We are called to live differently. In a way that causes people to look upon us and say,
“How does he do that?” “Something is just…different about her.” Or, “I have no idea how they seem so at peace during such a painful time.”
It’s not to say we don’t feel pain or anger or fear or—any of that. We do. God equipped us with those emotions. However, we are simply to do something different with these emotions. We take them to God and He works in them. If stewarded correctly these feelings can be the precursor to bigger things. Righteous anger can morph into a ministry that serves the helplessly abused. Fear can lead us to total surrender to a trustworthy God, rather than away from Him. And pain might be the doorway through which we find faith, purpose and/or love.
What is it that makes us so different, you ask? What are we called to do differently?
As I read through His word in search of answers, I see something that I hadn’t ever seen before.
What I use to see in the Bible was:
Fear—and not the healthy kind, but the paralyzing kind. The kind that leads to hiding and lying and turning away.
I saw judgement. Not paired with mercy or grace. Just judgement, from a God high above. A distant God who expected far too much of me and didn’t understand most of me.
I saw a father, but not The Father. I gave Him my mind, but not my heart. I sent Him requests, but not my time. I kept Him on a shelf, not at my center.
Up until recently, God was separate. Here was life and science and relationships over here, and then God was over there, somewhere. Sometimes, they’d cross paths. But usually it was only when I needed help, guidance, answers, healing, or someone to talk to.
And then, one day, I felt so…empty. I believed in God, but I didn’t really know Him. I felt like there had to be more. There had to be more to life than just “be a better you,” and “find your happy.” There had to be more to God than just “say your prayers, be good, be kind and feed the poor.”
I couldn’t tell you what, but something was missing.
So, I opened the Book and dove in. As I read and studied and searched, my knowledge grew. My epiphany wasn’t sudden, but gradual and prolonged. Little by little, pieces were added to the puzzle and things became clearer. I found things I never knew were there. They weren’t hiding, I just wasn’t looking.
What I found was far different than what I’ve heard about Him.
What I found was…
In one of Lisa Harper’s studies, she said something so beautiful and true: “If you look at the Bible and don’t see a love story, read it again.”
His love is more than just the feel-good butterflies that we find in our honeymoon stages or in Hollywood rom-com’s. While we are called His bride as a church, God is also called our Father.
And a Father’s love, His love, “rejoices in truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). I believe this is crucial to understanding God’s love—remembering that love and truth are intertwined as one rope. Inseparable, dependent on the other.
To rejoice in truth sometimes means having to experience discipline, which—if done right—is a form of love. (Something I’ve been understanding more as I attempt to navigate raising two littles.)
His discipline says, “I love you so much that, when necessary, I will either refrain from giving you what you want or I might chastise you or I might stay quiet.” What starts as loss is often a pruning of sorts, which is necessary for healthy growth. With God, no pain is ever in vain, but always leads to some kind of gain.
And as believers who practice His love we should rejoice in His truth, even when it’s painful, because love without truth is nothing more than a comfortable, appealing lie. It would be like spending your entire savings on a gorgeous home, only to find out later that beneath the pretty paint, the expensive décor and the gorgeous flooring it’s riddled with harmful, out-of-budget damage.
We rejoice in truth also because it’s a process of growth. It means we are being molded by the Potter, our Father in Heaven, to become more like His Son. And in order to know the awesomeness of this, we must open His word and find out exactly who His Son is.
And so, we celebrate the pruning of our dead leaves and dying branches, even when it hurts beyond description. This is what truth in love does for us—it transforms us. And even when the truth is difficult to face and uncomfortable to reveal, we seek it and welcome it anyway, because God is truth.
Despite how destructive the truth may feel at the time, we believe that when the truth is given in love, then the little deaths of our false comforts is beyond worth the greater growth that follows.
Simply because we know that this is God’s way for us—to let go of the cozy deceptions, the life of zero confrontation, so that we may develop and display what is pure, true and lovely (Philippians 4:8).
But also, there’s something bigger than comfort in choosing this way, His way, for us. We sacrifice temporary, deceptive comfort for true, everlasting Peace. A Peace that supersedes human understanding (Proverbs 17:28), but also a Peace that is noticeable and causes others to ask,
“What is different about you?”
There is a Peace in His love, which allows us to be patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).
His love is never in a rush. It walks, it doesn’t sprint. Love waits (Psalm 27:14). Longer than comfort allows. It waits beyond the socially accepted amount of time, without a tapping foot or a huffing breath. Instead, His love smiles gently and just…
sits there. It doesn’t give up and it never goes away.
It cares about others’ feelings and thoughts as if they were one’s own. His love listens.
Like, really listens. Not the uh-huh‘s and head-nods I often give my children when they go off on illogical toddler rants, but an undistracted, unhurried and complete attention. Without any intent of being heard, and with every ounce of yearning to understand.
His love does not keep score. It doesn’t remember “that time when you did that thing.” It let’s all that go. It accepts as people are, while hoping beyond probability (1 Corinthians 13:5-7).
And it never gives up.
And His love isn’t about money or fame or pride. It’s not about being right, it’s not about what I can receive or even that lovely, satisfying feeling of knowing that I’m worthy of love.
But, His love is humble. It seeks neither recognition, nor reward. The only pre-requisite to receive His love is believing what His love conquered and that THAT somehow counted for me (John 20:31).
His love is “not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5) .
For me, this is the description that keeps blowing my mind. Because almost everything in our culture says, “Me.” In fact, everything me says “Me.”
Instagram says, “Look at me.” Advertisements are all about “what can I get. What do I want and need.” Even marriage is beginning to separate the union into two individuals who are looking for happiness and to be served first.
What I love about God is He’s a God of service. When He speaks of men being leaders in the home and the community, He doesn’t share society’s view of a dominating, unequal leadership. But, instead, leadership for God is all about service (Mark 9:35 & 10:45).
This is because His selfless, serving love is at the foundation of leadership. It’s at the foundation of everything. When we love with His love, we don’t need to be served in order to serve.
His love goes against so much of what culture teaches. What our bodies crave.
My flesh craves pleasure and validation and my name in lights. It craves immediate gratification, and that right-away kind of justice.
When I feel wronged, unheard, disobeyed by my children, betrayed by friends, let down by leaders…my initial reaction is to push people away, build a wall and demand an exact return for the wrong done unto me.
I have to remember, He is the one in charge of pressing charges (Leviticus 19:18; Hebrews 10:30).
He will handle it, and my job in the meantime is simply: to love (Matthew 22:37-40).
His love says to those offenders: “I see what you did. I’ve heard your words and felt the pain you’ve wanted to inflict. And yet, I still love you. I always will. All you have to do for my love is call my Son “Savior,” and to believe it.
He doesn’t build walls, but builds bridges over them. Sometimes, right through ‘em.
His love is what tears down the walls, what allows us to forgive. Not just once, but endlessly. No matter how bad the hurt or how many times someone has wronged us or whether that person has apologized, His love leads us to total forgiveness. Because that’s what He’s given for us.
We forgive, because He’s forgiven us (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).
“We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
When we love with His love, we believe in the best in one another. It believes anything is possible and that no one is too lost to be loved.
When the world takes,
His Love says, what else do you need?
When the world says get them back,
His Love says, Here’s some food for your way home.
When the world says, they don’t deserve it.
Instead, Love says, don’t give according to what we deserve, but what is needed.
And all we ever really need, the only right response in every situation is…
Because nothing rights a wrong like love. Nothing changes the world quite like God’s love.
It is this loving-kindness that softens hearts & breaks the cycle of revenge & liberates the addicted & heals the broken marriages & calls home the prodigal.
And the greatest thing? It never runs out. Love never says, “I have nothing left to give.” Instead, it says, “What else can I do for you?” Not reluctantly, but gladly.
When Love walks into the grocery store, its first thought is not “What do I need?” but, “Who needs the light of God’s love today?”
When our source of love is God and not dependent on man, we are able to serve Him and others beyond what feels humanly possible. This is because we aren’t seeking our own pleasure, but God’s—and from His source, not our own.
Not to please others, but to please Him.
Something I’m still learning how to do.
We love not to receive, but to do what God wants and to reflect His character for the sole purpose of expanding His kingdom. Witnessing His love in people is as close as we’ll ever get to seeing God’s face on this side of eternity (1 John 4:12).
Love is not to get, but to give.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16).
To love is to give.
The giving is never-ending, because His love is never-ending. Nothing can stop it. Nothing is impossible for His love. No amount of sin can turn His love away, so long as we believe in Him (Romans 8:38). Even as sin tried to put His Son to death, He didn’t leave us.
Instead, He died for the very same people who put Him to death and He loved them as they took His life.
On the cross, Love conquered Death itself. Love ended the thing that used to end all things. Death died along with Christ’s last Earthly breath, His resurrection and ultimately His ascension.
Nothing can extinguish God’s Love. Nothing can cover it or suppress it. It never burns out. Isn’t that INCREDIBLE?! Nothing is equal to or stronger than His Love. It is above ALL.
And when we receive His undeserved love, we want to share it. For others to feel it. His love should be the thing we are most excited to tell others about.
It leads us to share it in unreasonable proportions, so that when we are faced with an opportunity to hate, to avenge an injustice, to display our anger—instead we just love the crap out of those people.
So that as they squeeze their eyes shut and tense their jaws, expecting and preparing their bodies for a blow from your fists, or maybe as they build a wall around their hearts to protect from anticipated cutting, destructive words—instead they are knocked off their feet by the love and the grace of almighty God.
And it’s nothing like they’ve experienced ever before. Sweeter than honey, softer than silk, more fulfilling than Olive Garden’s endless salad and breadsticks.
They feel it and look up and think,
Something is different about her. Let me go find what she’s found.
His love is endless. And it is also fearless. When His love walks into a room, every single molecule of fear runs out (1 John 4:18). Like a light shining onto the shadows.
The thing about being in the light, though, is it’s a very vulnerable place to be. Everything is seen, nothing is hidden.
But, that’s okay.
Because in the presence of His perfect love, vulnerability has nothing to fear.
To be vulnerable is no longer a leap of hope, but a pre-requisite to His love. Our heart rests in His hands without worry, because we know that His perfect love is the safest place for it to be. To NOT be vulnerable is to NOT believe in His goodness, His grace and His love.
Fear doesn’t stand a chance in the presence of His love, because when we have a perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing Father who loves perfectly as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4 and following, we are able to trust Him without fear.
Because God’s got it. Love is not afraid to trust.
And His word tells us that whatever comes after trusting and jumping, we are held in the refuge, in the fortress of His loving-kindness.
No matter how naked or vulnerable we feel, we can KNOW that we are safe, because of Calvary. Not because of how others treat us or how our circumstances play out, but because we KNOW the character of our Father. He is good and kind and perfect and sovereign. Always and forever.
Whatever comes along, if we let the light of His love shine through us, then that is enough. We are enough because He was, He is and always will be enough.
All we have to do is listen for His knocking, welcome Him in and throw open the drapes so His light can flood the streets and our surroundings and ourselves.
Love is the only answer, the only way. Every time. Regardless of the level of wrong we’ve experienced or the pain we’ve endured or the fear we’ve carried.
Love always wins, “always endures” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
In fact, love has already won (John 19:30).
Even if everything else falls, love will always stand. God will remain. And if we have Him, we have everything we will ever need (2 Peter 1:3).