Christians love because of who God is, but also (this is the second of the three reasons St. John gives in 1 John 4:7-12) because of what God has done. Verses 9 and 10 state: “By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Do you want to know if God loves you? Look at the cross of Christ. It is the definitive revelation of love. If you look at your circumstances and everything is going well, you will believe that God loves you—today. But tomorrow, when your circumstances have changed and everything is not well, you will have doubts. Instead of focusing on your circumstances, look to the only begotten Son, hanging on a cross, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. “In this is love.”
Brennan Manning was sitting in a foxhole in Korea with this best friend and fellow Marine Ray Brennan. These guys had grown up in Brooklyn together, double-dated together, entered the Marines together, and got deployed together. And here they were in a foxhole together, Brennan reminiscing about the good old days in Brooklyn and Ray eating a candy bar.
And then it happened. A grenade landed in the hole next to them. Ray smiled at his friend, dropped his candy bar, and threw himself on the grenade. It exploded but Brennan was saved.
When Brennan, who at that time went by Richard, later took holy orders, he was instructed to take a saint’s name. He took Ray’s last name; that’s how he became Brennan. Years later, he went to visit Ray’s mom. They sat up late one night talking and at some point, Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?”
She shot up off the couch and stood in front of him, shaking her finger in his face and shouting, “What more could he had done for you?”
When we doubt God’s love, the cross shouts at us, “What more could he have done for you?” In this is love, not in our circumstances but in God sending “his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Your circumstances will try to drown out the cry of the cross. They will shout at you, “You are not loved. You don’t matter. You are nothing.” You don’t want to listen to that ugly, croaking voice, but you can’t help hearing it.
It’s only when you look at the cross of Jesus that you begin to hear a different voice. Have you ever been in a room with lots of noise, and someone is talking to you, but you can’t quite make out what she is saying over the din? Then you look at her and, like magic, you can hear what she is saying. That is what happens when we look at the cross of Christ. The din is still going on, but suddenly you can hear what God is saying. He is saying, “Yes, I love you.”
 Adapted from James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God (IVP, 2009), p. 142