Love. Such a simple, beautiful, easy-to-say word. We hear it at birth, but do not understand it. We feel it when protected and cared for by our parents. We say it as we grow into teens, trying out relationships for the first time. We express it in a myriad of ways throughout our lives. Yet, what do we really know about love? It’s easy to say, but not always easy to do. Our actions express what we really mean, because they stem from our heart. And love is a heart issue.
The greatest love we will ever know is that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is because of the love He showed through His great sacrifice that we are able to love. Without Him, we would know no love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
At the center of love is the ability to abound in many areas. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
We can only pray that we can fulfill these values in our relationships. At some point we will be called on to demonstrate these ideals. It is never a challenge when the other person we are “loving” is fulfilling our every expectation. Yet, what happens when they fail to live up to the standards we set? What happens when the relationship boundaries are tested and you are called upon to exhibit love?
A broken promise, a disagreement, a betrayal of trust, or other areas where your ability to forgive is tested, may deem a person unworthy to love. You trusted your heart to them and believed in them in ways you have never believed in another. Unfortunately, they let you down and failed to take care of your heart. Fear sets in, along with anxiety, despair, hopelessness, and possibly depression. To protect your heart and guard your life’s plans, you shut them out. You push them away because they are not deserving of the beauty within you.
This attitude will cause you to lose your salvation. At the root of this unwillingness to love is a failure to forgive. And if you cannot forgive those who wound you, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you (Matthew 6:15). You cannot walk around, stating you love Christ, when you fail to love those who you believe are undeserving of love. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
At times, we are stuck in a place where it’s difficult to love those we believe to be undeserving of love. As painful memories rear their ugly head, the hurt associated with the experience accommodates the memories. You’re steeped in the agony of heartache and cannot fathom how to move forward.
An important step in moving forward is focusing on your relationship with the Lord. My Pastor, Dr. Richard Leaphart, recently taught us that when your vertical relationship with your Heavenly Father is in alignment, then your horizontal relationships are reflective of that. This is not because of our own might or belief in our abilities. My husband, Marvin Ramsey, Sr., often says it’s because we’re walking in His Spirit and we’re choosing to “believe in Who you say you believe in.”
Learning to love through challenges requires that you know yourself. Being honest about your limitations reveals your need to rely on the Lord. For example, my impatience requires me to rely on His guidance in certain conversations. If someone hurts me and wants to apologize, on my own, I don’t have patience to hear their perspective. Yet, with Jesus, I can listen with an open heart. Later, I open my heart for Him to do a great work in me.
Choosing to love someone who hurts you requires you to set expectations on the relationship. Confront the matter by communicating how you were hurt and acknowledging the impact of their actions. Explain to them what you need in order to move forward in the relationship.
Most importantly, knowing yourself is understanding that love lies within you. It’s not about the person, the situation, or anything else. It’s only about your Heavenly Father and knowing that His love is real and exists inside you.
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