Anyone can keep his joy when he’s riding high in the Holy Ghost, not being tried or tempted. But God wants us to keep ourselves in his love at all times—especially in our temptations.
The apostle John tells us very simply how we can keep ourselves in God’s love: “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). In short, if we “dwell in God’s love,” we’re keeping ourselves in God.
The word dwell here means “to stay in a state of expectancy.” In other words, God wants us to expect his love to be renewed in us every day. We’re to live every day in the knowledge that God has always loved us, and will always love us.
In reality, most of us flit in and out of God’s love according to our emotional ups and downs. We feel safe in his love only if we’ve done well. But we’re unsure of his love whenever we’re tempted or tried, or the time we’ve failed him. That’s especially the time we’re to trust in his love. He’s telling us in these passages, “No matter what the trial you face, you must never doubt my love for you. If you’re actively trusting in my love, then you’re living the way I want you to live.”
Jeremiah 31 offers a wonderful illustration of God’s love. Israel was in a backslidden state. The people had grown fat and prosperous and were indulging in all kinds of wickedness.
Then suddenly, their lusts turned sour. They lost all pleasure in fulfilling their sensual appetites. Soon they cried out, “Lord, we’re lost. We need you to turn us around.” God heard their cry of repentance, and his loving heart went out to them. He chastened the people with his rod of correction—and Israel cried, “Thou hast chastised me…turn thou me, and I shall be turned…. Surely after that I was turned, I repented” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).
Listen to God’s words at this point: “…since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him…” (v. 20). “…with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (v. 3).
Here is what you must know of God’s love: God was telling his people, “I had to chasten you and speak hard words of truth to you. Yet even then you sinned against me, doing so despite the grace and mercy I extended to you. You turned against my love, rejecting me. Nevertheless, my bowels of compassion were moved deeply toward you, I remembered you in your struggle—and I will surely have mercy on you. I’ll freely forgive and restore you.”