When we say, “I love you” to someone, how often is that loved based on a feeling? How often are we saying that because we’re so consumed with feeling in love that we can’t help, but say it?
How many of us still say or think, “I love you” to our significant other when things aren’t as flowery and when the feelings aren’t there? Do we still love them when they aren’t behaving the way we expect them to or when things aren’t going well?
This is something that the more I’ve grown in Christ, the more I’ve realized. Love is MUCH deeper than a feeling. In fact, I’d go to say that love is NOT a feeling, but an action. You don’t feel love, you show love to your significant other and in that way it’s a very selfless act. Love becomes less about what YOU are feeling or what someone does for YOU and is more about what you do out of love for that other person.
To be completely transparent, although my boyfriend and I have been together for a little while now, there were times in our relationship when both of us were probably considering ending it or wondering whether or not we would make it in the long run. Him and I went through a period where our insecurities were surfacing so much so that both of us were getting the brunt of it. There would be periods of time where he would call me numerous times in the same sitting, if he had not received a response from me right away. He would assume it was because I was going to break up with him. There were also times where I would shut him out and wouldn’t talk to him for hours and hours on end because of my own insecurities and fears. In fact, I remember one specific night I shut down completely and didn’t talk to him or see him for a couple of days because I needed time to think. I think back on that time now and cringe thinking about the pain I must’ve put him through because of my inability to communicate effectively as a result of my own past hurt. It wasn’t on purpose and I hurt thinking about hurting him, but at the time I didn’t know what love was and how to show it. We were growing closer to each other and I started freaking out because I was afraid of him hurting me. I thought I was “protecting” myself when in reality I was hurting him and hurting myself.
I cared for him (I still do), but then I wasn’t sure myself how to show it because I was so broken due to my own past. I didn’t know how to love because I didn’t love myself and never had any positive romantic relationships with men before him. I was hurt and trying to protect my heart, but instead of fully communicating that to him, I would shut him out. I still hadn’t fully dealt with my own issues at the time and it was beginning to seep into my relationship. God had to work in me to push me to communicate with him more whenever I was being triggered or whenever those insecurities would pop instead of shutting him out. He led me to share with my boyfriend what things triggered my insecurities and then the Lord led him to begin working with me on how to heal from those. My boyfriend shared with me what would trigger his own past insecurities, so I then began praying and working on ways to change that and reassure him. However, not too long after that, there was a health situation that occurred where I thought I would almost lose him. Many would’ve probably walked away considering the severity of it, but I knew in that moment that not only did I love him and that regardless of how it turned out, I would be there with him through it all.
It was a rough time for us, but with the grace of God he healed that and healed me. He used that situation to teach us how to communicate effectively to each other in a way that we were both heard and respected. He used that situation and many other situations to heal our past wounds and bring us closer to together and closer to Him. Our relationship isn’t perfect, because we are two imperfect people, but the more we’ve put God at the center of it and aimed to honor Him in our personal relationship with Him and with each other, there have been HUGE strides in our relationship. Things have been much better. I am so grateful we both stuck it out through that difficult time, clung to each other, and began growing in our relationship with God.
I can only credit God for the work he did in our relationship and helping me to realize that part of the difficulty started with me and my own baggage.
But this is what I mean about love. Yes, my boyfriend makes me feel loved but that’s because he shows it in his actions. I never have to question his love for me because he’s always encouraging me not only to grow in my relationship with Christ, but to be a better person in general. He does things for me out of his reverence and love towards me — even when he doesn’t feel like it. He comforts me with the wisdom God gives him when I am sad or feeling distressed. He stops what he’s doing to speak with me and encourage me to keep fighting and doing what God wants me to do. He encourages me to have a healthy relationship with our Lord by encouraging me to stay away from anything that will distract me from His love. I know he loves me because he SHOWS love. He exhibits love in his actions. I remember the first time I told him some information about my past, he asked to pray for me and prayed for me. In fact, for the duration of the earlier parts of our relationship, he was praying that I would grow closer to Christ. I NEVER had a guy do that for me before. I never had a guy care for me enough to pray for me and pray that I would grow closer to the One that loved me before anyone else ever did.
Love is not the feeling we get from someone doing nice things for us, but it’s an act. Love is a selfless act that requires us doing things we may not feel like doing for another person. When you say, “I love you” it’s not because of how that person makes you feel or because they do nice things for you, but because YOU love them. It means that even if this person does not give back to you exactly what you’ve given to them or even if this person is not as perfect as you may like them to be, you admire them for who they are. Love is not about what the person does for YOU, but what you do to show love to another person. God has been reminding me of this more and more.
Let’s look at what the bible says about love:
“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 (NKJV)
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” — 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
Notice that in the first example from the bible, how the definition of love is explained in actions. It doesn’t say, “love is a joyous feeling” or “love is when someone sacrifices things for you.” In fact, this definition of love says NOTHING about what others do for us, but EVERYTHING about what WE should be doing for other people. It talks about love as an act as opposed to a feeling. It personifies love and gives it action instead of what it may “feel” like. That I believe is God’s way of explicitly saying (through Paul) that THIS is what love is and THIS is how we should love; we should SHOW love.
We must be patient, kind, and not easily angered. We are to not be envious NOR cocky. We are to refrain from saying mean things and refrain from seeking to solely please ourselves. We must be selfless. We must rejoice in truth and remain honest with each other. We must endure the difficult times and continue fighting for that love to the end.
Notice all of these actions are about what we can do and not what the other person involved in this is supposed to be doing. The focus is on us, as Christians, and how we can show love to others. It’s essentially expressing how we should love and show love rather than necessarily “feeling” it.
This, I believe, is the true definition of love. God IS love. This is how God is towards us. He loves us even though we’ve sinned and even though we’ve run away from Him. He loves us not because we have shown love to Him (typically the kind of love the world tells us to follow), but He loves us because of who HE is and because He loves us. There’s NOTHING we can do to take away His love for us. This is not to say that we should desire to do whatever it is that we want and to hurt Him, but it’s to show how unconditional His love is. It’s to reinforce that God’s love for us is not conditional on what we can do for Him or because He needs us for something. God doesn’t need us, but we certainly need God. His love for us isn’t based on how we respond to what He does for us. His love is unconditional. He’s very patient with us, loving towards us, etc. God’s love is the purest love there is! He can have anything and create anything He wants and yet more than anything He desires to have our hearts. He desires to have our love and for us to be called His children — not because He needs it, but because He loves us and He wants it. How beautiful and humbling is that?
The characteristics of love in the first example I gave seem impossible because for us they are. Do you know how hard it is to remain patient with my students who are cursing at me, yelling at me, and saying things that they are saying out of emotions? Do you not know difficult it is to not be easily angered by that or by someone screaming at you? It is definitely a challenge. I will be the first to admit that it is incredibly difficult for me. These things that we are being asked to do are impossible for us to consistently, but nothing is impossible for God. It is only possible for us to love as God loves if we have a strong relationship with Him. He is the manifestation of love and exhibited that with what was done on Calvary. He’s proven His love for us over and over again, even beyond the cross. We turn to him for the ability to love like He loves and we should ask for the strength and ability to do so. There is no other way and I have learned that the hard way. When I’ve tried to do this myself, it’s been forced and inauthentic. On the surface to others it may look like it, but God knows our hearts.
I am not saying that God expects us to necessarily want to do these things all of the time. I don’t believe for a moment that God is expecting to “feel” like doing all the things people ask us to do, especially not without Him. However, I do believe that God wants us to push past our feelings and instead do it out of reverence and love. The same way God knows our hearts and when we don’t feel like reading the bible or expressing our concerns to Him, but it says a lot to Him when we do it anyway. I think it pleases Him when we do these things, even when we don’t feel like doing it.
There’s plenty of things I don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing, but love is selfless. If it is not self-serving, my wants and needs should not be at the focus whenever I am doing something for someone. God is concerned with that, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t do something nice for someone just because we don’t feel like doing it. I should not be concerned about whether I receive praises or not for giving someone change on the street or for bringing in candy for my students. If I do it for the praises or for admiration, what does that say about me? Not only will I never be fulfilled because I am only doing things for a response from them, but it will also call into question as to whether I really love them or not.
It’s definitely hard sometimes, especially when it comes to my students being mean sometimes, but what kid isn’t like that sometimes? If I love them, my love shouldn’t be conditional and based on how much they love me back or show that love back. The same way if I love my boyfriend or my parents, it shouldn’t be conditional on whether or not I receive something in return or gain some sort of praise for doing my mother a favor.
For example, there have been many times when my boyfriend has wanted to watch a movie or my mom has asked me to do something that I simply did not feel like doing. There are even times when I would be tired from work, but would still try to make time to hang out with my boyfriend because he asked me to and was traveling down from DE to do it. There are times when I would rather sit and talk or continue doing what I was doing before my mother asked me to go grab her glasses from upstairs. But out of love and reverence for them both, I’ve been pushing myself(by the strength of the Lord) to get out of my own feelings and do it because I love them.
I am still learning how to embody this as we speak and God has been convicting me in this when I’m tempted to do otherwise and think solely about myself. I am still praying on this and praying for God to make my heart more like His and I believe He’s doing just that.
Love is not a feeling, but an action.
We shouldn’t focus on feeling love, but should focus on how we show it. Are our actions aligned with our words? More importantly, are our actions aligned with God’s word? Can we confidently say that we show our significant other love?
God is concerned with how we feel. I am certain about that. He is concerned about what we think and whether our needs are met or not. However, the next time we say we “love” someone or we love our job, let’s consider if we really do or not. Do we love them enough to stick through the rough times with them? Do we love them enough to be willing to work things out with them? Do we love them enough to do things for them, even when we don’t feel like it?
Love is patient and love is kind, but let’s also remember that love is not self-serving. I pray that as this week continues that the Lord can remind all of us of that. I pray that the Lord continues to make our hearts like His and makes us desire what He desires.