Today my heart is heavy for several loved ones who are hurting:
- with deep wounds of hurt that have yet to be healed
- wondering if they’ll be rejected because they don’t want to keep doing what they think they should do
- at the end of their rope because they’ve tried so long to please others and they realize now they can’t do it anymore
- running from love because they are convinced that love cannot reach them, that God demands too much
- with childhood wounds they have pushed down for so long but find they can’t anymore
- in a difficult marriage where one partner has done such harm and inflicted such pain that they’re not sure there’s a way forward
What can I do? I want so badly to take them to Ephesians 3 and remind them that God loves them with a love that is wide and long and high and deep. He went to the cross for them and nothing that they do or don’t do is going to keep him from loving them.
But how do I tell them when Paul himself says this love is unknowable?
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:19
Paul doesn’t mean for us to simply know a fact. He wants us to lay hold of this truth so as to make it our own and take possession of it. He wants us to be sure of it and feel it. To experience it. This is the intimate knowing between a husband and wife. God wants us to know his love very intimately.
But this love he wants us to experience exceeds our understanding. Surpass means “to transcend, excel or exceed as in throwing over and beyond.” Yesterday I saw Michelle Carter throw the shot put over and beyond to win the gold at the Rio Olympics. Paul is saying that knowing God’s love exceeds our knowledge. So if we cannot know it, why does he pray that we would know it?
Because he wants us to be filled—perfect or complete—to the brim, through all our being, into every nook and cranny. This is the same word that is used in Colossians 2:10: I him you have been made complete and in Philippians 4:18–19: I am amply supplied, now that I have received…the gifts you sent…And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
And he wants us to be filled with all the completeness and abundance of God. The Amplified version translates Paul’s desire this way: so you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself.
Paul repeats this theme in Ephesians 4:13: until we all…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Paul is praying that we will experientially know God’s love which actually exceeds our knowing. The goal is that we would be filled through all our being with the abundance of God and be made complete. His presence flooding me means that I am not lacking anything, not wanting anything. I am complete as in James 1:4: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
So to summarize Paul’s prayer: When my roots go deep into Christ, he gives me the power to grasp Christ’s love. But the purpose of the Christ’s dwelling in me and for my being rooted and grounded in love is so that I can have the power to know. Know God’s love. Know the impossible. He dwells in me to empower me to experience what is impossible to know—HIM and particularly his love—its breadth and length and height and depth—and to be filled with God himself.
This is what I want to tell my hurting ones: Our culture tells you that your soul mate (or your comfort, reputation, control, safety, comfort) will complete you. But that is a lie. Despite your material, physical and relational lacks—you can still be full—full of God himself! With the power of his Spirit working in you, you can know it, feel it, touch it, be sure of and experience deep within yourselves so that you are complete, so that you know He is enough!
And so we conclude our study with Paul’s benediction:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:20–21
NOTE: Since this is a very spiritual work, it is hard to explain how to know God’s love but I will offer a few suggestions. First, pray. As Paul demonstrates, pray to know God’s love. Next explore the reasons I outlined in the Cup Illustration as to why you may not be able to receive God’s love and then do the work required for healing. Then compile a list of God’s love verses and have them at your fingertips always. And finally, make a playlist of love songs that can minister to your heart whenever you feel a lack of love. One I am currently listening to is Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson.