The earliest emotion I remember feeling about God is fear. As a child, I pictured God as distant, thundering, fiery. I assumed that the Father would blast me with consequences when I sinned, unless Jesus chose to plead with the Father to let me off with a warning. To be honest, I thought of Jesus as the nicest member of the Trinity—the Father was angry and the Holy Spirit was just peculiar.
I obeyed God for a long time, not out of love, but from a deep sense of fear. I did all I was supposed to do, but I kept my distance from God, and (secretly) hoped he’d keep his distance from me. As I entered adulthood, my skewed “fear of the Lord” began to destroy me. If God was not for me, then everything was against me. Who could I trust? I was insecure, unstable, anxious, blown about by circumstances.
The Gospel of John
Deep down, I wanted a different relationship with God, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. How do you learn to trust when you’ve spent a lifetime protecting yourself? I turned to a passage of Scripture that had been tugging on my heart for years—the first chapter of John’s Gospel: “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:16–18).
I longed to experience this grace upon grace. I ached to grasp the fullness of God, but I knew I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed to follow Jesus so that he could make his Father known to me. So, I spent a year studying the Gospel of John. I sat at my kitchen table and listened and watched as Jesus put on flesh and narrated his Father to me.
What I saw was astounding! The God whom Jesus spoke about is a Father with deep longings who is stirred in his innermost being with love for his wayward people. Jesus narrated a God for me who moves heaven and earth to seek out his prodigals and bring every last one of them home. I saw a Father who searches the horizon for his children, eagerly waiting to receive them with kisses and his best robe. This is a God who is for us, not against us.
Proof of God’s Love
By the end of my time in John, I was a completely different woman. I had followed Jesus through his entire ministry and heard him speak over and over again about the Father’s love for me. Toward the end of my study, I saw the proof of his love—God’s beloved Son, face dripping in blood, his back torn from the lashes he had received, stumbling under the weight of my sins and his cross. In that moment, I knew. I knew, not just in my head, but in my heart that the Father truly loved me. As I watched Jesus hang on his cross, something shifted inside me, and I knew that I would follow this man anywhere he chose to lead. For I am his, and he is mine. And from his fullness I have received grace upon grace.
I long for others to know God in this way. I ache for these lost children to find the fullness of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is why I wrote God for Us: Discovering the Heart of the Father through the Life of the Son. As I have received from Christ, so I hope to help others to know and experience the love of their Heavenly Father, the faithfulness of their older Brother Jesus, and the power and comfort of the Spirit who lives inside them.
My life is very different than it was six years ago. I still struggle with anxiety and fear, but now there is something else there too. Jesus has poured so much of the fullness of his love in me, it aches. I now obey God out of this deep, compelling love, not fear.
If that is something you long for too, please come with me on this journey. Together, let’s seek the face of Jesus and let him narrate his Father’s heart for us. Let’s learn to love him the way he has loved us. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, reveal the places where we are hiding in fear, and correct our skewed views of God. Let’s keep moving on this journey of grace upon grace—this journey to the heart of our Father.
About the Author:
Abby Hutto is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Story Presbyterian Church in Westerville, Ohio. She also works for Parakaleo, a ministry that comes alongside women in ministry, as a group leader and trainer. Abby loves to study and teach God’s Word and delights in helping others experience and know their Heavenly Father better. Abby is married to Ken, and they have two children, Hannah (14) and Harry (13). They live in Westerville, Ohio. She is the author of God For Us: Discovering the Heart of the Father through the Life of the Son, (P&R Publishing). You can connect with Abby at www.godforusministries.com