seek. You aren’t the only person that feels that way. 

You might read the book on Mother Teresa’s letters. I don’t have it in front of me to give you the title, but I will repost later if you want it. 

 

I think, one issue I have with reading the Bible as a way to know God’s love is that it seems like self-brainwashing to me. Like, if you keep burning this stuff into your brain, yeah, you’re going to think that way, but isn’t that an illusion? Also, clearly there are some parts of the Bible people love to read, memorize and quite, but other parts people barely every read and never really focus upon because it is negative. 

It’s like - my DH likes to listen to a particular radio show every day. Personally, I do not like that radio show and I don’t agree with most things said by this radio personality. But DH is increasingly convinced that XYZ is right, because he “brainwashes” himself every day by listening to this guy uncritically. 

So, people who read the Bible daily can seem that way, too. Like, they have burned these things into their brain so thoroughly, they can’t see things objectively anymore. 

I don’t know...just thinking this through. 

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

I

I do believe love and chronic anger are antithetical to one another and, by tapping in to love, anger dissipates. That is the premise in the book I am reading. Maybe I am just an utter cynic; maybe I have some ASD spectrum issue where I don’t really understand the possibility of boundless love, but it would be handy if I could tap real love. I have always admired the serene people who radiate peace and who are so unflappable. But they also (well, anecdotally, in my experience) are people who gush everyday how thankful they are that God rescued them and that God loves them utterly and would give up His Son for them. I just don’t feel that. I wish I could believe that I am preciously, incredibly, pricelessly valuable just because I exist, and I do think I would feel much more at peace if I did, but I currently don’t. So I don’t know how or if it is possible for me to really have that serenity if I remain unconvinced that I am loved just exactly as I am. 

Here we go. Hit submit. 

 

It's not necessarily a feeling. 

 

I'm a hot mess. I can go from feeling a failure, to being on top of the world all in the same hour. But it's just a deep knowing. And I am the least gushy person I know. But I'm not the person who is always talking about "God did this, God did that, He's so good, Praise the Lord." It's an abiding knowing that my actions, my feelings have NOTHING to do with my worthiness of God. Because I can't. I can never be worthy of God. Never. My best efforts are pathetic.

But it is Jesus. And the more I learn about Jesus the more I just know that he loves me. I don't have to measure up. I don't have to be good enough. Strong enough, Accomplished enough.

I'm like you where I wonder if people really do love me. Or they just find me useful. 

but when I tapped into that it doesn't really matter what they think. All that matters is that Jesus finds me beautiful because I am his and he made me, it's okay.

So for me, lots of that came from just consistently reading the word. Every day, delving deep into it. And the love that God has for me is there in every page. He doesn't want me to struggle to be good and kind and holy because he wants me to measure up. It's because he made me and he knows that behaving in these ways will satisfy my soul. 

So for me, it stopped being a feeling. It's more of a resting upon what I know is true. I know gravity is true. I know air is there. I know that God loves me. Doesn't matter how I feel. I just know it.

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11 minutes ago, Quill said:

 

I think, one issue I have with reading the Bible as a way to know God’s love is that it seems like self-brainwashing to me. Like, if you keep burning this stuff into your brain, yeah, you’re going to think that way, but isn’t that an illusion? Also, clearly there are some parts of the Bible people love to read, memorize and quite, but other parts people barely every read and never really focus upon because it is negative. 

It’s like - my DH likes to listen to a particular radio show every day. Personally, I do not like that radio show and I don’t agree with most things said by this radio personality. But DH is increasingly convinced that XYZ is right, because he “brainwashes” himself every day by listening to this guy uncritically. 

So, people who read the Bible daily can seem that way, too. Like, they have burned these things into their brain so thoroughly, they can’t see things objectively anymore. 

I don’t know...just thinking this through. 

So if you truly believe the Bible is true, wouldn't you want to rest in it and know more of what is there?

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What everyone else said, although I think we can understand God's love in a general way even without Scripture.  We have all of creation to testify, and it is why St. Paul says that those who never hear the Gospel will still be judged fairly by their hearts and actions because they had creation to point them to God's existence.  The love of God is sacrificial, unwavering, impartial, undemanding, and humble.  It is such that we often don't notice it, and take it for granted, maybe we even want it to go away.  It's too bright, or it ruins my complexion.   But no, I don't "feel" like God loves me pretty much ever.  It's a "knowledge," a thing of faith, a trusting and reliance, an understanding that is never deep enough, because if it were, I don't think I'd ever get up off my face.  He says Himself in Scripture, "Be still and know that I am God."  Not feel.  Know.  In your gut.  Unfortunately, it's not measurable or provable or this faith thing would be really simple, but less free. God loves us like the sun shines on us.  Most of us just take it for granted like it's something we're owed, something that should be there, instead of a gift.  Many of us think it's too bright and we turn our backs.  What does the sun do then?  It keeps shining. 

As far as brainwashing goes, you could put it like that.  But there's a personal culpability, a disposition of the self that plays a huge role in that.  We're not computers that just spit out whatever input we run across.  We're organic souls with free wills.  It is a notion that is both liberating and scary all at the same time.

ETA: God rescued everyone.  I don't believe there are saved and unsaved people.  All people are saved--"Christ died once for all."  But that is not what eternal life is.  Christ said, "This is eternal life: to know You, the One True God."  Again, to know.  Look up James 2.  The salvation unto Heaven is a relationship, a stepping into that salvific work which He completed, a turning toward that blinding sun and realizing maybe our "complexion" needs "ruining."  To begin to love Him back with sacrifice, humility, and submission.  This is hard, because we do not want to be changed, or often even admit how deeply we need to be changed.  It is a lifelong work, but that's the path to Heaven.  And I'm sorry; I know that may rattle some cages and that's not my intention.  ?

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8 minutes ago, Quill said:

 

I think, one issue I have with reading the Bible as a way to know God’s love is that it seems like self-brainwashing to me. Like, if you keep burning this stuff into your brain, yeah, you’re going to think that way, but isn’t that an illusion? Also, clearly there are some parts of the Bible people love to read, memorize and quite, but other parts people barely every read and never really focus upon because it is negative. 

It’s like - my DH likes to listen to a particular radio show every day. Personally, I do not like that radio show and I don’t agree with most things said by this radio personality. But DH is increasingly convinced that XYZ is right, because he “brainwashes” himself every day by listening to this guy uncritically. 

So, people who read the Bible daily can seem that way, too. Like, they have burned these things into their brain so thoroughly, they can’t see things objectively anymore. 

I don’t know...just thinking this through. 

 

It is not possible to know God separate from knowing God's word. It is Truth.  It sounds to me like you are doubting it is Truth.  If that is the case, I think you need to take a step back from your question of "how do I sense God's love for me?" and ask yourself what things are standing in the way of you believing the Bible is Truth. 

As far as how the Bible stories weave together, may I make a strange suggestion? Read the Jesus Storybook Bible. Seriously. It is a kid's book, but it is SO helpful for understanding how God's redemptive love weaves through all the stories of the Bible.  Please consider reading it. 

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Well, my apologetics are presuppositional, that is, I do not believe that evidence or reason alone will ever convince anyone of God's truth. The work of the Holy Spirit is a necessary precondition or co-condition. Ephesians 2 says we are spiritually dead before Christ's work of regeneration.

If you do not believe the Bible is true, reading the research for it's authenticity or hearing testimony from those who do believe it will not likely convice you. God himself must do that. 

God has said that He works through his Word. If you want to test that claim, the best way is to read the Bible, to hear it faithfull and carefully preached and taught, especially in the context of corporate worship. 

About "brainwashing" . Yes and no. Yes, reading the Bible does cause a person who is in Christ  to believe it more deeply and to trust God more. Apart from the Spirit's work, it will not have that effect, however.  Also, Christians should not be afraid to engage with those who do not share their worldview. The isolationist, only listen to or hang out with people like me tendency in American culture is not limited to evangelical Christians, but it is pronounced among them. Multiculturalism has actually served to divide us, but that is a whole 'nother thread. I do believe the Bible, but I do listen to and interact with many people who don't all the time. I am not afraid to have my views challenged and I do not find my faith shaken if I lose an argument or am unable to make a point effectively.

You are absolutely correct that the whole counsel of God is generally not taught in American evangelical churches today. Again, this emotionalism and self-focus is historically not typical of Christianity. Every era in Church history has it's strengths and weaknesses. The Puritans had obvious, glaring faults and are more often caricatured than accurately represented, but they knew the Bible well and were not afraid to study and teach the hard things in it. Today there are Bible teachers and Churches that do not just dwell in the feel-good parts of Scripture, who address the challenges and hard questions that the text brings up, and do so with graciousness, integrity, intelligence and clarity. They too will have blind spots and weaknesses, but they are a far reach above the drivel that is presented in "Christian" pop music, in many books and by many popular speakers. 

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22 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

So if you truly believe the Bible is true, wouldn't you want to rest in it and know more of what is there?

I don’t really believe the Bible is true. I guess therein lies the problem. I think there are good parts of the Bible and things worth reading there, even worth printing on a card and keeping in your pocket, but other parts of it, no. Other parts are like an interesting bedtime story or not even that - “Jehosephat begat Ziminiah and Ziminiah begat Hepsherdizah...” 

I do think it is good to meditate upon the good parts. I just haven’t recently. 

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37 minutes ago, cintinative said:

IAs far as how the Bible stories weave together, may I make a strange suggestion? Read the Jesus Storybook Bible. Seriously. It is a kid's book, but it is SO helpful for understanding how God's redemptive love weaves through all the stories of the Bible.  Please consider reading it. 

This is a good idea. :cool:

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I agree with several other posters who have said that emotions are unreliable. I know mine are for sure. I don't always feel like God loves me, in fact I rarely physically and emotionally "feel" that overwhelming sensation of peace and serenity and surety that "feels" like love. I also believe the Bible to be true, but that isn't really a feeling either. It's a choice, just like love is a choice, or rather it's the result of a series of choices.

First, I choose to believe that there is a God because I can't look at the world around me and not believe that there is a Creator more powerful than ourselves.

Second, I choose to believe that this God wants humans to understand Him in some way or why else would He have made us to be sentient beings more rational than the animals?

Third, I choose to believe that this God must love us because the other conclusion (that He created us and wants us to know He exists but doesn't care a fig about us or what we do) only leads to despair and I refuse to live my life like that. I also agree with a previous poster that this choice that I make to believe is due in large part to the working of the Holy Spirit within me, not because I'm all that ?

Fourth, I choose to believe the Bible because it's the only sacred text that I'm aware of that satisfactorily explains why God created man and what He wants us to do to know Him. There are lots of other parts of the Bible that I don't understand, but I choose to believe that they are true too.

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wouldn't consider it brainwashing anymore than I would consider letting my dd read The Communist Manifesto brainwashing her to be a communist. She controls what she believes. Does that make sense? I think though that I also don't believe in brainwashing. I believe in choices, and I believe people make excuses to exculpate themselves from those choices, but I don't believe in brainwashing. I think that's an excuse used when people, out of fear or otherwise, chose not to look for themselves and let others do the thinking for them. Or try to make it appear that way. M

Yeah, but I don’t really mean one exposure to something. I mean repeated exposure to it while saying, “Yes! Like this!” It strengthens those neural pathways, making it less likely that one can see it differently. 

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I'm not gonna get deep about it, maybe because it's more intuitive for me. 

Basically God has saved my a$$ over and over, and sustained me continuously without fail.  Same for the whole human race.  (Yes people die, but we all understand that we're on this earth temporarily.)  God has given me everything I need to keep on trying.  When things seem worse than ever, we turn a corner and magically survive and thrive.  I don't believe it's an accident.

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I feel very clumsy explaining my understanding of God's love for me, but here goes nothing.

I have a strong belief that love itself is objectively real and would continue to exist just the same if all conscious organisms were to disappear from the universe.  God is the goodness and love that gives birth to all things, that wishes to share Himself in creating.  When I create, the force of love I pour into my creations (whether generating art or supper or children...) is so strong, so palpable.  I'm not talking about a "feeling of love": the warm and fuzzy, sentimental trope.  I actually put myself into everything I create -- everything I do.  So the very fact that I exist is sufficient proof that I am loved -- and it is incredible to behold.  Just think of all the alternatives that could have been chosen to exist in my stead!  This alone should be enough to satisfy me.  When I consider salvation history and the invitation to share eternity with my Creator, it becomes overwhelming.

Of course, writing it out makes me feel like a hypocrite, because I do not live every moment (or most moments!) like a conduit for love, and I take so much for granted.  But when I sit down and reflect, what I wrote above always hits me like a ton of bricks.

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2 minutes ago, Quill said:

Yeah, but I don’t really mean one exposure to something. I mean repeated exposure to it while saying, “Yes! Like this!” It strengthens those neural pathways, making it less likely that one can see it differently. 

Yes, that is how people are wired, how we work. But, it we all know that it doesn't work that way without exception and that human beings are FAR more complex than neurologists can explain. Mystery is part of being human! 

How many children from loving homes with balanced, healthy parents, are thoroughly taught and "brainwashed" into their parents' religious tradition and value system and yet reject it? 

Another example is  Bloom's taxonomy. It is true about how people work. But the Word of God is not a math book or a history lesson. The Spirit works  within God's design, but also outside of it sometimes. 

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35 minutes ago, Quill said:

I don’t really believe the Bible is true. I guess therein lies the problem. I think there are good parts of the Bible and things worth reading there, even worth printing on a card and keeping in your pocket, but other parts of it, no. Other parts are like an interesting bedtime story or not even that - “Jehosephat begat Ziminiah and Ziminiah begat Hepsherdizah...” 

I do think it is good to meditate upon the good parts. I just haven’t recently. 

 

Well yes that could be a deeper issue behind “feeling” God loves you.  Said gently of course.  If you don’t believe the Bible is God speaking then how is any of it true, in a sense?  Especially that God created not also loves His creation. 

I believe the Bible can withstand critical analysis and should be read as literary book in its entirety, not just hyper focusing on some parts and discarding others.  It’s all there for a reason and to tell us something even if we can’t easily connect it to our experience or perception.

Check out “The Bible Project” on YouTube.  They do a magnificent job looking the broad story of the Bible.  I’m only 1/3 of the way thru brief book studies of the OT.  And I have been forever changed in how I view the Bible, which changed how I viewed God. 

And I’ve been thru seminary and plumbed some theological depths. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

I hope this is not too woo-woo for people to break down into something I can understand, but I would like some insight on this. 

I am reading an interesting book, Unoffendable, which is about exactly what it sounds like: how to not be angry and upset so much. This is specifically a Christian book, so there is one aspect that I find hard to relate to. In fact, this has been hard for me to relate to for always, or at least for the past 15 years or so. I have never really understood how someone can believe God loves them. 

Is it some sort of feeling that washes over you when you pray or worship? Is it like, you look at your physical life, see predominantly good things, and conclude that you must be specially loved by God, (which is clearly shaky ground because if those good things go away, what new conclusion do you have to draw)? 

Even when it comes to other humans, I don’t really feel “loved” most of the time. I feel like people are happy to have me around because I’m dead useful and it would be annoying if I were not around because who would fill up the soap dispenser? (HaHa.) Also, people speak of loving unconditionally, but I don’t think that is really true except for some instances of loving one’s own children. Even then, I wonder, because if one’s child grew up to be a pediphile or a terrorist, one would probably, objectively, cease to love that child. The person might love the idea of that child from long ago, or love what could have been, but some actions kill love, even a very special bond like mother-child. 

I do believe love and chronic anger are antithetical to one another and, by tapping in to love, anger dissipates. That is the premise in the book I am reading. Maybe I am just an utter cynic; maybe I have some ASD spectrum issue where I don’t really understand the possibility of boundless love, but it would be handy if I could tap real love. I have always admired the serene people who radiate peace and who are so unflappable. But they also (well, anecdotally, in my experience) are people who gush everyday how thankful they are that God rescued them and that God loves them utterly and would give up His Son for them. I just don’t feel that. I wish I could believe that I am preciously, incredibly, pricelessly valuable just because I exist, and I do think I would feel much more at peace if I did, but I currently don’t. So I don’t know how or if it is possible for me to really have that serenity if I remain unconvinced that I am loved just exactly as I am. 

Here we go. Hit submit. 

 

Hmm, well, I also would not agree about the heinous crime bit.  Though it would explain a few things people say that didn't make sense to me if many people feel that way.   I would tend to say we are meant to love even those who have done things like that, and there are people who manage to do that in a very concrete way.  

Anyway, in terms of God, I don't know that I experience that as an emotion of feeling loved. I am not a gushy person, rather the opposite. I would say I see it reflected in, and in my experience of, the connectedness of all things.  I think that love is what holds the universe together, why there is multiplicity rather than just God eternally contemplating himself.  It's why I think trinitarianism is an important concept, it locates love within God himself, and of course all that exists has to reflect the nature of God which is where it derives it's reality.

I like Augustine's comment "my love is my weight".  Love is what makes things real.  It anchors us.  It draws us in, and holds us together.  It keeps the little particles of matter from flying apart and dissipating into nothing.  It keeps our ecosystem and human societies moving.  It is what draws us to the Good, and to each other.

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It's an inner knowing that surpasses both feelings and reason. 

I do feel it, the same way I love my children.  The same way I've always felt unconditional love from my parents. When my mind is quiet I can almost hear God whispering it to me. I can honestly say I don't think there is any evil my children could do to make me not love them.  They could definitely do things that would mean I could get angry, draw some boundaries and love them from a distance, and be sad that we are apart, but there is nothing they could do to make me not love them.

Perhaps that sense is not God.  Perhaps its echos of the words my parents spoke to me when I was an infant.  I've read somewhere that the way we talk to babies becomes their inner voice.

I get the whole don't rely on feelings thing, the same way scripture warns about the heart being deceitful.  But I don't identify with it.  I mean, you can twist and interpret reason and even scripture to all kinds of horrible things.  Calvinism, when taken to its extremes, speaks of a God I don't know.  To me, God loves and wants to reconcile with everyone, even the truly evil, and free will is real.   I don't understand those who think that just because God knows everything that means everyone is predestined and/or there is any such thing as irresistible grace. People resist grace all the time, and I don't believe interpretations that say that's because it's God's will for anyone to be created to go to hell. I cannot believe God causes evil. That's not the God that I know.
 

To me, to know something is true you need to think and feel and know that it's true.

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3 hours ago, Quill said:

 

Even when it comes to other humans, I don’t really feel “loved” most of the time. I feel like people are happy to have me around because I’m dead useful and it would be annoying if I were not around because who would fill up the soap dispenser?

  

As someone working through similar thoughts, I think defining love in a grace/mercy context is going to be important here.

God does not love us according to our usefulness.  Our human experience and expression of love is very much bound up in what we bring to the table.  So, as much as we can intellectually assent to an idea of how God loves, or should love, we cannot fathom it.  We do experience it in real life, but naming it?  It's like the word nostalgia... you don't even know what that feeling is until someone gives you the word.    

Grace and mercy.  God loves us this way.  What does love look like that isn't tethered to what I do?  For me, that would be the love of my grandfather... it was beyond this world and it didn't matter what I did.  I could've laid in a hammock all day day dreaming, or painted the entire barn, and his joy would've been the same.  He was a quiet humble farmer man who simply showed up... in every possible way.  So, if God's love is anywhere near that (and I expect it is phenomenally greater), or if I can concede that God likely had something to do with "Pawpaw love," that becomes my starting point for considering the love of God. 

I will warn you, considering untethered love sent me reeling... we have so few real life experiences with it.  And with regard to marriage, YES.  Our intimate relationships become the ground upon which we struggle.  I've been married for 20 years and we're realizing that our marriage reinforces a "usefulness" definition of love.  And we're Christians!  LOL!  Shocker.  (Sarcasm -- legit Christians struggle with this stuff and will say so.)  

As for the love of parents whose children do horrid things, while I get where you're going, I'd stay away from hypotheticals on this journey.  We can't know what we can't know, and those things become hills we die on while working toward something great.  

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29 minutes ago, LarlaB said:

 

Well yes that could be a deeper issue behind “feeling” God loves you.  Said gently of course.  If you don’t believe the Bible is God speaking then how is any of it true, in a sense?  Especially that God created not also loves His creation. 

I believe the Bible can withstand critical analysis and should be read as literary book in its entirety, not just hyper focusing on some parts and discarding others.  It’s all there for a reason and to tell us something even if we can’t easily connect it to our experience or perception.

Check out “The Bible Project” on YouTube.  They do a magnificent job looking the broad story of the Bible.  I’m only 1/3 of the way thru brief book studies of the OT.  And I have been forever changed in how I view the Bible, which changed how I viewed God. 

And I’ve been thru seminary and plumbed some theological depths. 

 

 

The bolded - I think it's way more complex than what this question implies.

There are many levels of the Bible being "true". It is also an entirely separate question than God speaking. I understand that there are people to whom it is very black & white & simple but it is not that way for everyone.

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1 hour ago, Momto5inIN said:

First, I choose to believe that there is a God because I can't look at the world around me and not believe that there is a Creator more powerful than ourselves.

Second, I choose to believe that this God wants humans to understand Him in some way or why else would He have made us to be sentient beings more rational than the animals?

Third, I choose to believe that this God must love us because the other conclusion (that He created us and wants us to know He exists but doesn't care a fig about us or what we do) only leads to despair and I refuse to live my life like that. I also agree with a previous poster that this choice that I make to believe is due in large part to the working of the Holy Spirit within me, not because I'm all that ?

Fourth, I choose to believe the Bible because it's the only sacred text that I'm aware of that satisfactorily explains why God created man and what He wants us to do to know Him. There are lots of other parts of the Bible that I don't understand, but I choose to believe that they are true too.

 

This is very similar to what my thought process was.  I was raised a believer, but with no personal relationship with God so I eventually fell away.  I never could rationalize there NOT being a creator, even during that time.  But I did wonder if the creator was loving or even interested in us.  After several years, I started to pray again, almost experimentally.  In a very short time after that (from letting God's spirit back into my life) I had a flood of realization how all that time I had been in disbelief, God was STILL working with me, leading me back to Him.  At that time, I did FEEL very strongly how much He loved me.  Why else in the whole world would He still work with me or care about me during a time that I cared nothing for Him? There have been other times like that I have felt His guidance and support.

So yes, at various times the "feeling" is there stronger than other times.  I do believe the Bible is true, much as Momto5 said, it explains things satisfactorily to me in a way that makes sense, and meets the standards of logic and truth that I have.  If I believe that, then I believe that God wants us to know Him, and also gave His son to bring us back into relationship with Him.  That is the core of how much He loves me, and reminding myself of that makes me feel very loved.

Also, creation makes me feel God's love. I am in awe of how much He created just for our pleasure, just so we would ENJOY being alive.  Beauty, food, funny animals...  How much of it was not NECESSARY but just because....  That makes me feel loved also.

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Couple things. One, Unoffendable was written by a guy on the spectrum. I haven't read it, but he is public about being on the spectrum. I don't know if the book really took off, but I figured it probably reflects his own way of thinking through things, which is of course interesting in and of itself. Two, there is a gene for empathy, OXTR, which affects oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin in, of course, the chemical your body releases when you nurse a child, when you have various physical (marital) interactions, etc. I don't know the full extent of what it does. But when you say I want to FEEL it and I don't FEEL it and you want to know why, sure you could have a defect in your OXTR gene and not be quite as warm and fuzzy. It doesn't technically put you on the spectrum, but it means you legit could be noticing that. Just the *fact* that you're noticing it makes it less likely you're on the spectrum, since spectrum disorders typically involve deficits of self-awareness.

The OXTR defect will show up on 23andme testing. So there you go, a $69 solution. And yes, it's ok not to feel things spiritually. I was told that feelings of spirituality originate in the pituitary portion of the brain. So people can go through stages where they don't *feel* things they know are true, depending on their health status, and that's ok. Our feelings don't always match up to what we know is reality, but like you say it's disconcerting and not something you want to go on a long time.

 

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3 hours ago, Quill said:

 But they also (well, anecdotally, in my experience) are people who gush everyday how thankful they are that God rescued them and that God loves them utterly and would give up His Son for them. I just don’t feel that. I wish I could believe that I am preciously, incredibly, pricelessly valuable just because I exist, and I do think I would feel much more at peace if I did, but I currently don’t. So I don’t know how or if it is possible for me to really have that serenity if I remain unconvinced that I am loved just exactly as I am. 

To me, those gushing people are your no defect OXTR people. They just gush and are warm fuzzy and feel things. That's fine. I don't have to confuse what I KNOW with what I FEEL. I don't have to feel it to know it's real. As for serenity, I hate to say it, but there's nothing like a nice dose of 5HTP. I mean, seriously, I lived for years with "feelings" that turned out to be a TPH2 defect, something you can identify with that 23andme testing. 

Not every feeling is a spiritual problem.

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15 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

 Two, there is a gene for empathy, OXTR, which affects oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin in, of course, the chemical your body releases when you nurse a child, when you have various physical (marital) interactions, etc. I don't know the full extent of what it does. But when you say I want to FEEL it and I don't FEEL it and you want to know why, sure you could have a defect in your OXTR gene and not be quite as warm and fuzzy. It doesn't technically put you on the spectrum, but it means you legit could be noticing that. Just the *fact* that you're noticing it makes it less likely you're on the spectrum, since spectrum disorders typically involve deficits of self-awareness.

The OXTR defect will show up on 23andme testing. So there you go, a $69 solution. And yes, it's ok not to feel things spiritually. I was told that feelings of spirituality originate in the pituitary portion of the brain. So people can go through stages where they don't *feel* things they know are true, depending on their health status, and that's ok. Our feelings don't always match up to what we know is reality, but like you say it's disconcerting and not something you want to go on a long time.

 

This seems odd to me. People are perfectly capable of feeling empathy and warm fuzzies for humans and other living things and still not feel a deity's love. Inability to "feel" the love of what some of us believe is an imaginary being is not a genetic defect.

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4 hours ago, Quill said:

. I have always admired the serene people who radiate peace and who are so unflappable. But they also (well, anecdotally, in my experience) are people who gush everyday how thankful they are that God rescued them and that God loves them utterly and would give up His Son for them. I just don’t feel that. I wish I could believe that I am preciously, incredibly, pricelessly valuable just because I exist, and I do think I would feel much more at peace if I did, but I currently don’t. So I don’t know how or if it is possible for me to really have that serenity if I remain unconvinced that I am loved just exactly as I am. 

Here we go. Hit submit. 

 

Well, here I go. I don't believe those people are for real. I think they're delusional. I think they're in la-la-land and have purposely put blinders on because anything other than the constant "I'm so thankful" mantra is unbearable. I understand that they need that for themselves just like I need my beliefs for myself, but I don't admire it. It isn't real.

ETA: And I am an extreme empath, so this has nothing to do with feelings vs not.

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13 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

This seems odd to me. People are perfectly capable of feeling empathy and warm fuzzies for humans and other living things and still not feel a deity's love. Inability to "feel" the love of what some of us believe is an imaginary being is not a genetic defect.

I took the op to be asking why should *couldn't* feel what she believed in her head thought she ought to be able to feel, and I suggested there could be physical reasons for that. 

That's sort of a different direction, to say well you don't feel it because God doesn't exist. And then to say well God doesn't exist because I can't feel Him, that's another path. All I was addressing was why someone might not feel what they want to feel. People have feelings all the time in religions or belief systems I don't agree with. I might say oh that belief system isn't accurate, but reality is those people FEEL those things because feelings have chemical processes in our brains and bodies. 

It's kind of rabbit traily, but think about your religions that involve significant meditation. I was watching a youtube video or Ted Talk or something with someone from a system like that, I forget what it was called. She (it was a woman) exuded significant serenity and peace on a level that I think many people would admire. It's the serenity Quill was saying she wishes she could "feel" and doesn't from her own system. When you do that meditation, it affects the interoception part of the brain and we now know, thanks to MRIs, what it's doing and the EF (executive function bumps), etc. But does that mean that belief system of the other person is completely true and valid, or does it mean that the practices that person was doing happened to invoke processes in the brain that make those feelings come? It's the latter. We don't have to equate feelings and truth. We can be feeling something that doesn't completely reflect the truth, and we can be NOT feeling in the moment something that is true. 

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1 minute ago, 8circles said:

 

Well, here I go. I don't believe those people are for real. I think they're delusional. I think they're in la-la-land and have purposely put blinders on because anything other than the constant "I'm so thankful" mantra is unbearable. I understand that they need that for themselves just like I need my beliefs for myself, but I don't admire it. It isn't real.

 

I think those people are being genuine, but I also think that feeling only lasts a season.  It ends eventually.  Feelings for God wax and wane similarly to feelings for anyone and anything else.

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7 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

I took the op to be asking why should *couldn't* feel what she believed in her head she ought to be able to feel, and I suggested there could be physical reasons for that. 

That's sort of a different direction, to say well you don't feel it because God doesn't exist. And then to say well God doesn't exist because I can't feel Him, that's another path. All I was addressing was why someone might not feel what they want to feel. People have feelings all the time in religions or belief systems I don't agree with. I might say oh that belief system isn't accurate, but reality is those people FEEL those things because feelings have chemical processes in our brains and bodies. 

But she didn't say she can't feel for her fellow humans, that she doesn't feel love, or that she can't feel in general. Like many of us here, I've "known" Quill for several years and know that she's a feeling person. That gene has nothing to do with ability to feel or not feel a god's love.

 

ETA: I realize you were trying to help the OP figure out why she can't feel her god. I just disagree that it has anything to do with that gene. 

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Other posters have addressed the "feeling loved" issue.

I like to come at this from the other side. While I don't know the book "Unoffendable" it seems like a nice title but somewhat unrealistic. While we are living and breathing on earth, we will have human emotions; we will be hurt, sad, afraid and angry. If the Bible is our reference point it will influence how we deal with those emotions. God has created us with the capacity for all those emotions. They are not bad but we usually do better to turn them into something productive or at least let them contribute to our growth. 

Example: I am angry that some people sell other humans (trafficking). This anger propels me to get involved somehow. My involvement does not stop trafficking altogether but now I am doing something. I am deeply sad at the loss of someone (death) - this can turn into anger - but I need to grieve through all the stages to process the sadness.

If you feel you are "chronically angry" I would try to determine the root of this. It often stems from deep sadness, loss or fear. 

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So, this could be summed up by:

1: How do I know that God loves me?

2: He says so.

1: Yeah, but I don't really believe/trust/like the book in which He makes that clear.

2: OK, then.

The Bible reminds us of what God has done and is doing for us.  This is the key for me.  John 3:16 is usually rendered, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son..."  People take that little word "so" and think it's a quantitative description.  He loves us SOOOOOOO much, how can we not feel it?!  But that's not actually what it means.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it best, IMO: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only son..."  It's qualitative.  THIS is how we understand and see that God loves us.  By what he DOES.  But if you don't believe that He has done anything for you or for mankind or that His very nature IS love, then yes, I can understand how knowing (and yes, feeling to a degree, different for everyone) would pretty much be out of reach.

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Can you believe that the gospels are true? If so, read about Jesus in all four of them, and you can't miss that God loves you! Studying His life won't brainwash you any more than studying the life of Abraham Lincoln or Julia Child, but as you read, you'll understand God better. 

(I third the suggestion of reading The Jesus Storybook. I think that's a great idea!)

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46 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

ETA: I realize you were trying to help the OP figure out why she can't feel her god. I just disagree that it has anything to do with that gene. 

Fwiw, her op didn't limit it to spiritual feelings. She also talks about serenity, feeling loved by others, etc. She mentioned wondering if she had some kind of ASD spectrum issue and what I'm giving is is a physical/genetic explanation for the feelings that would prompt that kind of question. It's that kind of in-between step when you're asking what is physically, chemically going on, why you could identify with some of what people talk about in ASD but maybe not tick all the boxes to get all the way there. And of course it's a simple thing for her to run and look into for herself if she's curious.

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51 minutes ago, Liz CA said:

Other posters have addressed the "feeling loved" issue.

I like to come at this from the other side. While I don't know the book "Unoffendable" it seems like a nice title but somewhat unrealistic.

I first heard about the book in a Sunday School class where the teacher felt the same way. He, as a socially typical person, felt like it was kind of this extreme, an ideal. To me, it reflects a very b&w spectrum sort of thinking (which I'm cool with, not slamming it). Like of course a person on the spectrum would be just all the way there, like I either am completely offended or I'm just totally like boom, unoffendable, no in-between. I just think the thesis makes more sense in that context.

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26 minutes ago, PeppermintPattie said:

Can you believe that the gospels are true? If so, read about Jesus in all four of them, and you can't miss that God loves you! Studying His life won't brainwash you any more than studying the life of Abraham Lincoln or Julia Child, but as you read, you'll understand God better. 

(I third the suggestion of reading The Jesus Storybook. I think that's a great idea!)

Here's the challenge with that. What if she reads the Gospels (or a Jesus Storybook or..) and DOESN'T feel it? Does that mean it wasn't true? No. All it means is she didn't have a feeling. Feelings do NOT have to equate to reality. People can get depressed and take drastic steps in situations where sometimes their feelings don't reflect reality. And not having feelings or a chemical response does not tell us something is or is not true. They're totally separate questions. What is true? What do I feel? Why don't they line up? 

It's ok to read all those things and still not FEEL it. It happens.

I think I'm probably more where Quill is, so I identify with it. I struggled for years in a denomination that would eschew churches of more feeling-filled experiences (like the Pentacostals) and then have their own cryptic versions of feeling-filled faith (I prayed all night and FELT the Spirit and FELT like I was holding the throne of grace and...). They want you to have FEELINGS and they assume that their own ability to have those feelings reflects their spirituality (which it doesn't) and makes it sound like your LACK of those feelings means you aren't spiritual or haven't found the truth or haven't arrived.

It took me a lot of years to separate myself from that, to find the truth for myself, to know that truth is true no matter what I feel, to know that my body does things and it doesn't change what is true. I'm not worried about it anymore, because what I believe is not based on feelings.

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I believe that I am loved by God, because that's what God is to me.  God is the pure essence of love.  

I think we need to look at God and His love not through the Bible as our first focus, but through Christ himself.  Christ's entire life and philosophy exemplifies love, and it is unconditional.  When I view God through Christ, then I know that I, too, am loved.  I think you could start there even if you don't believe in God.

And for the record, I don't believe all of the Bible is true either.  That is, I don't think it's all true in the way that many Christians think it should be true.  But I believe it's true in the way that God intended it to be true.  I believe the overall message is "God-breathed."

It is because of Christ's life and philosophy, and because I believe that love is the only thing that does not offend, and -- in its purest form -- could solve most of the world's problems, that I believe love is the most critical thing that exists.  Maybe the only critical thing, at the end of the day.  Nothing else really makes sense to me.  And because I'm part of this creation, I am part of this love.  Not just as a generic piece of creation, but actually as a specific entity. That part is harder for me to grasp, but again, when I look at Christ's life and learn to trust him, then I have faith that this is true.

ETA:  made a couple changes.

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6 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Fwiw, her op didn't limit it to spiritual feelings. She also talks about serenity, feeling loved by others, etc. She mentioned wondering if she had some kind of ASD spectrum issue and what I'm giving is is a physical/genetic explanation for the feelings that would prompt that kind of question. It's that kind of in-between step when you're asking what is physically, chemically going on, why you could identify with some of what people talk about in ASD but maybe not tick all the boxes to get all the way there. And of course it's a simple thing for her to run and look into for herself if she's curious.

Just to clear this up a little, I think your mention of the oxytocin receptor is interesting. I do not think I am totoally incapable of feeling loved and I am quite empathic with respect to other people; I can cry my eyes out for people here on this board whom I have never met IRL. But I don’t know if that means I would also feel loved by someone else. In other words, if someone on here is broken hearted because her dog died, I’m very empathic about that; I identify with that hurt and am so sad the person is suffering that. But I don’t usually, maybe never, think, “oh, all these people love me and I matter so much.” I don’t feel that way in a virtual community and I don’t IRL. 

My homeschooling adventure will be coming to a close within a year at most and when I think of not being part of my real-life homeschool community, it makes me sad. I want to remain part of those people’s lives, I love them. But I don’t feel like they will miss me. I guess I think they will remember me fondly, but not that they will think, “I loved Danielle and I miss her.” 

So I don’t know if that speaks to a literal defect in my genetic code, a lower-than-average love hormone receptor, or as an outcome of negative aspects of my upbringing or a damaged place in me spiritually. But it would be nice to find a way to correct it some or maybe fully, if that can be done, because I do think it has a negative impact on my life. 

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On the experiential dimension of Christian faith, at some point, it does come down to trust. And I do not think one can just conjure that with the will (or the emotions or the mind). It is a work of the Holy Spirit. We choose from a changed heart.

When my world falls completely apart with life-changing disaster or terrrible events, the bottom line is the character of God. Is God both good and great? Even if I cannot understand the whys, or explain the evil I experience or see in the world, I trust. I recognize that my ability to judge, to understand is limited by my humanity (I am not the infinite, eternal God.) and corrupted by sin (I am saved from it's penalty, but not yet completely freed from it's power and devastating effects. Romans 1-8.) I do not hold my understanding to be the ultimate arbiter of truth. I submit to God, and trust even when I cannot understand everything.

My dad died many years ago and I have no reason to think he was a Christian. While I cannot imagine being utterly happy in eternity without my dad, I acknowledge that this is something I cannot comprehend and even my apprehension is tainted by sin. I trust. 

 As has been said, the content of what I believe is the Bible. What I know about the character of God comes from the Bible.  

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 

The only way I know to put this source of authority to the test is to actually read it, hear it preached, prayed and sung, consistently and in Christian community. Epistemology is all well and good, but when the rubber meets the road, what I do is worship the God revealed in the Word, in Jesus Christ. 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Quill said:

So I don’t know if that speaks to a literal defect in my genetic code, a lower-than-average love hormone receptor, or as an outcome of negative aspects of my upbringing or a damaged place in me spiritually. But it would be nice to find a way to correct it some or maybe fully, if that can be done, because I do think it has a negative impact on my life. 

I think you're right that it's not either/or, all or nothing. I guess you'd just have to run the genetics, see what you get. Any history of depression? The TPH2 gene is really interesting. When you talk genetics, being heterozygous for the defect (so just one defective allele in the SNP) can be enough to decrease the function. So like you're saying, not all or nothing but percentages depending on whether you're hetero or homozygous for a defect. Genetics can be part of a self-discovery process when you dig in, because you find things and go ok THAT is why I do such and such. And since it's not a terribly expensive thing to suggest, it's really easy to say yeah try. You could run the results through promethease and KnowYourGenetics. KYG is free and promethease is usually around $10.

I agree with you very strongly that there can be a disconnect between who we are, who we choose to be, who we aspire to be, who we compel ourselves to be, and maybe what our body is doing, kwim? Like someone can have a TPH2 defect and have low 5HTP and not go around saying they're depressed or anxious. But that doesn't mean they don't feel BETTER when they finally get the supplement to bring up what their body was making. It just meant they had these other strengths and were coping. 

I think it's cool we live at a time where we don't have to accept voodoo explanations for legitimate physical issues. Like I was talking with someone online last night who told me their dc had mental health issues. I'm like did you run genetics and they're like oh yeah but it only showed xyz (totally unrelated, not causative). I'm like REALLY?? That didn't flag to you? Hello, feelings are chemical processes, and they had to start somewhere. You run genetics and get all kinds of flags for mental health stuff. That's so 80s to tell people they have a spiritual problem just because they don't feel xyz or they don't feel well. Like sure, maybe what you believe really isn't quite connected to truth. I don't know. I'd totally encourage you to read, search, learn, and search hard for the truth, absolutely. But when you say why is someone's physical reality not matching up? Then you're asking if there's a physical explanation. 

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31 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Here's the challenge with that. What if she reads the Gospels (or a Jesus Storybook or..) and DOESN'T feel it? Does that mean it wasn't true? No. All it means is she didn't have a feeling. Feelings do NOT have to equate to reality. People can get depressed and take drastic steps in situations where sometimes their feelings don't reflect reality. And not having feelings or a chemical response does not tell us something is or is not true. They're totally separate questions. What is true? What do I feel? Why don't they line up? 

It's ok to read all those things and still not FEEL it. It happens.

I think I'm probably more where Quill is, so I identify with it. I struggled for years in a denomination that would eschew churches of more feeling-filled experiences (like the Pentacostals) and then have their own cryptic versions of feeling-filled faith (I prayed all night and FELT the Spirit and FELT like I was holding the throne of grace and...). They want you to have FEELINGS and they assume that their own ability to have those feelings reflects their spirituality (which it doesn't) and makes it sound like your LACK of those feelings means you aren't spiritual or haven't found the truth or haven't arrived.

It took me a lot of years to separate myself from that, to find the truth for myself, to know that truth is true no matter what I feel, to know that my body does things and it doesn't change what is true. I'm not worried about it anymore, because what I believe is not based on feelings.

 

I didn't say anything about feelings, only about understanding. I actually agree with you completely.  

When I read things about Jesus, like how He lovingly responded to John the Baptist's crisis of faith and to all the needy people He interacted with, I see that God is caring and that He responds to those who approach Him humbly, and then I know that God loves me, too. But when I don't feel God's love or presence and just have to act on faith by praying for my needs and to seek Him, I've experienced answers to those prayers, so I know that feelings are not what God requires from me

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

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21 minutes ago, Quill said:

Just to clear this up a little, I think your mention of the oxytocin receptor is interesting. I do not think I am totoally incapable of feeling loved and I am quite empathic with respect to other people; I can cry my eyes out for people here on this board whom I have never met IRL. But I don’t know if that means I would also feel loved by someone else. In other words, if someone on here is broken hearted because her dog died, I’m very empathic about that; I identify with that hurt and am so sad the person is suffering that. But I don’t usually, maybe never, think, “oh, all these people love me and I matter so much.” I don’t feel that way in a virtual community and I don’t IRL. 

My homeschooling adventure will be coming to a close within a year at most and when I think of not being part of my real-life homeschool community, it makes me sad. I want to remain part of those people’s lives, I love them. But I don’t feel like they will miss me. I guess I think they will remember me fondly, but not that they will think, “I loved Danielle and I miss her.” 

So I don’t know if that speaks to a literal defect in my genetic code, a lower-than-average love hormone receptor, or as an outcome of negative aspects of my upbringing or a damaged place in me spiritually. But it would be nice to find a way to correct it some or maybe fully, if that can be done, because I do think it has a negative impact on my life. 

I've had lots of feelings lately of social anxiety/insecurity that are similar to adolescence (and that I thought I was done with once I got into my 30's and above for crying out loud!!!!) Feeling like my life-long friends are just tolerating me instead of genuinely liking me, being worried about my husband leaving me, etc.

When I finally got the courage to talk to other women about it, it turns out many, many, many of my IRL friends are going through the same thing during peri-menopause. It is my highly unscientific theory that the hormonal changes of peri-menopause mimic some of the hormonal changes of puberty and make me feel like an insecure teenager again ? Maybe that's contributing to your soul-searching thoughts?

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8 minutes ago, Momto5inIN said:

I've had lots of feelings lately of social anxiety/insecurity that are similar to adolescence (and that I thought I was done with once I got into my 30's and above for crying out loud!!!!) Feeling like my life-long friends are just tolerating me instead of genuinely liking me, being worried about my husband leaving me, etc.

When I finally got the courage to talk to other women about it, it turns out many, many, many of my IRL friends are going through the same thing during peri-menopause. It is my highly unscientific theory that the hormonal changes of peri-menopause mimic some of the hormonal changes of puberty and make me feel like an insecure teenager again ? Maybe that's contributing to your soul-searching thoughts?

It probably doesn’t help matters, but it’s not a new thing. I don’t typically think people love me. 

There was a time I believed God loved me, but things were so great in my life, I believe I equated the two things. As we all know, that is not a good measure because sh!t happens and then you’re left wondering how God could be so cruel. I did not consciously think I held this notion, but in retrospect, I did. And I have heard people say this is their “proof” of God’s love for them. I think they make that mistake, but they don’t consciously think they believe that. Like they’ll say, “I don’t know, maybe it’s just a coincidence, but since I got right with God, my business has picked up, my wayward son came home and I won a new car in a raffle I had forgotten I even entered.” Stuff like that. They would not literally say they are getting goodies because God loves them, but the things they say reveal that they do think that way. (Which was true for me, too, many years ago.) 

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53 minutes ago, J-rap said:

I believe that I am loved by God, because that's what God is to me.  God is the pure essence of love.  

I think we need to look at God and His love not through the Bible as our first focus, but through Christ himself.  Christ's entire life and philosophy exemplifies love, and it is unconditional.  When I view God through Christ, then I know that I, too, am loved.  I think you could start there even if you don't believe in God.

And for the record, I don't believe all of the Bible is true either.  That is, I don't think it's all true in the way that many Christians think it should be true.  But I believe it's true in the way that God intended it to be true.  I believe the overall message is "God-breathed."

It is because of Christ's life and philosophy, and because I believe that love is the only thing that does not offend, and -- in its purest form -- could solve most of the world's problems, that I believe love is the most critical thing that exists.  Maybe the only critical thing, at the end of the day.  Nothing else really makes sense to me.  And because I'm part of this creation, I am part of this love.  Not just as a generic piece of creation, but actually as a specific entity. That part is harder for me to grasp, but again, when I look at Christ's life and learn to trust him, then I have faith that this is true.

ETA:  made a couple changes.

 

Yes, with regard to the bolded.  I don't really identify much with the idea of knowing God loves me through reading it in the Bible - it's more that I (might) understand it better from that kind of reading.  I don't see my faith as derived from the Bible but from Christ, and Christ focused.  I think this connects to what someone above said about the nature of the Christian community actually containing God.  It's not a feeling or even an idea, but an experience, like a marriage or a parent-child relationship - that is the fundamental basis of our knowledge of being loved.

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

Just to clear this up a little, I think your mention of the oxytocin receptor is interesting. I do not think I am totoally incapable of feeling loved and I am quite empathic with respect to other people; I can cry my eyes out for people here on this board whom I have never met IRL. But I don’t know if that means I would also feel loved by someone else. In other words, if someone on here is broken hearted because her dog died, I’m very empathic about that; I identify with that hurt and am so sad the person is suffering that. But I don’t usually, maybe never, think, “oh, all these people love me and I matter so much.” I don’t feel that way in a virtual community and I don’t IRL. 

My homeschooling adventure will be coming to a close within a year at most and when I think of not being part of my real-life homeschool community, it makes me sad. I want to remain part of those people’s lives, I love them. But I don’t feel like they will miss me. I guess I think they will remember me fondly, but not that they will think, “I loved Danielle and I miss her.” 

So I don’t know if that speaks to a literal defect in my genetic code, a lower-than-average love hormone receptor, or as an outcome of negative aspects of my upbringing or a damaged place in me spiritually. But it would be nice to find a way to correct it some or maybe fully, if that can be done, because I do think it has a negative impact on my life. 

I am like this also and always have been, for as long as I can remember. Like I said, I am an empath, so I don't think this really has anything to do with feelings or emotions. But the only people who I KNOW without a doubt love me, specifically me, and I matter to them and they would miss me are my children - when they're babies - and my dog. And even then, the reality is I'm replaceable so they'd get over it. DH comes close, but not quite. Parents? Nope. Siblings? No, not really - if I were to die they'd be sorry in a lost-potential way, not really personally. Certainly my friends don't. 

It is something I wish were different, but I can't spend any more energy worrying about it than I already have. Let me know if you figure it out.

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