The Signs of Love for God by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

But let us see what the signs of love for God are, so that we may not have a false dream of love instead of love itself. In nothing does a man deceive himself so much as in love. The signs of this love are:

1. God Himself indicates this, saying, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (Jn. 14:21). For the true lover of God will preserve himself from everything that is repugnant to God, and hastens to fulfil everything that is pleasing to God. Wherefore he keeps His holy commandments. From this it follows that those Christians that neglect the commandments have no love for God. Such are the malicious and those that harm others in any way. Such are the profligate, adulterers and all defilers. Such are robbers, bandits, thieves, and all those that unjustly appropriate the goods of others. Such are slanderers and those that curse others. Such are the sly, the crooked, the guileful, deceivers and hypocrites. Such are sorcerers and those that call on them. Such are all evildoers. All such love neither the Law of God nor God himself. They love themselves and their own appetites, but not God or His holy Law.

2. A manifest sign of love for God is a heartfelt gladness in God, for we rejoice in what we love. Likewise love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God. For so sweet a virtue as love cannot be felt without joy. As honey sweetens our throat when we taste of it, so the love of God makes our heart glad when we taste and see that the Lord is good (LXX-Ps. 33:9 [KJV-Ps. 34:8]). Such joy in God is found in many places in Holy Scriptures, and is portrayed most of all in the holy Psalms. This joy is spiritual and heavenly, and is a foretaste of the sweetness of eternal life.

3. The true lover of God disdains the world and all that is in the world, and strives toward God, his most beloved. He counts honor, glory, riches, and all the comforts of this world which the sons of this age seek, as nothing. For him only God, the uncreated and most beloved good, suffices. In Him alone he finds perfect honor, glory, riches and comfort. For him God alone is the pearl without price, for the sake of which he holds everything else as little. Such a one desires nothing in heaven or on earth besides God. Such love is portrayed in the very words of the Psalter, "For what have I in heaven? And besides Thee what have I desired upon earth? My heart and my flesh have failed, O God of my heart, and God is my portion forever" (LXX-Ps. 72:25 [KJV-Ps. 73:25]). He uses food, drink, clothing, and everything else only as needful, and not for sensual pleasure.

From this it follows that whoever loves the world does not love God. According to the witness of the Apostle, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:15). Such are those that find pleasure only in the pride and pomp of this world, in rich homes, in rich carriages, in rich tables, in dressing in rich clothing, to be glorified and admired by all, and so on. Such people love the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 Jn. 2:16) which are all repugnant to God, but they do not love God.

4. The true lover of God keeps God ever in mind, and His love toward us and His benefactions. We see this even in human love, for we often remember the one we love. So whoever loves God remembers Him, thinks of Him, and finds consolation in Him, and is enrapt in Him. For wherever his treasure is, there his heart is also (Mt. 6:21). To him the priceless and most beloved treasury is God. Therefore his heart also holds itself inseparably before Him. Whence it is that he also remembers His holy name often and with love. For the heart filled with the love of God reveals outward signs of love. From this we see that those who forget God do not love Him, for forgetfulness is a manifest sign of no love for God. The lover can never forget his beloved.

5. One who loves, desires never to be separated from the one he loves. Many Christians desire to be with Christ the Lord when He is glorified, but they do not wish to be with Him in dishonor and reproach, nor to carry their cross. They entreat Him that they may come into His Kingdom, but they do not wish to suffer in the world, and thereby they show that their heart is not right and that they do not truly love Christ. And to tell the truth, they love themselves more than Christ. For this reason the Lord says, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Mt. 10:38). A true friend is known in misfortune. He is our true friend and one who loves us who does not forsake us in misfortune. Likewise the true lover of Christ is he who abides with Christ in this world, and cleaves to Him in his heart, and uncomplainingly endures the cross with Him, and desires to be with Him inseparably in the age to come. Such a one says unto Christ, "It is good for me to cleave unto God" (LXX-Ps. 72:28 [KJV-Ps. 73:28]).

6. A sign of the love of God is love for neighbor. He who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. He who loves the lover loves what is loved by him. The source of love for neighbor is love for God, but the love of God is known from love for neighbor. Hence it is apparent that he who does not love his neighbor does not love God either. As the Apostle teaches, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (1 Jn. 4:20-21). These are the signs of love for God hidden in the heart of a man.

Dear Christians, let us repent and turn away from the vanity of the world, and cleanse our hearts with repentance and contrition, that the love of God may abide in us. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 Jn. 4:16).

Why Should we Love God?

God is the supreme good from Whom every good thing flows, and all blessing that is and ever shall be.

Without God all blessedness is cursedness and woe, life is death, joy and sweetness are bitterness. To live with God is happiness in misfortune, riches in poverty, glory in dishonor, and consolation in sorrow. Without God there cannot be true repose, peace and consolation.

Therefore love Him as your supreme good and blessedness, love Him above every creature, above father and mother, above wife and children, and above your own self. Cleave to Him alone in your heart, and above all, desire Him alone because He is your eternal good and blessedness without Whom there is neither life or blessedness in this age or the next.

Every creature of God is good, but their Creator is incomparably better. Love, then, and desire that good as it is existent, without beginning, without end, everexistent, and without change, from Whom all creatures are created good.

from: Journey to Heaven Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004.