Experiencing and Emitting God’s Love

Photo by: Eye for Ebony on Unsplash


“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 22:37-39, NIV

Love is the greatest commandment in the Bible. Ask yourself, “What really matters in my life?” My guess is that your answer fundamentally boils down to love. While we spend hours chasing work and accomplishments, love is the thread that weaves significance through our lives. What does it really mean to not only love your neighbor, but to love your neighbor as yourself? It’s a fierce and challenging command, and it implies something very real about loving yourself. In order to extend love to others with all our heart, soul, and mind, we must experience feeling known and loved. God offers it. Although allowing God’s love to sink in and permeate our being and identity can seem challenging, opening our hearts, souls, and minds is essential. When we fully experience His love, we are better able to share it.

Psychology has much to say about the significance of love on our development and thriving. Humans are social creatures and need each other to survive. Our basic natures and the wiring of our brains require nurture and care. Children who feel a sense of love often thrive, in spite of difficult or threatening circumstances. Love is a source of power from the highest source.

A Message of Love

Humans are capable of incredible things when motivated by love—doing acts of service, sacrificing oneself for others, and creating movements that ignite hearts. Think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa—their lives, messages, and actions were founded on love. The Christian message is one of love; yet living a life motivated by love is difficult, especially when we deal with difficult people. Love can be hard to access in the face of fear, hurt, or injustice. Often, our first response is to get upset. This points to the fact that we must do internal work, such as dealing with our emotions when we feel unloved, threatened, or afraid. We’ve all reacted instead of taking a moment to pause. We’ve all said things that we wish we could have taken back. We’ve all acted selfishly, instead of generously. It’s easy to become depleted and fall short of loving your neighbor as yourself. However, God doesn’t ask us to love our neighbors more than we love ourselves. The love of self is an internalization of God’s love that is reflexive—both back to its source and out into the world. God’s love is generative.

Finding Strength Through Love

A thriving life is purposeful and based upon strengths. We gain strength from love. Experiencing love in your heart, soul, and mind brings peace and helps with emotional regulation and motivation. Below, we offer the following mindfulness practice to access feelings of love for God, self, and others.

  1. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Begin to focus on your breath.
  2. Contemplate God’s love. God created you in His image as your unique self. As His beloved, he wants to connect with you and through you.  
  3. Consider how profound it is to be loved and known by God. You belong to God and God belongs to you.
  4. Continue to breathe. Repeat the following phrase, “I am thine, and thou art mine.” 
  5. Now repeat this next phrase,“I am loved and I am loveable.”
  6. Visualize God’s love moving through your heart, soul, and mind.
    • Think about the oxygen that flows through your body. It represents your passions. Let this energize you as you feel God’s love in your heart. 
    • Your soul—eternal and unchanging—is connected to God and will return to God. Allow God’s love to fill your soul.
    • Though the mind can be tricky, rational, and emotional, it can also regulate you. Now let God’s love guide your mind and thoughts, and help you make decisions based upon your desired outcomes. 
  7. Imagine this love in your heart, soul, and mind growing so large that your body cannot contain it, so it must be shared. Send that love to others. Start with those people in your life who are easy to love.
  8. Let that love continue to grow even bigger, and transmit it to those who are difficult to love—including those who have hurt you, who have made you feel afraid. Love them with God’s love.  
  9. Sit and breathe for a few minutes more. Continue to reflect on God’s love, love for self, and love for others. 
  10. When you finish this contemplative practice, be aware of any intentions that come to your mind or any actions you wish to take. What might God be inviting you to do?

References:

1. Knabb, J. J. (2021). Christian meditation in clinical practice: A four-step model and workbook for therapists and clients. InterVarsity Press.

2. Shapiro, S. L., & Carlson, L. E. (2017). The art and science of mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. American Psychological Association.

3. King, P. E., Yoo, Y., Vaughn, J. M., Tirrell, J. M., Geldhof, G. J., & Dowling, E. (2020). The measure of diverse adolescent spirituality (MDAS) and refined findings from Mexican and Salvadoran youth. Assessing Spirituality in a Diverse World, 383–410. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52140-0_16

About the Author

Jilleen Westbrook

Jilleen Westbrook

Jilleen Westbrook, PhD, joined the Thrive Center for Human Development on January 2022. She earned her PhD in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and has taught at Temple University, the University of Southern California, and the Claremont Colleges. Her academic work involved empirical investigations of the complicated psychological and market effects that result from policy decisions. Before joining the Thrive Center, she worked as a consultant. Dr. Westbrook has long been interested in issues of faith and well-being, particularly in the practices that encourage mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Newsletter

* indicates required