Category Archives: Love Defined & Applied

Distractions and Insensitivity

Being focused on a problem can cause us to be insensitive. Not long ago, I fell into this trap. My husband and I had two of our grandchildren (ages 6 and 5) over for a few days. On their final day, the kids and I ran a few errands together. (Tom was away at a conference with our son, that day.) Our first stop was the gas station. I usually put my credit card in my wallet while the gas is pumping, but this particular time I stuck it in my pocket while washing the windows. We then went to the bank and to the park.

Finally, I took them out to lunch. When I went to pay for it, I discovered that my credit card was missing. Thankfully, I had another one. The kids and I prayed that I’d find my card and I should have left it in the Lord’s hands at that point. We’d had a wonderful 3 days together and a delightful time at lunch. But now my mind was distracted by the loss of the credit card. I wanted to get them quickly home in order to return to the places I might have lost it or to call and cancel the card.

As a result, I spent little time socializing with the rest of their family. When I was about five minutes from their house, on my way back home, I suddenly realized I hadn’t even hugged the kids good-by! When I got home, I sent a text message to my daughter asking her to apologize to the kids for me and tell them God answered our prayers. I also shared the lesson I’d learned. She wrote back saying that they were sad when I just disappeared without saying good-by, but she appreciated what I’d learned.

I did find my card (it had fallen out of my pocket at home) and I learned a valuable lesson. Trust God with my problems and keep focused on the moment at hand!

Happy Valentine’s Day (God Adores You!)

The author of love–our Creator–adores us!

 

God created us so that He could lavish His love upon us! Imagine that! We are the objects of His love, the apple of His eye! He loved us before we ever did a thing! He loves us when we obey Him, and He still loves us when we disobey Him. As a parent myself, I know that I may not always like my children’s behavior, but I still love them!

 

When a man and a woman fall in love, they respond to the other’s love for them. That is how God intended it to be between Him and us. He reaches out in love to us, and we respond to that love by reaching back to Him. Unlike human love, God’s love for us never fades with time. His love is not dependent upon our actions. He will love us faithfully and fervently for all of eternity, if we have chosen to become His child through faith in Christ. I have heard it said, as an illustration of Christ’s love for us, that when Jesus was asked, “How much do you love me?” He replied, “This much,” and then He stretched out His arms on the cross and died.

 

The apostle Paul prayed that we would know “…how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV) It will literally take an eternity to fully grasp that. But we can catch a glimpse of it even in this life-time, if we watch for it. “…the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5, NIV). It is in His amazing creations–from the stars down to the tiniest invisible organism. It’s found in human acts of kindness. (Think of all the times someone has reached out to you at just the right moment when you needed a love touch. Think of how people rally around disaster victims.) His love is in the strength He gives us to persevere in hard times, and it’s in the tender way He comforts our souls when we grieve. It’s in those moments when He intervenes and protects us from harm (ie; the near collision that you barely avoided while driving). It’s in His hand of daily provision and blessings. Every breath we take is a gift of love from Him! Take time to just bask in His love.

 

“In him our hearts rejoice…” for our “…hope is in his unfailing love.”

(Psalm 33:21 & 18)

 

 

 

Kindness May Appear Unkind

Sometimes kindness means not giving a person what they’re asking for, and that may appear as unkind to them. When a parent says no to a child’s request, the parent may be acting in the child’s best interest, but the child may not be able to see that at the time. When God says no to us, it may appear unkind, but we know He always acts in our best interest.

 

So far, God has chosen not to grant my requests for our son to be healed of cerebral palsy. But God has certainly brought good out of that situation! For one thing, God used Shon’s premature birth and disability to show my husband and me that we weren’t in control of all of our circumstances. God also used these situations to bring about our salvation, and now these challenges keep us close to Jesus, which is definitely a good thing!

 

I have been in situations where my intentions were to be helpful, such as trying to help people resolve a conflict, but I ended up being accused of things that weren’t true. In such situations, I need to trust God to work things out.

 

As in all things with God, kindness is an attitude of the heart (and that’s what God looks at: our motives). People may misjudge our actions, but we have to let God handle that. Our responsibility is to make sure our conscience is clear before the Lord. Then we will experience His perfect peace, regardless of circumstances.

The Proper Attitude

“Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14, NIV.) He “…takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, NIV) (The emphasis is mine.)

What a glorious world this would be if everyone lived like this! I am well aware of how my self-indulgent, self-focused sinful human nature struggles with this! When things don’t go my way, I’m very tempted to complain or argue.

Apathy is another by-product of self-focus. When I’m caught up in my own life and personal concerns, it’s challenging to have genuine concern for the needs of others.

I have been guilty, for example, of only half listening to someone while my mind wanders in other directions. But if I’m genuinely concerned about their welfare, I will give them my full attention.

It is always a challenge for me to sacrifice my personal comfort and my time for others, and to set aside my desires in the interest of achieving peace through compromise.

I’m so thankful I have the Holy Spirit to change my heart and empower me to better live the sacrificial, other-focused life! I look forward to the day Christ will reign on earth and we’ll all be perfectly unselfish!

Interject Only When Necessary (Love is not Rude)

One evening, I was working at the desk while my husband and another man were talking nearby. At one point, I thought my husband said something that wasn’t quite accurate, and I corrected him. (Actually, I just heard him wrong.) He said, “You’re eavesdropping” and I said, “I’ll shut up,” and I did, because he was right. (I later apologized to him for my rudeness.) I had no right to jump into the conversation uninvited.

 

This reminded me of two important lessons:

  • Remain silent when I have not been invited into a conversation!
  • Even when I am part of a conversation, I need to prayerfully discern whether or not it’s really necessary for me to correct someone.

 

I have heard it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I could add, ignore the small stuff if it isn’t significant. It is more important to be considerate of the other person’s feelings. Love is polite, not rude.

Discern When To Voice Our Insecurities

One attribute of love is being considerate of others, even in the midst of our own insecurities.

 

There are times when it’s appropriate to share our insecurities with someone, but there are also times when it is best to keep our thoughts to ourselves. Here is an example of when it’s best to keep silent.

 

I have never particularly enjoyed cooking. It is more of a necessity than a pleasure for me. In 1991, we had a foreign exchange student, Vinnie, staying with us. I was at the sink after dinner and my husband, Tom, and Vinnie were still at the table. Tom asked Vinnie if his mom was a good cook, and he said yes. I should have stayed out of the conversation, but I said, “Oh dear” and then said something about my lack of skill. Tom said, “You do all right.” Then, thankfully, he added humor and said, “This pizza you ordered is great.” I said, “Yes, that’s my kind of cooking” and the topic changed.

 

Later it occurred to me that part of my job as a hostess is to make my guest feel comfortable. I needn’t make derogatory remarks about my inadequacies. That doesn’t glorify God. Instead, I should do my best, and trust God to make up for the gaps in my abilities. Love always focuses more on the other person’s needs than on my own.

Failing to Forgive is Unloving

Failing to forgive someone is very unloving. Forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us is sometimes difficult, and it doesn’t always feel good. When Jesus said, “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV), as he hung on the cross, I’m sure it didn’t feel good. But He loved us enough to do it, both in word and action.

 

If I ask someone to forgive me and they refuse, I feel like they don’t believe that I’m sorry and that I’m genuinely trying to improve. I also feel like they think I intentionally set out to offend them, which is very rarely the case. Most of my offenses are a result of insensitivity, ignorance, or misunderstanding. In such times, I need gentle, loving guidance.

 

I am willing to give a person time to forgive me, if they need time to work through their emotions, but I appreciate it if they tell me when I’m forgiven. I usually know people have forgiven me if they act as if nothing happened and start treating me lovingly again, but it’s nice to actually hear the words, I forgive you.

 

We also need to follow God’s example of not bringing up a person’s past mistakes. When God forgives, He forgets in the sense of never mentioning the mistake again.

 

Love forgives, unconditionally, both in word and action. May the Lord help us to follow His example of how to love.

 

 

A Self-Centered Attitude Lacks Compassion

One night, as my husband was relaxing on the couch, my frustrated mutterings about the computer disturbed his tranquility. He spoke up and I decided to put the computer away. I surrendered my frustration and disappointment to the Lord and started humming praise songs. Tom, however, was having difficulty forgiving me, and I felt hurt by his lack of compassion for my feelings.

 

The Lord helped us to get over ourselves by sending an emergency phone call. After we had responded and helped some people out, our good moods were restored.

 

In my quiet time the next morning, the Lord gave me some insights. As always, He helps me to understand the other person’s perspective by helping me walk in their shoes. Both my husband and I could have been more sensitive.

 

I thought of times when I have been annoyed by someone else’s complaints. When I’m lacking compassion, I may just be trying to cheer them up so that they’ll quit ruining my day. On the other hand, when God’s love is flowing through me, I will feel their pain and listen compassionately and pray for them.

 

I would have appreciated my husband offering to pray for me in my time of frustration, instead of getting annoyed with me. But when I remembered times I’ve failed to be compassionate, it was easier to understand and forgive.

 

So, I jotted down these reminders, and now I’m praying God will keep helping me to apply them!

 

  • When I’m the one experiencing a negative emotion, STOP what I’m doing and PRAY for help with my feelings. Perhaps even ask another person to pray for me.
  • When the other person is the one with the negative emotions, first pray for myself to be filled with compassion for them, and then listen compassionately and pray for them. Also ask God to show me what I can do to help them.

 

As always, self-focused self-pity is destructive. When we’re other-focused, it’s amazing how much happier we are!

Transparent, Transforming Love

There are many things, negative and positive, that motivate us to try to change: guilt, fear, anger, pride, a desire to be healthy or to improve at something, etc. Operating under those motivations may work for awhile, but sooner or later we’ll burn out and give up. Think of how many New Years Resolutions last less than a year.

 

On the other hand, once we’ve experienced Christ’s unconditional love for us–accepting us as we are and being willing to forgive and help us–we are motivated by a desire to please Him. When I am motivated by my love for Christ and my desire to be close to Him (and I know I can’t feel close to Him if I’m feeling guilty), then I sincerely call upon His power and strength to help me accomplish my goal or resist temptation. If I’m mad at myself for being a certain way, the change doesn’t last long. But when I realize how much God loves me and desires to give me victory over my weaknesses, then I respond in gratitude and thanksgiving and humility–realizing I’m unable to change myself, but thankful that God’s ready, able, and eager to do it. All He needs from me is my love and cooperation.

 

It isn’t enough just to intellectually know the love of Christ. We must experience it. We must learn to be honest and vulnerable with God, with ourselves, and with others. We need to face our sins and confess them to God and trustworthy people. The only way we can experience unconditional love is when we see someone accept us as we are–with all our flaws. But people can’t express that love to us until we’re willing to reveal our weaknesses–those sins that cause our pride to feel embarrassed, or fearful of rejection. It’s ironic that we can’t experience genuine acceptance until we’re willing to stick our necks out and risk rejection. That’s where faith comes in: believing God won’t hand us more than we can bear.

 

We do need to exercise wisdom in who we choose to open up with. They should be people who have proven themselves trustworthy in keeping private information confidential. But even the best humans are not perfect, and they may fail us, so we must also be willing to forgive them when they do.

 

I praise God for Jesus, who is always faithful, and He understands me better than I understand myself! I love the tender way He reveals my sins to me. I am thankful because I know He is only doing it to help me, not to hurt me. I know He still accepts me and honestly forgives me, and He isn’t even disappointed because He already knows every sin I’ll ever commit. I’m the one who gets disappointed in myself because my pride keeps thinking I’m doing better than I am, and it’s surprised, hurt and embarrassed when I fall flat on my face.

 

When someone is confessing a sin, we should just listen. We shouldn’t make any value judgments about whether it’s a big or a little sin. If it bothers their conscience, it is a sin for them, even if we don’t see it as a big deal. Just encourage them to get right with God through confession and repentance and pray with them and for them. We are all called to be holy because God is holy. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. If we have given our lives to Christ, we have His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. Hallelujah!

 

Overcoming Selfishness

One way to battle selfishness is to remember that God’s love is always considerate of others. I am often very blind to my own selfishness. Once God opens my eyes, I’m appalled at how blind I was.

 

One example of my selfishness is related to our disabled son’s helpers. At times, I would send them text messages or emails whenever an idea came to me, even if that was when they weren’t on shift with our son. God convicted me of selfishness and gave me a better solution. Now, when an idea comes to me that I don’t want to forget, I write it down and then send it to the helpers when they’re with our son.

 

Another way to help myself overcome selfishness is to ask my husband’s opinion of my ideas. It’s a lot easier to see other people’s mistakes than it is to see our own. So, if I invite my husband to give his in-put, and humbly listen, I can reduce the number of mistakes that I make.

 

In conclusion, it is now my goal, when I’m making a decision, to ask myself (and my husband) if I’m being considerate of others. God considers the needs of everyone involved. I need to do likewise.