The deep love of Jesus is heaven of heavens, but what do you do when it feels distant?

I’m sitting at the beach, writing in my journal as my husband and kids play in the surf.

The guys started the morning looking for shark teeth. My girl started out reading a book in the chair next to me.

But there is something about an incoming tide that is hard to resist. Shark tooth screens and book now lie discarded on the sand. I watch my family holding hands, holding one another up as the tide rolls in and tries to steal their feet out from under them. Their laughter rolls out in response, drifting back to where I sit and watch and ponder.

The water comes in and covers the beach and then rolls once more, leaving shells and seaweed behind. Only to do it all over again, and again and again

The tide changes its direction, varies in its force and intensity, but the water itself never changes. It can always be found. At high tide it pursues me. At low tide I must walk out to find it.

In the evening the tide recedes as we walk along the shore and look for shells and other treasures. This year my girl and I find a piece of fossilized coral and marvel over the feel of it, smooth and heavy in our hands.

My boy and I have been reading about barnacles and how they close up tight during low tide and open up again during high tide to feed. Crabs and fish depend on high tide to bring prey close. There is a purpose in the rhythm of the sea.

As I watch the water roll in I think of how God’s love toward us can feel like the tide. Sometimes his love seems to pursue us and we can’t help but see and feel it all around us.

Sometimes the force of his love is so powerful it nearly overwhelms us. At times we stand firm and receive that love with joy. At others, it is so great it lays us low, literally taking our breath away.

At other times God’s love seems far away. We see the horizon, we know his love is there, but it looks like we’d have to walk far, far out to find it. Between us and that love are rocks and patches of quicksand. We wonder if it is worth it to venture far enough to find that spot where sand and water meet: How long will we have to walk? What will we have to clamber over to get there?

And yet, it is in those walks that we discover things of beauty: life swarming in tidepools, beautiful shells left behind, starfish and other creatures who were hidden under the water’s surface. And when we finally reach the water it is gentle. We can dip our toes in and easily follow as it ebbs and flows.

God’s love always is. But his love is not always received or felt in the same way. Sometimes I know it with all my senses: I feel it and hear it, I can touch it and even smell its fragrance.

At other times, I see his love far off and wonder if it is really for me. But if I will step out in faith to seek it, I often find treasures along the way. There is beauty in the journey itself as friends or family lovingly choose to journey along with me, pointing out beautiful things I might not see on my own, or hold me up when I stumble or grow weary. Beauty is found as God helps me take my eyes off myself and see small but meaningful gifts in a sunset or my children’s laughter. Hebrews 6:11 promises that when we “draw near to God and believe that he exists . . . he rewards those who seek him.” That reward is felt when I finally reach his love and it meets me gently, washing over me with tenderness.

Lord, your love doesn’t always come to us in the same way. But it always is. May I learn to receive it with joy, even when it overwhelms. May I trust in it, even when it seems far away. May I be reminded daily of the beautiful truth of these words:

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me

Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To your glorious rest above

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus
‘Tis heaven of heavens to me
And it lifts me up to glory
For it lifts me up to thee

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread his praise from shore to shore
How he loves us, ever loves us,
Changes never, nevermore