When I was younger and less learned, I used to view God as a somber, harsh taskmaster who required a certain behavior and was quick to punish any mistake on our part. I was quick to blame Him for everything that went wrong in my days, and never gave Him credit or thanks when those wrong things led to positive results, nor when good things happened; for those things I gave the credit to myself or to good fortune. At the time, it seemed to me that God took a special pleasure in angering me, disappointing me or depressing me. How really stupid I was, and yet I thought I knew it all.
After I finally received the atonement God had provided for me in Christ, understood how Jesus had made peace between sinners and God and began to accept that peace with God, I started to realize how much God loved me and how wrong I had been about Him. I learned of His love for me from the writings of His faithful prophets, who recorded it for me to be able to read. I learned from the firsthand writings of eye witnesses to His gift of His only Son, Who had been with Him at creation, to become a man, teach men about the true God and to become a sacrifice for the sins of all those throughout time who would be reconciled to God. I learned through personal experience and answered prayer how great His love for me was and how ever present and faithful He was in my life. I could look back at my life and see His patient, guiding hand in so many things that should have worked out for the worse, but had instead worked out for the better. I began to understand that He loved me and He wanted me to love Him. But in my heart, I just really didn't.
We have to understand that our hearts are truly treacherous. Men who follow their heart's desires without much questioning inevitably live a life that leads from one dissappointment to another, chasing their heart's desires only to be let down when the moment of attainment passes and the heart grows quickly cold for the thing it desired so powerfully before it was attained. If we are not careful, our hearts can grow cold even to the people that are most dear to us. We have to take control of our hearts and help to remind and rekindle the love that should be there in the first place. Perhaps we do that by regularly telling our loved ones that we love them, by watching them when they don't realize they are being watched and considering the little things about them that made us love them in the first place, by taking time to hug and kiss them, by lingering and looking at them as they sleep so peacefully, and by doing the little things every day that make our lives together better. Our minds have to become the "pack leader", so to speak, of our treacherous heart and keep them aimed at what is good and pure and longlasting.
A few weeks back I was at work, and I was instant messaging with my wife about some trivial matter like the grocery list or some such thing. At the end of our IM communication sessions, we always send each other little "xoxoxoxo"s, little virtual hugs and kisses. Well, when I sent my series of x's and o's, she replied that she wanted real ones. Later that night I asked her what she meant and she pointed out that she wanted some real, unhurried, face-to-face hugs, and kisses on the lips. You see, it's easy for me to get in a rut, to rush out the door on my way to work and just give her a quick hug and peck on the forehead, to come home, tell her supper was good, watch a little TV, go to bed and just before falling asleep, just say "I love you". But that's not enough for her, nor for my heart. She needs to be reminded about my love for her, and it's not hard to do, it's in the little things like an unhurried hug and a kiss. Likewise, my heart needs to be reminded that she is beloved to me, by me taking the time to remind myself why I love her and by telling her and everybody else that I love her, that she is dear to me, and all of those little things I mentioned above. And I have to make sure I keep her on a pedestal in my heart, unsullied by any past bad memories or perceived wrongs, special and dearly beloved.
It's similar with God. There again, our heart is treacherous. We know how much He loves us, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know how poor and insufficient our love for Him is. Sometime last year I was listening to this guy on the radio talking about this. He, like me, had grown to understand and appreciate how immeasurable God's love is for him, and he, like me, was ashamed and disappointed that his own heart did not respond with more love toward God. He said he began to tell God at least one reason he loved God in his prayers, so that his heart would hear and the love would be kindled. "Dear Lord, I love you for your mercy." "Dear Lord, I love you for the beautiful day this morning." And so on. The man reported that after doing that consistently for a while, his heart began to awaken with more love toward God, because he began to realize in detail how thankful he was for God. He testified that it had worked for him, so I decided to try his tip.
Dear Lord, I love you for patiently leading me to trust in You.
Dear Lord, I love for for guiding all things in my life for good.
Dear Lord, I love you for giving me a good wife.
Dear Lord, I love you for my son.
Dear Lord, I love you for giving my son a good wife.
Dear Lord, I love you for giving me such loving grandchildren.
And you know what, I'm discovering that I really do love God. A lot!
Dear Lord, I love you because You first loved me...
I waited patiently for the Lord;
and He inclined to me,
and heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a Rock,
and established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth -
Praise to our God;