How do you know God's love? Growing up in the 50's church with erroneous teachings or I somehow processed it wrong but the fear of God is my default and find it a struggle to know and experience the love of God despite reading of God's unfailing Love and grace in the Scriptures but it gets canceled out by all the fear and wrath passages despite sincere prayer & confession. Does God understand?
Whether you processed incorrectly, whether you were taught incorrectly, some combination of the two, or whether it was something else completely, you
in this state of struggling. The cause is not important. You sound as though you have an ardent desire to know the love of God. That is a good thing. And no matter what your age, you have taken the first step, which is to admit that you are struggling. Some of the greatest Saints in history struggled. Saints!! Struggled with knowing God's love. That can't be, can it?
St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence. During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as “The Little Flower,” faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death. “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into,” she said to the sisters in her convent. Mother Teresa had a “dark night” that lasted for decades.. It is almost unparalleled in the lives of the saints.
First, let us take a look at those scripture passages that expound on God's vengeance and wrath and have generated the feelings you have of fear. Virtually all of those passages came from the Old Testament (OT). The OT is the complete scripture of the Hebrew people who did not have the fullness of revelation testified to by Jesus Christ in person and learned by Christians through the New Testament..
Retired Pope Benedict’s 2010 exhortation
may be meaningful to you because it has a section entitled
“Dark Passages of the Bible
” in which he states that instances of violence and immorality in the Bible can be adequately addressed only if Catholics take seriously the fact that “God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly,
in successive stages
despite human resistance
Benedict admits that “revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times,” and for this reason the Bible narrates certain things without denouncing their immorality in the way that we would rightly do today. The Old Testament does not give us a newsreel account of what God said and did in times of old. It is God’s word; it is inspired; it is inerrant. But interpreting passages which seem to contradict the nature of God (that God is love) requires us to recognize that the people who wrote the Old Testament were not aware of the fullness of divine revelation.
Now, to address the question, how do you know God's love? Here are some facts on which I think we can agree - He is the Creator. All of the natural world including all men are his creation. A creator loves his creation. Jesus told as to call God
, an Aramaic word best translated as Daddy. Just like a Daddy may be disappointed in his children when they misbehave but continues to love them, so does our real Abba, Daddy - God love us when we misbehave. This is otherwise known as sin. God loves the world he made, and he loves us, broken though we are.
In his ministry, Jesus traveled the hills of Galilee and Judea. He taught the word of God, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and even raised the dead. In every way, he demonstrated God's love for us and his desire to heal us spiritually as well as physically.
Try mediating on the Gospel from this past weekend. In that Gospel is John Chapter 3 verse 19. God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to become one of us, to suffer agony and dies for us, and to save the human race. It may be useful for you to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ while reflecting on the love that it took to undergo that torture.
Please know that you are not alone in your struggles. I hope that this has been somewhat helpful. You may benefit from spiritual direction or at least meeting with a priest or deacon to discuss this further. Do not feel embarrassed or alone. St Therese, Mother Theresa, and St. John of the Cross are good company to be in.