Every little girl dreams of having a loving father and mother who make her feel safe and secure. She pictures a beautiful home with a white picket fence where she is treated like a princess. But when this isn’t her reality, something happens within the child. Her heart shatters, and she goes through life seeking the love she should have gotten at home in other places.

I know, because it happened to me. I was desperate for the love, acceptance, and validation of my mother. I wanted to hear, just once, “I love you. I’m proud of you.” Hearing those words would have meant everything to me, but they never came.

Rejected by my mother, I bought into the lie that I must be unlovable. From what I could tell, I was either not pretty enough or not gifted enough to earn my mother’s love, and nothing I could do would change that.

This mindset started by the time I was five, and it followed me into adulthood. It made me easy to manipulate and control, and it led me to do many regrettable things that have brought much pain.

At every new instance of rejection, self-hatred sank its roots deeper into my heart and mind. I blamed myself for everything that happened to me, including the sexual abuse I could not escape as a child, the rape I experienced as a teen, and the physical abuse I allowed as an adult.

I remember watching my stepfather adopt my sister and thinking, “I must have done something wrong—Mom doesn’t want him to adopt me too.” I was sure I was the one at fault, and God must be punishing me for my evil deeds.

It took a demonic encounter at my mother’s deathbed to help me realize the truth of who God really was. He wasn’t a distant, angry God happily sending painful events my way. He was a God of love.

My mother was at a nursing home, and she was dying. I knew my time with her was short, and I desperately needed her to validate me as her daughter. So I rushed to her bedside, bent down close to her face, and started crying out to her. I told her how sorry I was for not being the daughter she wanted me to be. I begged her to forgive me, and repeatedly told her how much I loved her.

I knew she couldn’t answer me, but I hoped there would be some motion—perhaps a wave of the hand, smile, hug, or blink of the eye— that would indicate she did indeed care for me. But there was no response from her. My heart broke all over again.

I’ve often heard people talk about how their loved one peacefully passed away from this world. This was not the case in my mother’s death. I cannot imagine a more horrific transition from earth to eternity. It was a violent struggle until the end. A demonic presence even appeared and knocked me off the bed onto the floor. You can believe I was frightened out of my mind!

I had never thought much about the afterlife or heaven or hell. Just the mention of God or church was taboo in our home. But this event left an impression that I will never forget.

My mind was haunted by what I had seen. The demonic presence I’d encountered there tormented me for months. The only way I could think of to stop my anguish was to end my own life. I did not want to die, but neither did I want to live in my current state of torment.

But I did not know where I would go after this life, and that frightened me the most.

After an intense emotional struggle and a few failed attempts to take my life, I finally cried out to the One I was so sure hated me. Praise God, He met me in my pain and saved me. My salvation indeed came at the darkest moment in my life.

God revealed Himself to me, and His love broke through my pain and expelled the darkness that had attacked my mind. It’s hard to describe, but God’s love enveloped me and showed me the real enemy of my soul—Satan.

All those years, Satan had been the one out to destroy me (John 10:10). Not God. From early childhood, Satan had been using people and events to carry out his plan and, in my ignorance, I had blamed God. For so long, I had questioned God’s good nature. But God was not the source of my pain; He was the answer to it.

Suddenly, I knew God was good. And I knew He had forgiven me, even though at that moment, my life was heaped in gross sin. He was a God of mercy, and His mercy triumphed over the judgment I deserved (James 2:13). I thank God every day for His intervention.

I wish I could say, however, that my life has been perfect since that moment. It hasn’t.

My mind needed a lot of renewal. My fear of rejection was so deeply rooted, it had impacted every interaction I’d ever had. I had been performing my entire life in order to earn the love of people around me. As a new believer, I carried this mentality into my relationship with God.

I was deeply afraid my heavenly Father would reject and abandon me the same way my earthly parents had done. Satan didn’t want me to understand how truly deep and wide the love of God is for His children (Ephesians 3:18), nor did he want me to know that nothing could separate me from God’s love (Romans 8:35–39). Satan wanted me to believe I had to earn God’s love so that I would remain in a cycle of performing, instead of resting in what I already had. I didn’t yet understand that God’s love can’t be earned.

It’s taken me many years (and many tears) to learn to rest in God’s love. But today, I can finally look in a mirror and see who God sees—someone of value. I am free from the endless pursuit of love. I found it in Christ when I accepted the priceless gift of His love.

Seeking after someone’s love and affection is exhausting, and you know it. Worse, it’s fruitless. The reality is, some people aren’t able to love. They don’t have love to give.

That was the case with my mother. She carried her own heavy load of pain, anger, and bitterness, and that prevented her from loving me the way Christ intends for a mother to love her child. Chasing after her affirmation was an empty pursuit that ultimately kept me from the only One who could give me everything I needed and more (Ephesians 3:20).

I wonder—have you received the unconditional, never-ending love of God? Or are you still pursuing validation at any cost? It’s time to let go of the pursuit. Mankind might never love you the way you want to be loved, but God already loves you more than you can ever imagine.

The best part is, you don’t have to perform to earn God’s love. He receives you to Himself just the way you are. You can stop chasing the faulty love and approval of man and just rest in God’s perfect love. Move into an intimate relationship with Him and come to know Him by experience.

God’s love is eternal, and it heals all humanity’s ills. His love can bring even the most broken and damaged individual to a place of wholeness. No one is excluded. Not even you.