"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV).
I recall exactly where I was standing many years ago when an extremely simple, yet profound truth suddenly dawned on me as I said to myself, "The reason I felt empty inside is because I am."
Like thousands of other kids I grew up suffering from love-deprivation and for a big part of my life worked tirelessly to gain approval, not realizing that I was substituting this for the love I yearned for deep inside.
Approval can look very much like love. It can be given in love but it isn't love, and when substituted for love it never satisfies.
Approval is based on what we do, but we need to feel loved and affirmed for who we are. Approval is a good thing when given and received for the right reasons, but when substituted for love it can become another addiction to anesthetize the pain of not feeling loved. It can be like a drug. The more we get, the less it satisfies, so the more we seek after it.
Affirmation is based on who we are apart from what we do. And only when we feel affirmed, can we get off the merry-go-round of doing all sorts of things to get approval.
More than anything else we need to know God the Heavenly Father's love and affirmation at the very core of our being. This, I believe, is one of the greatest needs of every human heart, without which we may believe in God with our head but still feel disconnected from him in our heart.
And how can I know God the Father's love and affirmation at the core of my being? First, by believing that God loves me because his Word says so and taking this by faith. Second, by sharing my total self over time (especially my dark side) with one or two safe, trusted friends who—knowing the real me—will love and accept me just as I am—warts and all. As they do this for me, little by little I come to love and accept myself in a healthy way and, in so doing, I feel affirmed and am able to open myself to accepting God the Father's love, acceptance and affirmation through them.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me a friend or two with whom I can be totally open and honest, friends who know me and will love me still, and through whom I can feel and know your love and affirmation at the very core of my being. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."