Jesus Loves Me, This I (Don’t) Know

This summer, the student authors of the Rooted Student Series give us a taste of the themes we explore in our upcoming book, The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School. As students either currently in high school, college, or just recently graduated, our writers offer us fresh and unique perspectives of the Jesus they got to know in high school or wish they had known when they were younger. Their stories and their wisdom will help youth leaders and parents guide their students through high school and point them to Jesus.  -Rooted Student Series Editor Lauren Center

For most of my time in high school, I felt pretty confident that I knew the true Jesus. I knew all the right church answers and could spit out plenty of Bible verses to back up my claims. However, I think we all know what it is to be able to produce answers as easy as breathing and it not sink in at all. My time in college has made something very clear to me: what I know in my brain is not necessarily what I believe, or at least not how I function. 

Recently I was sitting in a seminar called, “God’s Delight in You,” and the speaker asked, “Do you know that Jesus died for you not because He was mad at you but because He delights in you and wants to be with you?” 

And as I sat there my honest answer was, “Not at all.” Sure, I’ve been singing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” since I was old enough to speak. But not until I was 21 years old did I realize that the song I could sing in my sleep had yet to inform how I viewed myself and God’s heart toward me. 

We need to know of God’s delighted heart for us, and we often neglect this truth. 

In realizing this, I didn’t find that I was taught poor theology, but that I was taught a theology with different emphases than what I heard on that summer day. I believed that God loves His people, His bride. That was and is a compelling and dear image to me. Somehow, though, I could never make that leap to really treasure the truth that Christ’s bride includes me. That He loves even me. 

We also often talk about God’s love for us as His delight in Christ that He transfers over to us, that when God sees us He sees Jesus. And this is good news. Because God is pleased with His Son, He is pleased with us if we are in Christ. The song lyrics I often go back to for a clear description of this are from the song, “Before the Throne of God Above.” It says, “Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” 

While I don’t think this is untrue, I realized only very recently that with this theology I didn’t know that God delighted in things specifically about me. The idea of being completely covered in Christ had not made me feel seen and enjoyed. 

This is a hard truth to balance because, yes, we are sinful and blood needs to be shed in order for us to be seen as righteous before God. However, this isn’t the only true thing about us. Yes, we are deeply tainted by sin, but we still contain glimpses of our glorified selves. 

The question that lingers in my heart upon hearing of God’s delight in Christ is, “But what does God love about me?” This question is scary to ask, but it holds the weight of our identity. The question is frightening to ask because our deepest fear is that the answer is “Nothing.” But this is not the case with Jesus. 

In the words of George MacDonald, “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.”

Born in God’s thought! What a label! That the God of the universe looked at his world and said that it needed you. That His creation had a you-shaped space in it. What beautiful truth! 

As A.W. Tozer says in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What comes to our mind at this question affects everything we think and do. I wish I could look high school me in the face and say, “God made you, and He loves how He made you. You are His daughter and he cherishes the specifics of who you are.” 

I didn’t (and still struggle to) have a theology that had room for a God like this who relates to me with joy. And not believing this aspect of God affects our lives and our struggles. When Sally-Lloyd Jones describes the story of the Garden of Eden in the Jesus Storybook Bible she writes, “Eve picked the fruit and ate some. And Adam ate some, too. And a terrible lie came into the world. It would never leave. It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children: ‘God doesn’t love me’.” 

When we don’t believe God’s love for us, we will look for anything else to make us feel valued and whole. This is why sin entices. If our theology is not one of God’s delight in us, we will spend our whole lives looking for something or someone to make us feel enjoyed. But nothing ever can because sin makes big promises that it can never keep. 

Yes, it is biblical to know that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. But we mustn’t forget that we have indeed been saved because of Christ’s deep abiding delight in us. Jesus died for the joy set before Him. Because of His sincere excitement and desire to live in unity with His beloved people, Jesus endured the cross. We must know that too. 

Our name is now, as Isaiah 62 says, “My Delight is in Her.” That is who we are. This is a dear, precious name. Let us not forget that it is true of us, and not forget to tell the next generation that it is true of them as well in Christ. 

Emily Zell is from Saint Louis, Missouri, and is a senior at the University of Missouri studying Secondary Language Arts Education and minoring in Art History. In her free time, Emily enjoys writing, thinking, and both watching and performing stand-up comedy.

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