Painful Love

Written by: Jody Mugford

“And now these three things remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13:13

What do you think of when you think of love?  I’m sure everyone reading this could respond with a different example.  When I think of love, I often envision a sense of peace.  I think of an emotion that brings me joy and contentment.  I think of a person I want to spend time with and who brings fulfillment to my life.  There are many more examples of love but these are the initial thoughts that come to mind for me.

Throughout my life I struggled a lot with God’s definition of love.  I had a hard time bridging the gap between the “angry Old Testament God” and the “loving and compassionate New Testament God”.  Further studying of the bible as a whole has opened my eyes to the amazing story of God’s love woven throughout all of scripture.  The entire book is a love letter to humanity.  He’s the same God from beginning to end.  It’s amazing, breathtaking and undeniable!

My latest lessons on love have brought me face to face with some of my greatest fears and insecurities: the perseverance of love, the resilience of love…the pain of love.  You see, I am an “all or nothing” type of person.  When I am passionate about something, I am all in, all the way but if I’m out, I’m out.  When things get really hard, my default reaction is to get out.  I can retreat and shut down on others, even my closest loved ones.  The pain that comes from being hurt by a loved one or watching one of my loved ones suffer is almost more than I can bear and I will withdraw into self-preservation mode.  In the past, when my friends were hurting, I have sometimes separated myself from their pain.  When my husband was struggling with a challenge, I have become impatient and tried to solve it for him.  I have even given my toddler the cold shoulder once or twice…oh dear…. But that is not Godly love!  God wants us to love each other in every circumstance, from joy to sorrow.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15

Rejoicing with others in the good times?  Sure, I’m on board!  Let’s party!  Weeping with those who weep?  That is harder.  This requires us to enter into another person’s sorrow.  Their pain becomes our pain.  They hurt so we hurt.  This is not an easy thing to do and, for many of us, it is downright terrifying!  The survivalist in me wants to pull away, especially since I’m still fragile, recovering from my own major life crisis and its subsequent pain.  However, God reminds me that it is BECAUSE we have walked through excruciating times, we know all the more the need to reach out to those who are broken.

Friends, God is calling us out from our own comfortable spaces.  He’s asking us to extend a hand to those around us that are hurting and hopeless.  He wants us to let our guards down and open up!  To let others into our world and us into theirs.  We are not meant to be islands and fight the good fight alone.  We need to carry each other and He, in turn, carries us all.

My simple challenge to us all (myself included) is to start stepping out more in love and compassion.  Don’t do it as a good deed to check off your list.  Let’s pray that God would soften our hearts and fill us with His love for others.  Ask Him to take the scales off our eyes so we can see people the way He does.  Then take the next step and call a friend, maybe one that God lays on your heart specifically.  And a little while later, call them again.  Ask them to go for coffee or invite them over for supper. Don’t worry about saying the right or wrong things.  God will give you the words at the time.  Maybe all that’s required of you is to listen.  Allow yourself to become invested in their wellbeing.  Check up on them regularly.  Pray FOR them and pray WITH them.  Love them.  And as time passes, keep loving them.

Where would we be if God hadn’t loved us like that?  He could have left us to our sinful fate but instead Jesus entered this world, lived among us and took on our pain.  He did it the slow, raw and true way.  No shortcuts.  Real pain.  Real example.  Real love.

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  John 4:9-12

Love and blessings,