I want to write this letter to you to let you in on a sobering and heartbreaking realization. This is not a love letter; it’s a letter about love. I’m curious about your thoughts.
What does being “loving” mean to you?
Do you believe it’s harmful to form loveless relationships with others? Why or why not?
Why might having a life void of love make someone feel like they want to end it all (commit suicide)?
Why does God choose to be called “Love” out of all of the other potentially good things, like Justice or Power? It would certainly make sense to say that God is Power, or God is Justice, but He has chosen to be called “Love.” Why is that?
I’ve thought about these questions a lot, and it’s led me to some pretty devastating realizations. But before we go into that, this is what the scriptures have to say about love:
1 Corinthians 13 (NLT)
Apostle Paul – “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance […] Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
No wonder God has chosen to be called Love. It’s hard to imagine how someone of His magnitude could ever be constrained by a single word or concept, but He actually thinks that this one word is worth describing Him—a word that we toss around so freely yet mean so rarely.
Apostle Paul says that if he knew everything that man could ever wish to know, but didn’t love others, he would still amount to nothing. In fact, he says that even if he knew everything that God Himself knows, but didn’t love others, he would still be empty and unfulfilled. Could you imagine that? Human beings have strived for complete knowledge since the beginning, thinking that it will somehow bring us a lasting satisfaction. However, Paul explains that on the off chance that we actually do get to know every single secret to life, like how big the universe is or how small particles could go, we would still be unsatisfied if we didn’t have love. A life that is filled with every piece of knowledge or materialistic thing that a person could possibly desire, but lacks love, would still seem like an unfulfilled life. Why is that?
I believe that we were purposefully wired that way. You and I are both creatures seeking to give and/or receive love. We were born into the world with a God-sized hole in our hearts which gets bigger and bigger as we grow older. Sometimes, this endless void gets so close to eating us up that we become desperate to fill it with anything and everything: drugs, significant others, accomplishments, materialism; you name it. Sometimes it feels like a curse, but here’s an assuring reminder: we were made that way on purpose so that God can fill the God-sized void in our being. The void reminds us of Who we’re made for. It’s a birthmark of our identity as His children. Just like how a puzzle would not be complete without the critical last piece, our lives would always feel like something is missing or things are never enough when we leave out the critical last piece—our Maker, whose name is synonymous with Love. He is the only one who can provide the perfect, unconditional love that we long for.
Here’s my heartbreaking realization: If love is so important, why is it that we take it out of the equation when we interact with others? Think about that for a moment. If love is so detrimental to our wellbeing and is actually the thing that fulfills us, why do we choose to form loveless relationships and friendships with others?
It could be that we are so broken and torn up that we actually want to revel in our brokenness. I’ll be first to admit that when I was at my lowest point, it gave me a sick satisfaction to do self-destructive things and engage in toxic relationships. I wanted to push my boundaries and go as far as I can because I thought I had nothing to lose. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.
Another reason why we might choose to leave love out of our lives is because we’re afraid of getting even more hurt. Love takes trust, and trusting in people could get painful. People are imperfect, and even the most trusting person is bound to disappoint you eventually. If you’ve read the Psalms, you’ll see that David is all too familiar with brokenness and disappointment. Reading Psalm 116 makes me feel like it’s my own heart that’s spilling out on the pages. David cried out, “I believed in you, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, Lord.’ In my anxiety I cried out to you, ‘These people are all liars!’” I can’t read those words without feeling like I’m going to choke up. Those cries really hit home for me.
Even more so than King David, there is yet another person who I would say knows brokenness like no other. No matter the level of rejection or backstab or hurt that I’ve experienced in the past, I know that this person has definitely experienced it all the more. The book of Isaiah says, “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5). The man that the Bible calls “the man of sorrows” is actually Jesus Christ. You think he was a happy-go-lucky guy who ate it in the end for doing something wrong? Think again. The hurt that you’re either experiencing now or have experienced in the past—Jesus had all of that in mind when he endured the cross. He knew the pain that would be inflicted on you, and he knew the pain that you would inflict on others. Still, even in our darkest and lowest moments, he was willing to take our sufferings for us. That is what I call a friend. I’m not about to dedicate my life honoring and worshipping some distant god in the sky. The God I worship is the One who was actually willing to come down, take my place in punishment, and show me a life that is rich in love, peace, joy, purpose, understanding, compassion, and grace. My God proved to me in the most painful, sincere, and heart wrenching way that he loves me.
I want to write this letter to you to encourage you that you truly are loved, and the love that is reserved for you knows no boundaries. No angels, demons, trials, pains, tribulations, injustice; heck, not even death can separate you from this love. So with the complete and fulfilling love of God to keep you whole, you can freely extend this love to others. I am willing to claim that those who do not show love do not know that they are vehemently loved this much. If only you could accept that unchanging and unshakable love for you, you would be more willing to extend that love to others. I always wondered how Jesus was able to mutter, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” even during the hour of his death. It was the very people he loved that nailed his wrists and ankles to that cross, yet he mustered up the energy to say those loving words. I believe that is because he knows how much God loves him. He is fully secure in God’s love, so he is able to draw from that unending well and extend God’s love to us—even during betrayal, rejection, and death.
If there were anyone who could understand how difficult it could be to genuinely love people who forsake, abandon, and betray him, it would be Christ. If something like that could happen to someone like Jesus, it would be inevitable for us to also feel forsaken, abandoned, and betrayed at one point in our lives. During those times, when you feel so hurt and so torn that you just want to forget the entire world and start over, I want you to remember that you have a well of living water to draw from. Run to God’s well to be refreshed and you will never run dry. You don’t have to be afraid to love others because the one who loves you most will always be there to restore you. You don’t have to revel in your brokenness because the one who loves you most will bring you healing. You don’t have to throw away your life because the one who loves you most already gave up his life to save yours. So if we live from this well and drink from this well, we can extend the uncompromising love of Christ to those around us—especially the people who hurt us—without fearing we will run dry in the process.