“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Friend To Friend
Anabel Gillham was a woman who loved God, but had trouble accepting that God could love her. Sure, she knew the Bible verses that talked of God’s unconditional love for her, and yet she knew herself, and doubted a God who knew her innermost thoughts would approve or her.
The root of her problem was how she saw God and how she believed God saw her. She knew what kind of God He was. She read, Exodus 34:6, “Then the LORD passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth…”, but she believed she had to earn that love. She believed she had to be good enough to deserve it. Then God used a very special person to help Annabel understand the depths of God’s love for her – her second child, Mason David Gillham, who was profoundly retarded. Let’s let Anabel tell you her story.
Mace could sing one song with great gusto, just one: “Jesus Loves Me.” He would throw his head back and hold on to the first “Yes” in the chorus just as long as he could, and then he would get tickled and almost fall out of his chair. I can still hear him giggle when I think back on those days that seem so distant and so far away. How poignant that memory is to me. I never doubted for a moment that Jesus loved that profoundly retarded little boy. It didn’t matter that he would never sit with the kids in the back of the church and on a certain special night walk down the aisle, take the pastor by the hand, and invite Jesus into his heart. It was entirely irrelevant that he could not quote a single verse of Scripture, that he would never go to high school, or that he would never be a dad. I knew that Jesus loved Mason. What I could not comprehend, what I could not accept, was that Jesus could love Mason’s mother, Anabel. You see, I believed that in order for a person to accept me, to love me, I had to perform for him. My standard for getting love was performance-based, so I “performed” constantly, perfectly. In fact, I did not allow anyone to see me when I was not performing perfectly. I never had any close friends because I was convinced that if a person ever really got to know me, she wouldn’t like me. I carried this belief into my relationship with God, and as I began to study the Bible, I found, to my horror, that He knew my every thought, let alone everything I said or did (Psalm 139:1-4). I was standing “bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God” (Hebrews 4:13), TLB. What did that mean to me? That meant that He really knew me, that He saw me when I wasn’t performing well. Based on what I perceived as my responsibility to perform in order to receive acceptance, I concluded without a doubt that He could not possibly love me, that He could never like what He saw. Mace could never have performed for our love, or for anyone’s love, but oh, how we loved him.
His condition deteriorated to such a degree – and so rapidly – that we had to institutionalize him when he was very young, so we enrolled him in the Enid State School for Mentally Handicapped Children. We drove regularly the 120 miles to see him, but on this particular weekend, he was at home for a visit. He had been with us since Thursday evening, and it was now Saturday afternoon. As soon as the dinner dishes were done, I would gather his things together and take him back to his house. I had done this many times before – and it was never easy – but today God had something in mind that would change my life forever. As I was washing the dishes, Mason was sitting in his chair watching me, or at least he was looking at me. That’s when it began. My emotions were spinning, my stomach started tumbling, and the familiar sickening thoughts of just a little while, I’m going to start packing Mason’s toys and his clothes, and take him away again. I can’t do that. I simply cannot do it. I stopped washing the dishes and got down on my knees in front of Mace. I took his dirty little hands in mine and tried so desperately to reach him. “Mason, I love you. I love you. If only you could understand how much I love you.” He just stared. He couldn’t understand; he didn’t comprehend. I stood up and started on the dishes again, but that didn’t last long. This sense of urgency – almost a panic – came over me, and once more I dried my hands and knelt in front of my precious little boy. “My dear Mason, if only you could say to me, ‘I love you, Mother.’ I need that, Mace.” Nothing. I stood up to the sink again. More dishes, more washing, more crying – and thoughts, foreign to my way of thinking, began filtering into my conscious awareness. I believe God spoke to me that day, and this is what He said: “Anabel, you don’t look at your son and turn away in disgust because he’s sitting there with saliva drooling out of his mouth; you don’t shake your head, repulsed because he has dinner all over his shirt or because he’s sitting in a dirty, smelly diaper when he ought to be able to take care of himself. Anabel, you don’t reject Mason because all of the dreams you had for him have been destroyed. You don’t reject him because he doesn’t perform for you. You love him, Anabel, just because he is yours. Mason doesn’t willfully reject your love, but you willfully reject Mine. I love you, Anabel, not because you’re neat or attractive, or because you do things well, not because you perform for Me but just because you’re Mine.” (Anabel Gillham, The Confident Woman: Knowing Who Your Are in Christ, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), 26-29)
Hearing Anabel’s story transformed my thinking about God’s love for me. For years, I lived as though I had to be “good enough” for God to love me. I understood that salvation was a gift of grace – a free gift from God that I did not earn – but somewhere I began believing the lie that I had to perform properly to keep the gift. I feared if I was not good enough, He would take it back. But that is a lie.
I am enough…because Jesus lives in me and the Holy Spirit works through me. And friend, so are you.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for loving me just the way I am. I thank You that I don’t have to earn Your love, but receive it as a free gift that You lavish on me! And God, I thank You that nothing can separate me from Your love. In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Look up the following verses and note what you learn about God’s love for you.
- Psalm 52:8
- Romans 8:38-39
- Ephesians 2:4-5
- 1 John 4:10
- 1 John 4:16
Today’s devotion was taken from Sharon’s book,
Your devotion today really spoke to me. My whole life I have known that God’s forgiveness is a gift; however, I have not been living as if I know that. I have been trying to earn forgiveness–everytime I mess up and sin, I feel as though I have lost the gift of salvation and that I have to earn it back again. This devotion really helped me to see that I am not perfect and that I will not lose my salvation. God loves me. Thank you so much.
Thank you!! God has been speaking directly to the heart of me lately and this is just an example. I’ve always felt as if I had to perform to be accepted, loved and valued by my family, friends, husband…I’ve never believed that God would love me, want me, use me for ministry because I was flawed…not perfect…did not perform perfectly all the time. I am struggling still to believe I have value to him just as I am. I struggle to hear his voice and believe he won’t abandon me when I don’t finish a task, read my bible everyday, attend church, keep a perfect home, say kind words…the list goes on. Again thank you for your truly God given talent as a writer and minister.
Thank you for this devotional, God has really been speaking to me about His unconditional love. My husband has been having afairs and when I discovered this I was hurt beyond belief. I cried to God wanting him to make it better and He spoke to my heart love him. I thought “WHAT?” and he said love him as I love him not as thr world. THat statement blowed my mind. I prayed Lord help me. Its been 3 years and God has helped me to see my husband as a hurting child, who is anger with God and feels unworthy of God’s love. God told me to show him unconditional love by letting him know that I knew he was unfaithful but loved him anyway. He was angry, embrassed but most of all shocked that I did not hate him but loved him anyway. I told him God loved him more. Because love conquers all!
I have been reading “Girlfriends in God” for months now. It’s been a way to connect with Jesus each day; something I look forward to with anticipation. Furthermore, you should know that this devotion has webbed out to others. When the content is fitting, I share Jesus with unsaved friends and family as well – praise God!
Today’s devotion struck a chord with me personally, so I wanted to share with you what the Holy Spirit has been teaching me. My parents used to tell me in high school that as a toddler in my crib, I’d lay awake at night singing, “Jesus Loves Me” and other favorite hymns. Just an innocent child worshiping to my Savoir which brings tears to my eyes thinking back to when life seemed simple and easy; just holding His hand through everything…learning how to crawl, cutting my first teeth…
Looking back to the rough time I experienced growing up, I lost sight that God loved/loves me even through “everything” that occured day to day. I’m an adult and am still shaking off the “old self”, fighting nighmares and redefining my life as God’s daughter. It’s important to be reminded that He loves me for who I was, am and will be as He reshapes and “renews my mind”.
Thank you so much for this ministry, dear sister(s) in Christ. You have no idea how much it’s meant to me.
I’m a Minister of the Gospel and sometimes I feel totally unworthy to speak God’s word. This weekend I was feeling more and more unworthy. Reading todays devotion made me realize how much God loves me. It brings back to my memory over a year ago when I was battling at that time an unknown sickness how one day on my way to church from deep within my spirit I began to sing out loudly Jesus loves me this I know because the bible tells me so. Today’s devotional again reminded me how much Jesus really loves us. Unless you come as a little child and sometimes we all need to feel like little children and really believe that “Yes Jesus Loves Me”
Thank you for the gentle reminder that God loves me regardless of my sinful nature. I struggle with the not being good enough thoughts. Anabel’s story brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that I will never be good enough, but God loves me anyways.
What a great story about how God will do what he can to show you His love. Thank you!
This was such a powerful story! Given the fact that so many of us struggle with receiving God’s love, this story really brought the reality of God’s grace and character to light in a crystal clear way. I can really appreciate the goodness of God and know beyond all shadow of a doubt, that his love encompasses every single aspect of my existence. Praise the Lord!
I just wanted to let you know that today’s devotion really touched me. I have a nephew that has Autism and it is very hard to explain things to him about salvation, but I know he loves the Lord in his own little way and I know God loves him back. I am so glad that God looks at us with his loving eyes and looks beyond our faults and sees our need for Him. His love is so amazing and reaches beyond the deepest depths. I praise Him for evertyhting.
I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I always enjoy Girlfriends in God devotionals. You are all such a blessing.
I planned on blogging today on God’s love and will link to your blog from my site.
Thank you so much for sharing this story, for it truly touched my heart. You see, I have a 18 year old son who is an addict and the hopes and dreams I had for him are not materializing the way I assumed they would. He didn’t graduate high school with his class as I had pictured, he is looking at jail time instead of having a college life like I had imagined, he has been evicted from the apartment that he was sharing after 3 weeks due to buying/selling drugs, and with each day I wonder just how I am to love him on this journey. Your message of loving because he is mine instead of loving based on performance really hit home and I thank you for that. Please know that God has used you to minister to me. May you feel His blessings upon your life today and forever more.
Your Sister in Christ,
Dale E. Firmin
Today’s story was truly welcoming. I was just looking online for a devotional website, to read everyday, and fell upon Girlfriends In God. I have been told my entire life that I am not good enough and it’s so ironic to run into this…I really needed it. The story was sweet and exactly what I needed to read. I quickly went to order, “I’m Not Good Enough” and can’t wait to read it. Thank you!
thank you for today’s devotion! I have an amazing husband, which is a great father to our two beautiful girls (ages 16 and 10) and my mom is the best…there is not a thing in this world she wouldn’t do for her family. However, I struggle on a daily basis with not being good enough. Not being a good enough wife, a good enough mother, daughter, sister..it’s horrible. My mind races constantly with guilt with my husband, my girls, my mom, my sister..it’s really all-consuming and just mentally and physically exhausting. No matter what i do…in my mind there is always more i should have or could have done.
I truly enjoyed your story. I cried! Just week before last, I was speaking to the Lord and was saying how I must be here to learn to love. But it’s the exact opposite! I don’t know how to accept love. I felt as if God was speaking to me through this story, I believe a door has been opened for me. To be able to accept God’s love for me and everyone else’s too. Thank you. May God continue to bless you, always! Love a girlfriend in God! Valerie
I found myself crying, yet warmed by the thought of God’s love. I find it difficult to also understand how amazing and gracious His love is, but there He is, arms wide open to receive me just as I am. Why can’t I simply surrender to His kind of love? I’m just too caught up with the world’s view of love that I tend to underestimate GOD’s kind of love. I’m so grateful for having a Father who loves me this much. It’s comforting and empowering to know his unconditional love for us. I may not feel it all the time, but knowing that this is the truth is real enough to turn my doubts and indifference to unexplainable rush of love and grace.
How is it that the verses you highlight seem to taildove from my earlier devotions in the day? God and you are in cahoots! These stories are like the ones Jesus uses to teach us, guide us, and instruct us. Furthermore, they are packed with His supernatural love. Thanks for sharing them.
I really enjoyed the devotional today. I must admit that I was a bit shocked to read so many posts here of God’s children finding it hard to receive His love. I didn’t realize so many people feel the way I have felt. God has really been ministering to my heart on His love. I recommend Joseph Prince’s devotional Destined to Reign. God really used this book to show me that when I acknowledge my imperfection He can be glorified. If I can do everything in my own strength than I am glorified. But if I am struggling in an area and take it to God in prayer and am delivered as a result, God is glorified. Trully His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It takes the pressure off of me so that I don’t have to perform or try to be good enough.
If you decide to get the book I recommend that you read pgs 118, 366,339,306, 261, and 186 first. It has really changed my life.
I loved this devotion and the story touched my heart. I have often battled with feeling like I have to “perform to keep God’s precious gift”. Yet, God is not like us. He doesn’t set conditions on His love. Its so amazing that with all of my faults and flaws that He loves me. This devotion encourages me to love others as God loves me. I want to abide in Him and the way to do that is to love.
I was touched by her love for her son, and more so God’s unconditional love and longing for me. I was reminded just what more I have to be thankful for. How can we not just praise the God who loves us so much? Thanks.
My mother sent me this devotional and I can’t begin to explain how it spoke to me. I’m only 19 years old, but I have been a drug addict since I was 12 years old. I was in rehab at 16, the hospital countless times, used every drug imaginable. Along with that, from the age of 14, I had issues with men, constanttly. As of today, I still am not 100% sober. All of these things have made me feel so dirty and unacceptable to God. Of course I go to church and pray for my loved ones, but I don’t dare believe He truly would love someone like me. I won’t even mention myself in my prayers, for fear He won’t even listen. Then, I read this devotional and I cannot stop crying. I’ve wanted God to love me my whole life but always believed He never would. Until now. Thank you, so much for this.
This devotional reminded me of my sister Dawn whom I regarded as a Blue Rose. I read a poem in the Reader’s Digest years ago which reminded me of my sister and whenever I see Blue Roses I remember how special we all are in God’s sight despite our individual differences.
Thank you, Sharon Jaynes, for this story of Annabel. I cried knowing how many times I and ones that I love have believed the lie of the enemy. I am eternally grateful for the gift of grace that Christ has bestowed on me…all of us. Thank you for the sweet reminder.
Your Sister in Christ…Andrea
I do not receive your devotions directly. I get them from a friend of mine that I met during a Women’s Retreat this year. Despite the many devotions I’ve read lately, none had me in a complete SOB the way this one did. I’ve been struggling with the realization that in all of my years of calling myself a Christian, I’ve never really loved God – I’ve just feared Him. Going through the motions (more-often-than-not, quite resentfully) as a child does when they’re told to clean their rooms and would rather be outside playing. This devotion gave me a REAL LOOK – A REAL VISUAL – at the fact that I’ve been denying the Lord my love WILLFULLY by SOLELY fearing Him. I’ve rejected Him by fearing the consequences involved if I do not follow His word….not realizing, that if I just let Him love me, and not focus on “the motions” – I will truly learn to be able to love Him WILLFULLY (and trust Him) in return. Thank you for this devotion today. I thank God for using you, and I thank Him for my dear friend who faithfully sends them to me.
This was sent to me from a dear friend who I had not spoken too in many months (military and we had to move to different places). This could not have come at a better time. We just had a prophet at our church and the whole time he was speaking all I could think about was how often I fail and that God would never bless someone like me. All I could think was, “I’m screwed!”, “God can’t do a thing with me”. Through this story I see that God does love me UNCONDITIONALLY and there is nothing I can do to change that. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to be obedient to his word but when I mess up or fail…he isn’t going to walk away and leave me. He loves me and he is going to help me up, dust me off and help me back on the right track. I am so thankful for this message today, it has truly blessed me!!!!
This touched my heart,I am so weak in my spiritual life .Please pray for me
I am amazed how many of God’s daughters suffer from the feeling of having to perform to be love. I have searched in so many places to find acceptance. This story brought me tears.
I just came across this reading today! In my life I learned that it’s always in God’s perfect timing!
My gosh as I started reading I started pouring out in tears not being able to read but I would start over again until i read the whole story and through it my tears poured down, a lump on my throat got bigger and bigger and kept saying thank you God thank you!
This is my life my story, my feelings of not being worthy of God and not being good enough for Him a BIG WOW!!! How can this be my life through someone else? I have a 13 year old disabled daughter from birth her name is Cherryl Segura was born at 24 wks at 1lb. 2oz. with many birth complications but survived for God’s purpose in our lives! She does not talk, but babbles and screams, nor walks but has the ability to move as normal as possible with movements in body, hands, head, legs and feet but does not walk! When I cry she stares at me and I just respond to her thank you Cherryl I love you!
This story has touched my life tremendously thank you so much and God bless you my sister.
Hi Sharon, your article today really stirred something deep in my heart..For most of my life i thought the only way to have friends or to have someone love me i had to be just right. I felt that if someone knew the real Theresa they would not love her. I feel the same way about God, even though i know He knows all about me i feel ashamed and can’t talked to Him about the things that happened to me that makes me feel dirty and unloved. I feel that if i don’t talk about it that no one will know and they will continue to love me.. But i so desparetly want someone to love me because of who i am.. Help me…
This story of faith is so encouraging. Anabel sounds such a strong woman, I’m so glad that she’s found out that God loves her for who she is. I think deep down we do know this truth, but our lives and our societies have indoctrinated us so much into thinking that we have to strive for everything. That includes love. We never feel that we are good enough for God to love us. I’m a volunteer worker in my church, I’m not saying this to make myself look good or super spiritual, but I’m involved in so many things, there’s not a lot left…. But still I feel alone and guilty that my husband is not there sharing in this with me. He has not yet come to faith. Is this my way of ‘working’, so that God will love me more, and so bring my husband to faith. Before you all start shouting at me, I do know that that’s not God’s way. But aren’t we ladies so insecure sometimes. I know I am. So lonely. Sometimes I feel as if God is just so far away, and yet, like the Footprints poem says, those are really the times that He’s carrying me.
I did, indeed, enjoyed the content of the devotion and have never felt like I had to “perform” for anyone, much less for God to love me.
However, I was troubled by your use of the words “mentally retarded”, mainly because I have a handicapped son. He is not “mentally retarded”! He is “mentally challenged” would have been much more appropriate in 2009.
Thank you for allowing me to “vent” my frustration with others. Our words need to be carefully chosen, especially in print to thousands of readers, and more especially, to those we are trying to reach for the Lord.
I am very thankful that I read about this boy being mentally retarded. The little boy has so much love in him, but annabelle didn’t understand until God told her. The reason I know is I once was a mentally retarded little girl that could not speak because of the accidents I went through. That is how I once was, now I am grown working in a nursing home taking care of people. I love everyone and Iunderstand how it is if people have strokes and people don’t understand why a person cannot talk. I do because I once was like that and I remember that I knew many things, but people could not understand until with Jesus’ help I am just like a person they are. God gave her a gift and that was her son. She was looking at all the bad things first about him, then she looked at the good things and that was her son filled with love. That is the most wonderful gift is Love with Faith.