“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

C.S. Lewis writes, “God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.” Have you ever felt guilt that you just didn’t love God enough? Does it sometimes make you feel uneasy when you hear or sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full on His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” Maybe as you sing those words, “the things of earth” don’t grow dim. In fact, maybe you can’t conjure up an image of Jesus’ face at all. Maybe all you see is a kaleidoscope of culturally influenced images of Jesus that blur into nonsense.

We tend to berate ourselves for lack of love for God and others. We understand that love is our calling as Christians. But Lewis gets at something very important here. We are to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who brings God’s love in His own time and way—but we ourselves can’t conjure it up. We can only beseech God to provide it; for true love must come from Him. “Christian love, whether toward God or towards man, is an affair of the will,” Lewis writes. “If we are trying to do His will, we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love as he pleases. We cannot create them of ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement