“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:11-12)
Driving down the highway, I voiced my frustrations to the Lord about a friend. I listed out criticisms and hurts, spilling out the entirety of my heart to Him.
Suddenly, a children’s song based on John 15 popped into my head–
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full.”
“OK, Lord,” I thought, frustrated at the simultaneous simplicity and difficulty of this directive. The character qualities of true love from 1 Corinthians began turning over, one by one, in my mind, and God reminded me once again:
Love is a choice.
It’s not a feeling; it’s a choice. Contrary to what our feelings-based culture says, love (benevolent kindness) something I can choose to give, or not.
Slowly, I began praying through the 1 Corinthians love list:
- patience– Lord, help me to have a long fuse and not be easily set off.
- kindness– Teach me to be gracious and good-willed toward her.
- not envious– Help me to celebrate her strengths rather than coveting them.
- not boastful/proud– Keep me from thinking I’m better than her.
- not rude– Help me to treat her as I want to be treated.
- not selfish– Increase my desire to meet her needs, rather than dwelling on my own “wants” in our friendship.
- not provoked– Enable me to endure frustrations and tenaciously choose to love her.
- not keep record of wrongs– I forgive her right now, Father, for the things I’ve been frustrated about. Help me not store up future things to be bitter about.
- doesn’t delight in evil/delights in the truth– Help me to share in her joys and never exult in her sorrows or hurts.
- Enable me to bear all things, to believe the best about her, to hope in You (not in her), and to endure all things, so that You can be exalted in our friendship.
As I prayed for her, and about my attitude toward her, I could feel love being cultivated in my heart.
This has happened before in other relationships too. It can even happen in our marriages, as the fluttery feelings wax and wane. Rather than believing that if it doesn’t come naturally, it can’t come at all, it’s amazing how God really can change our hearts when we choose to love .
In our love-is-a-feeling culture, we are fed the lie that we can “fall” in and out of love, but God’s Word continually commands us to love. He commands it because it is possible.
We can CHOOSE to love.
When we love according to His definition of love, our dependence on people and their performance diminishes, our love for others grows, and we become more like Christ Himself.
LOVE, LOVE ME DO
Recently, the kids and I were driving and a Beatles song came on, bringing with it an all-too-familiar mop-headed oversimplification of love and relationships. I turned down the volume and asked the kiddos, “what is love? How would you describe it to someone who didn’t know what it was?”
We had a great conversation about the misuse of the word, but settled on this definition (borrowing heavily from what I could remember from my former pastor, Brother Nick’s, teachings):
Love is a commitment of the will to continually do good to and for another person, regardless of what they do or don’t do for you.
It’s a hard thing to do… to really love. It’s not a feeling, and it’s not something you fall into as if by magic or chance. It is a chosen commitment to another person’s good.
Sister in Christ, we are not helpless captives of our feelings!
Though we do not always feel loving toward others, as believers, we can choose to love by kindly acting for the long-term good of the people around us, and praying for God to change our hearts. He is so faithful and can genuinely change our hearts to love at times when it seems impossible.
If you have a relationship where you are struggling to extend loving actions, or feel loving at all, I challenge you to pray and ask God to begin softening your heart. Pray through the list of 1 Corinthians 13 qualities of love… and begin acting in love toward that person.
Don’t believe the lie that you are a helpless captive to your feelings. Whether in a friendship, family relationship, or marriage, don’t believe the lie that once love is gone, it can not return.
Don’t believe the lie that love is merely a feeling.
We can choose to love, and God will change us from the inside out!