Several months ago, a Wednesday night guest speaker at church mentioned a verse in Jude’s letter. I was intrigued. Jude? Who preaches from Jude? I flipped to the back of my Bible and started reading. The words were beautiful and unfamiliar, and I blinked back tears. I needed those words. Though I didn’t know it, my soul longed to hear the truth in Jude’s tiny epistle.

Jude addresses the recipients of his letter as “beloved” and uses the term throughout. The Greek word he used (agapetos)* indicates dearly loved, highly esteemed, or favorite. We, those who follow Jesus, are (according to Jude) dearly loved. We’re favorite children, in a way.

I am beloved by God, and so are you.

Ponder that a few moments, then say these words aloud: I am beloved by God. Repeat them and let their beautiful truth soak into your soul.

God spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and used the same word. “This is My beloved Son. (Mark 1:11) My agapetos Son.** The word describes the depth of God’s love for Jesus and His love for us. The never-ending, unconditional, unlimited love of God is not only lavished on His only Son. Although underserved, the same love is also lavished on me, on you.

Selah. Pause and ponder that for a moment then consider this…

Being beloved doesn’t equal an easy life.

About the time of the Jude sermon, the love of God was on my mind quite often. A long siege of hard, followed by a long siege of a different kind of hard, left me wondering what God intended. I wrote the following words during the mist of that excruciatingly difficult time but was too overwhelmed with my struggle to share them.”If there is a lesson in this, I’m not sure I’ve found it yet, but I’m past ready for it to be over.

I share them now because I learned an important truth in that long season of agony. Suffering is common to the human experience, but it does not diminish the love of God by a single iota. 

I spent more days than I care to admit wailing before the Lord. Finally, I took action. I offered to repent of sins I didn’t have after repentance of the sins I did have failed to break the siege. In case spiritual warfare caused my eye problems, I rebuked the evil one and quoted more Scripture than I realized I knew. It didn’t help. Because a sacrifice of praise turned things around before, I gave thanks for the blessings I have, the problems I don’t and the gifts of God I might or might not receive.

Powerless to fix it.

Finally, I admitted something terrible. I had no control over the duration of the siege of hard. I was powerless to shorten it or to make it easier. My job was to get through it and honor God while I did.

Unfortunately, I felt a little like a coyote in a trap who gnaws off his own leg to save his life. The treatment for my corneal infection was a drug so potent most people who take it feel terrible. Imagine first-trimester pregnant, a severe case of influenza, and a football concussion all at once. Yeah. Bad. A dazed brain, generalized aches, fatigue, and persistent nausea made writing hard. No, nearly impossible.

I’m a writer. It’s who I am, what I do, how I process life. The biggest, best part of my life (next to my faith and my son, Ryan) vanished and I missed it dreadfully. Blog posts? Impossible. Novel edits? Out of the question. New stories and Bible studies? I couldn’t put together a sentence, much less an entire book. After twenty years as a writer, I didn’t know how to function without writing.

The hardest months of my life weren’t wasted. The long-haul of hard taught me one important fact:

Being loved doesn’t equal feeling loved.

What I knew and how I felt didn’t match. I knew I’m God’s dearly beloved child but I didn’t necessarily feel beloved. My problems didn’t feel fair but it wasn’t about fair. Fair would be eternal damnation. Grace allowed a temporary difficulty that would, in some not-recognizable-at-the-time way, mold me into a more Christ-like Leanna.

It didn’t seem sensible. Those difficulties made the work to which I’m called harder, not easier. I wanted to know the why behind my suffering. Giving up my perceived right to an explanation was a hard step. I didn’t know why those agonizing months were necessary. I still don’t. Eventually, I realized “why” didn’t matter and I determined to endure with grace, even if it lasted the rest of my life. That, my friends, was one of the hardest steps in the journey.

Generosity I couldn’t see was still generosity

Jude also wrote about God’s generous gifts to us. Eternal life. Mercy. Peace. Love. None of them seemed pertinent to my experience at the moment, nevertheless, they were still given in abundance. The longer the hard time persisted, the more time I spent in God’s presence. Sometimes all I could pray was “Jesus, Jesus,” but it was enough. Despite the pain and anti-viral-induced brain fog, peace reigned. Grace carried me through. 

The other side

I read the story of Job more than once during that time, especially the “after” part when God restored two-fold. I clung to the hope of “the other side.” When it finally came, it was worth everything I went through. God worked when I could not and did things I never imagined. In my writing. In my ministry. He answered prayers that were nothing more than longings in my heart. I believed the “other side” of the misery would be worth it, and it was. I’ve written this before but I know it’s truth in a deeper way than ever before:

Hard times are always temporary. 

Not even life-long hard times will follow us into eternity. On the other side of this life, there’s nothing hard. No pain, no suffering, no sorrow. Eternity will make all the difficulty of this life seem a fleeting moment of little consequence in comparison.

Our Lord loved us first, but He also loves us best, especially when we suffer. Press on, even when it’s hard. We are dearly loved, so let’s live it. Focus on His face and not His hand. 

Beloved, let’s live as those who are God’s dearly loved children so all the world can see the sweetness of the One who loved us first`.

“To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you…But you,  building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Jude 1-2, 20-21

 Endnotes and more: 

* – G27 – agapētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Nov, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G27&t=KJV>.

** – G27 – agapētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Nov, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G27&t=KJV>.

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The Road to Bethlehem: An Advent Prayer and Devotional Guide

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