When I was about 19, I wasn’t sure God liked me. In fact, I couldn’t see how he could stand me. I had been raised in church, and had heard all my life that God loved me. I had sung the song “Jesus loves me, this I know” since I was little. But I knew also that God was “holy” – whatever that meant – that he was completely pure and good, and that evil was repulsive to him.
So I went to church, and to college worship services, and I sang along (usually), but inside I struggled. How could God possibly stand me?
You have to understand, I was a high achiever, a perfectionist. I checked off all the boxes – never tried drugs, got good grades, read the Bible, did my best. The kids at school knew me as the religious church girl. But I still didn’t feel like I was clean enough for God to want to hang out with me.
I had this nagging sense that I was never good enough for him. And I knew the kinds of things that went on inside my head that I wasn’t proud of – what the Bible calls sin – such as the pride and anger that I couldn’t seem to shake. I would often catch myself trying to decide if I was better than the people around me, or if they were better than me. I struggled with an endless internal tug-of-war between insecurity and arrogance. I assumed it disgusted God as much as it did me.
You’d think that I would know where I stood with God. I knew that he had come to earth as a human, Jesus, and had paid for my sin by dying on the cross. I had already accepted his gift and trusted him to take me to heaven, and I knew I was part of his family. But I had this mental picture of God as a distant relative – someone who loves you because they have to love you, and they can put up with you at holidays, but they wouldn’t want to be around you any more often than that. Being part of God’s family ensured his acceptance of me, but not (I thought) his affection for me.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out otherwise. It was a weekly Bible study of a couple thousand students (I went to a really big university), and the speaker read this part of the Bible to us:
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Daddy! Father!”
The Spirit Himself testifies that we are children of God,
and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.[i]
I couldn’t believe it. God wanted me as his daughter and heir, not as some distant relative! And once I started looking, I found other descriptions in the Bible of how God feels about his family:
No longer do I call you servants, but friends.[ii]
From that one, I learned that Jesus considers me his friend.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.[i]
Here I learned that God knows my sins and failures even better than I do, and yet he’s constantly thinking about me and loves me no less.
These verses helped me understand what it really meant for me to be part of God’s family. Finally it all made sense. Yes, God hates sin. Yes, I am a sinner. What the Bible says in Romans 3:23 is still true – “Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.”[ii] But when I trusted Jesus, he took my sins, and now I am God’s treasured child. Now I can go on to the next sentence, which says that I “receive God’s approval freely by an act of his kindness through the price Jesus paid to set us free.”[iii] I had thought that God’s love for me was a grudging, reluctant acceptance. Now I know that it’s an all-in, honest affection and that he really values me. God actually likes me!
 Psalm 139:1-4, 17-18, ESV® Bible
 Romans 3:23, GOD’S WORD® translation of the Bible
 Romans 3:24, GOD’S WORD® translation of the Bible
 Romans 8:15-17, NASB® translation of the Bible, plus some modifications for clarity.
 John 15:15, ESV® translation of the Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.