When we grew up and began to show interest in the opposite gender, my father used to say, “Love is a thing you can’t explain; it tickles the heart, and touches the brain.” Whatever that meant, it was his way of telling us that love is a complex emotion that is hard to explain. It may very well be the most sought after, and yet, simultaneously, be the most misunderstood emotion known to us.
A quick search for a good definition describes love as a “human emotion that always involves a combination of all of which are dedicated to the benefit of, compassion for a complex set of emotions, behaviours, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person.” This is a small sample of what love is, or can be.
There are various kinds of love, but the definition above is true of all of them. While it is true that love is a wonderful thing in all of its many expressions, it often generates grief when expectations are not met, with huge potential for disappointment, unbearable pain, and endless misery. I have seen the sweetest of loves turn into intense hate in the shortest of times for this very reason.
Children, in their immaturity, find it hard to understand that a “no” answer can actually be an act of love, not seeing that it protects them from harm. Sadly enough, many parents don’t even understand that either as they allow their children things that are not only bad for them, but outright dangerous. Parents’ refusal to go along with their children’s every demand can very quickly be interpreted as a lack of affection for them. This is a hidden area of love where ignorance of what love really is, can open doors to the many heartaches that people often times suffer.
As humans we are far from perfect; we often make mistakes that hurt those close to us; we don’t always know the best answer, or how to show love to those who look up to us. But God is perfect in all His ways, including love – it is not that He has love – He is love!
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16
How is it, then, that we, as children of God, so often have to endure the same sorrow, misfortune, brokenness and every other ill that sinners experience? I believe there is more than one answer to that question.
First of all, the devil is everybody’s enemy – and especially of Christians. Jesus said that he came to steal, kill and destroy; (John 10:10) it is his nature, so he will look for ways to attack you. If he cannot destroy you, he will work hard to discourage you, hoping the hardship will cause you to turn your back on the Lord. If that fails, he will keep you busy with various distractions in an effort to render your life barren, and in the process neutralize you as a soldier of the cross. Many of his attacks can be summarized as temptations to doubt God’s love and care for us. The good news is that God always shows us the way out of it:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Having said this, it is also true that the devil is not responsible for all our troubles and failures. He is often blamed for our own mistakes, ignorance and disobedience to God’s will. Needless to say, we often make his work easier by the way we live our lives. We know God wants us to be blessed because of the principles and instructions that He gave us to live by. (Please read Psalm 1, Psalm 112 and Psalm 119, to name a few good passages)
The author of Hebrews opens his letter with a statement that explains God’s involvement in our daily lives:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,…Hebrews 1:1-3
God upholds all things (including us!) by the Word of His power. If we obey His commands, abide in His Word and apply His principles, we will enjoy His blessings even while the enemy is going after us. God’s guiding principles were not designed to force us into a boring life, but instead to lead us to the way of blessing and safety.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 1 John 5:3,4
The Lord never promised us a trouble-free life, but He did promise to never leave or forsake us, (Hebrews 13:5) and that is a powerful anchor to hold onto. He is still Master over wind and wave.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Psalm 23:5
Our world is broken, and adamant to follow the road that leads to its own demise.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
God is not the author of misery, but of mercy and grace. We live in the era of His grace right now; punishment is reserved for the Day of Judgment. However, when we step out of His ways, the brokenness of the world will invade our lives too. Life may bring many challenges, but Love is reaching out to everyone who needs a break in the midst of misery.