A Misunderstanding of Love?
I’ve been doing a Bible study this semester that follows along with reading the classic allegory by Hannah Hurnard Hinds Feet on High Places. It’s not my first time to read the book or to think about its themes and truths in relation to scripture. But as always, new insights emerge.
This week our teacher wrote this on our study sheet: We need to allow the fact that God loves us to drive fear away.
It’s not that this is a new thought, it was just a timely one, leaping off the page the getting me thinking: Perhaps we fear because we have a misunderstanding of love.
In our finite, fallen understanding of love, don’t we somehow think that loving someone means making their life easy and happy? Think about it. That’s what we do when we court or date, and yet after we marry, the hard stuff kicks in, challenging each other in our weaknesses and flaws, dealing with the hard stuff of real life–jobs, finances, kids, housing, in-laws, etc. And somehow society has come to believe that to love our children means to make sure they never suffer, never get treated unfairly, never hurt or cry or experience anything unpleasant. But is making their way easy really loving them?
If God IS love, then His is the definition we ought to work from. What does His love look like?
I Corinthians 13 tells us that Love is patient, kind, not envying, not boasting, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no account of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Love never fails.
I John 4:18 tells us there is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.
Of course there a a jillion other verses about love as well as stories that illustrate love, but let’s just consider these two. We tend to use the Corinthians chapter to tell us how to love. And it does. But if God is the embodiment of love, how does this change our perspective of these verses? Let’s try it: God is patient and kind. He does not seek to belittle us or demean us. We know He is slow to anger just by the history of His people, from Israel to the church—because of His great love we have not been consumed. God doesn’t keep account of our sin when it’s covered by the blood of Jesus. He takes no delight in evil and always rejoices in the truth. He protects us. He trusts and hopes for us to love Him return, a love evidenced by complete obedience and trust. And He never gives up on us.
Notice that in all that litany of things love is and isn’t, it never focuses on what love looks like to the one who receives it, only what is true of the one who loves, the One who IS Love. Love isn’t defined as making the way easy for the loved. Or smoothing things over for them. Or absolving the loved of responsibility. So why do we expect that if God loves us He will do those things for us?
Not that He doesn’t bless. He does. And so abundantly! But it doesn’t mean His goal is to make our way uneventful and painless.
Here’s what I wrote down as I pondered:
Being allowed to walk hard paths is evidence of love–our love for our spouses, our children, our friends and most of all evidence of God’s love for us–because those paths lead to places of growth, abundance and blessing. In our faith. In our character. True love is putting those worthwhile, eternal things above our temporary comfort. And if I can’t trust that is God’s goal for the paths He allows me to walk, then what is the point of following?
I’m glad God loves me that completely. And in that kind of Love there is truly no room for fear.
Do you have a hard time believing God loves you? Why or why not? How would your life change if you really believed it?