Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's Hard to Love

"Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7 
Every day I say the words, “I love you.”  I dearly love my children and my husband.  Of course it is a little bit more challenging to show love to those who are more un-loveable and with whom I don’t have a close relationship, but I know we should always seek to do that because the Scriptures tell us to.  Today, however, as I was reading the familiar “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians, it made me realize how bad I am at showing love to others, even those I do love dearly.  If I have trouble really loving those closest to me, I know I am struggling with loving those who are harder to love.  Look at 1 Corinthians with me, and ask yourself if you are struggling with loving others too. 
Love is patient
  • Ouch.  The first definition of love is convicting for me.  As Americans, we are known for our less-than-patient attitude.  I get impatient at my three year old for taking so long to get out of the car.  I can feel my blood boiling as he takes his precious time unbuckling his seat belt and stopping to admire a toy he found, and tripping over his shoe laces as he climbs out the door.  No joke-this happens multiple times a day.  And, I get the same exasperated look on my face and make the same sigh and tell him to “hurry up, please.” This is definitely not loving patiently.
And kind
  • Do I display kindness throughout my day?  Am I looking for opportunities where people could be in need of a helping hand?  Or, do I see someone in need and pretend that I don’t notice because I don’t want to be inconvenienced?
Love is not jealous
  • This one can come out when you least expect it.  I try not to look at others and want things that they have. I try to be content with what I have.  But, what about when someone else gets acknowledged for something in which I don’t get acknowledged?  Someone else gets praise for spending a lot of time on an event that I spent even more time planning, but I didn't get the praise for it?  Do I sulk and get mad that I didn't get credit, or do I participate in praising the person for their hard efforts as well?  Or, have you ever been around people who just always seem to get it right?  They must be overflowing with compliments all the time.  So, you don’t compliment them because you think they already get enough of those.  I’m learning that this is usually rooted in jealousy.  Because I’m jealous that I’m not the one who is good at everything, I’m hesitant to compliment the person who is.  What a sad way to live. I want to celebrate with others when they accomplish something, even if they seem to always get it right.  By celebrating with them, I get to share in their excitement instead of wallowing in jealousy. 
Or boastful or proud
  • The other day I was talking with someone about why women gossip. It’s easy to say we just want to vent or get advice, but I think the main reason we gossip is so that we can feel better about ourselves.  By bashing someone else, we feel better about ourselves. By putting down others and their decisions, we puff ourselves up.  This is not love.  This is pride…at the expense of others.
Or rude
  • When we’re having a bad day, sometimes it just all comes to a head right when our husbands walk in the door from work.  Instead of greeting him with a smile and asking him how his date went, it’s easy to offer a rude remark and give him a list of things in which you need his help.  This is not showing love towards my husband. 
It does not demand its own way
  • I am a bit of a planner.  When I take the time to plan something, I have expectations that it will happen, and when things don’t go as planned, it’s really hard for me to accept.  While some people never make plans and never have expectations, this can be harder for those of us who do make plans.  When things get thrown off course, how will I react?  Will I pitch a fit because things did not go the way I envisioned, or will I make the best of the change in plans?  God is really growing me in this area right now because it seems like none of my plans are turning out the way I expected.  Sometimes it’s just out of our control, and we can learn to accept that or we can choose to be a person no one likes to be around (and NOT display love because love does not demand its own way). 
It is not irritable
  • I’d love to just skip right over this one, but that’s probably the very reason it’s in here.  It’s so refreshing to be around a calm and content person. I feel like you always know what you’re going to get because they’re always relaxed and at ease.  I am not wired that way.  I am a very reactive person and my emotions are constantly fluctuating. For some of us, we just have to work a little bit harder to NOT let our emotions control us.  After all, God gave us these emotions and these emotions are what allow us to feel and experience life.  It’s okay to experience different emotions, but we can’t let them dictate our behavior.  I love this quote from Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst:
“Feelings are indicators, not dictators, child. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift from Jesus called self-control!”
So, when our emotions are all over the place, we can decide if we are going to allow them to control us or not.  I do not want to be a moody person.  I don’t want my husband to questions what kind of woman he is going to come home to.  By reigning in my emotions, I am showing love. 
It keeps no record of being wronged
  • My dad always jokes that women have “steel-trap memories.” We can remember minute details that men usually cannot recall. When I think back to my first date with my husband, I can remember everything in detail…what we were wearing, what we talked about, the things that I thought about after our date was over, etc.  My husband, on the other hand, is doing well to remember anything about our first date.  So, when a disagreement arises, it can be easy for women to pull up the past, reminding others of their faults.  But, love is not supposed to keep a record of being wronged. How can we make it a practice not to pull up the past, but to truly put the past in the past? Is there someone with whom you are still holding a grudge? Who do you need to forgive?
It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out
  • Sin is wrong and an unjust.  What sins do we try to cover up or make light of when we know we should forsake them?  Are we watching tv shows or movies that are filling our minds with junk?  Are we dressing seductively to be noticed by others?  This is not love.  Love seeks to love righteousness and truth. 
Love never gives up, never loses faith
  • What happens when life gets hard?  Do you blame God?  Do you question His goodness?  When bad things happen in life, Satan wants to use these moments to get us off track and to make us take our eyes off of Jesus.  I had a major health scare in my life about a year ago, and this past year has been filled with emotional ups and downs.  It scares me to think about leaving my children behind, and I tell God that.  I want to have the opportunity to be their mom and to serve alongside my husband, but I must choose to cling to God even in uncertainties. It doesn't mean we’ll understand everything that’s going on, but it means that we won’t give up because our love for Christ compels us to trust Him. 
Is always hopeful
  • As Christians, we have hope!  We take this for granted everyday when we grumble and complain.  It’s like we just forget about the hope that we have and instead focus on our problems.  I love this quote from Ann Voskamp:
“Unless we are intentional about giving God glory throughout the day, our days unintentionally give way to grumbling.”
Are we celebrating our hope by intentionally giving God glory throughout the day or are we allowing life’s circumstances to cloud our hope?
Endures through everything
  • Do we really love others with this kind of love…a love that will endure through everything?  What is God asking you to do right now?  Maybe you’re married to someone who is far away from Christ, maybe they are suffering with an addiction to alcohol or pornography or maybe they've even had an affair.  What is God asking you to do through this?  I am not saying you should continue living with someone who is working through these things, but I do think that sometimes we are just looking for an excuse or a way out instead of looking for love. Love endures….it stands strong, even when it is wronged or mistreated.  How is God asking you to endure? 
Love. One word. So much meaning.  So much conviction.  Each day I am convicted of how I am not loving to the fullest, loving the way Scripture defines love.   Conviction is good because it helps us see where we are not living for Christ and He can show us how to love others better...with His love. How can you grow in the way you love others?

Love is what sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world.  It is more important than faith and hope.  Read what else 1 Corinthians says about love:

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance...three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love."

-1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13

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