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When You Feel Unloved
April 1, 1979

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

1 JOHN 4:10

A young man was talking on the telephone to his girl. Do you remember what that was like? He was a little nervous on the telephone, a little nervous in the relationship, and he reacted to his nervousness by talking as fast as he could and on and on. She kept trying to interrupt and finally hollered into the phone. “Did you hear what I said?” He said, “No.” She said, “I love you.” “Oh”, he said— like the sun breaking through the fog. Imagine how Jesus tries to break through all of our noise, our bustling, our frantic nervousness! How Jesus tries to break through with the message, “Hey, I love you”. Beautiful words. When you feel unloved, may you hear those words from Jesus, “I love you.” 

The sermon this morning is for those of you who feel unloved. If you've never felt unloved, raise your hand. We all have those moments. We all have those times when we are discouraged, depressed, and disillusioned. We feel “I ain’t got nobody, nobody cares for me.” We feel that we are not of use to anyone, feel useless. What difference would it make to anybody if I weren't here? We feel unneeded and unwanted, and we feel like punishing ourselves. Someone has pointed out that we're living in a generation when people like to punish themselves. They eat too much, drink too much, go too fast, work too hard, brutalizing the bodies as if they’re trying to alleviate a lot of guilt by whipping themselves. If I can beat myself, if I can take this whip and beat myself, then I won't feel so guilty. I won't feel in pain and I won't feel I'm unloved. 

When you feel unloved, remember this verse which was the New Testament lesson and the text for the sermon. 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he first loved us and gave his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” In this is love, not that we loved God. Isn't that great good news. It's not our struggle. You do not need to prove you are loveable. You do not need to prove your worthiness. You do not need to prove how good you are before God loves you. That’s the gospel. God first loves you. When you feel unloved, when you feel lonely, desolate and discouraged, remember, God first loves you. You don't  have to earn it. You don't have to do something. You don't have to be something. You don't have to be of the right color. You don't have to be of the right nationality. You don't have to belong to the right church. You don't have to belong to the right country. You don't have to do great things. You don't have to say great things. Just be you!

God first loves you. From before your birth, you have been loved by God. Why is it so hard to believe that? Why is it so hard to accept that? That's the gospel. We have such a difficult time believing that I'm loved the way I am. The church through the centuries has tried to make doctrines out of these beliefs and truths, has tried to lay down principles—you must do this, you must believe that before God loves you. Why do we make it so hard, make it so complicated when it's so basic and so simple? God loves you. Not do this so you won't be loved or don't do that and you won't be loved. God loves you as you are before you do anything, before you say anything, before you believe anything. God tries to break through all of our jibberish and all of our activity. How God tries to break through and say, “I love you!” 

God broke through in history in the person of Jesus Christ. God demonstrated, God revealed his great love for you and for me through Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of atonement. This time of the year when we think of Jesus’ death, we think of the doctrine of atonement—atoning, making right, bringing us together, reconcile, unite God with us and  unite us with God. For we are estranged and separated from our Creator. We are separated from that out of which we came. We've been separated from our real essential selves. We've been separated from our destiny, separated from our future. We've been separated from our home and so we feel unloved. That's the human situation. We call that sin. The Bible calls that sin—the state of feeling estranged, lonely, separated and lost. And Jesus atoned, made up for, brought us all back together. Jesus is the means. The text says, “Not that we loved God, but God first loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” To be the means. 

Jesus came with that message to tell us.  He taught, he preached, he healed, he loved, and for his efforts to bring us that message that you and I are loved, he was crucified, hung on a cross. Through his life, through his teachings, and through his death, we can see the love of God. Jesus came to tell us. Jesus came to reveal God’s love to us and it cost him his life. It cost him his all. He gave everything he had because he loves us. All he had he gave and he gave it willingly. He died that you and I might know the love of God. God first loved us and sent Jesus to die for us to be the means by which we're forgiven. That's the great and glorious good news. 

When you feel unloved, look at the cross. When you feel unloved, open your eyes and see the cross. Consider Jesus. Remember Jesus. Sing the spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” I understand they've made a popular recording of that, “Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.” They've taken out Jesus. Take Jesus out of that song and you've got nothing left but troubles, nothing left but sorrow. Keep Jesus in mind when you feel unloved. Henry Drummond said once that if you can think of Jesus just two minutes a day, your whole day will be different. Think of Jesus two minutes a day. Picture him in your mind, picture him loving you, picture him forgiving you, picture him saying to you, “You're good. You're okay.” Look at his teachings and picture in your mind how he might have said it, what expression he had, how he said it, the way in which he said it. Picture Jesus in your mind just two minutes a day. Picture him loving you and forgiving you. How different the day would be! 

Fletcher Clark Spruce has written. “If you want to be distressed, look within. If you want to be defeated, look backwards. If you want to be discouraged, just look ahead. If you want to be distracted, look around. But if you want to be delivered, look to Christ. If you want to be delighted, look to Jesus.” Open your eyes and look. When you feel unloved, look, keep Jesus in mind. Look at the cross. Look for evidences of God's love around you every day. When you get to the end of the day, instead of counting up all what went wrong, count up what went right. Remember all those little things that went on all day long that tells you you are loved. Make a list. Write them down. Look at all the beautiful things that happened so far today. Look at all the evidence that show how God loves you. 

Today I got up, the sun was shining, it was a beautiful day. Just about the whole family was up this morning. That was unusual. I realized I have a beautiful family and I'm loved. I walked to church. I always walk to church on Sundays because it makes me feel righteous for not exercising the rest of the week. The  sky was blue today. 

The beautiful article in the paper about Vesper McFerren said how she likes to walk out of her ranch and walk by the almond orchards. This particular orchard is 40 acres and when it's in bloom, she smells the blossoms. 60 meadowlarks were singing on every tree. What a chorus! What a choir to sing about how God loves us. 

Robert Raines once received a letter from a prisoner who had written a poem about his situation in his cell. He wrote, 

My prison house is cold and gray and made of rock and steel. 

It's filled with tears both night and day. 

There's little love to feel. 

The sick and sad and broken men who suffer here with me cannot recall 

the joys of when they last were happy and free. 

Yet I am happy. 

And I'm free, though tombed within this hell. 

For mighty acts of God I see through cold bars of myself. 

For sparrows play outside my wall and flit from fence to tree. 

I know God grieves there every fall, and he is here with me.” 

Now, if a prisoner can look out his cell and see sparrows in a tree, and be convinced of the love of God for him, how much loved you must feel day by day. When you feel unloved, just look around you. Praise God and speak. Sometimes it helps just to say something. It becomes more firmly entrenched in the mind. Talk to yourself. Do you talk to yourself? I talk to myself. Especially in the car, I talk to myself and when I stop at the stoplight and look over,  they're all looking at me. So then I break into singing as if I was singing all the time. But say out loud,” God loves me.” Three beautiful words—God loves me. Try that. Say it with me right now. God loves me. Again, God loves me. Does that feel good? Say that every day a few times a day when you feel unloved.

 If God can love your life, can't you? Embrace your life. Take yourself in your arms, hug yourself. Embrace all that you have and all that you are and say, “You sweet old thing, or young thing.” For wherever you are, wherever I am, we're just beginning. Every day, we're just beginning. Then act as if you're loved, act as if you've been redeemed, act as if you've been called by God, act as if you're forgiven, act as if you're empowered. That's what faith means. Faith means when there's little evidence and there's little reason, but go anyway. Talk anyway. Act anyway in spite of the lack of evidence, in spite of the doubts, go ahead. That’s faith. Act as if you're forgiven. Live each day as if you are embraced. Live each day as if God does love you. Put that in your head and your whole day will be different. Your whole day will be different because it's been created just for you. 

There's a prediction. If you act loved, if you act as if God loves you, and if you act as if you're forgiven, I predict you will become more loving and lovable. All the people around you will love you more for you will become more lovable. You can list all the little things that people do for you every day that testify of their love for you. We don't have to have the important people in our life tell us “I love you” every minute of every day. They don't have to say it verbally. Write down all the little things they do for you that say they love you. And as you act more loved, you will receive more love. As you give more love, you will receive it. 

When you feel unloved, remember, “This is love, not that we loved God, but that he first loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.”

© 1979 Douglas I. Norris