I’ve always known that to love someone can be a big challenge. But lately God is opening my eyes to the fact that I don’t always recognize what true love is.
There are times when showing love to my husband, Gary, seems effortless and sweet. I love it when I can give love to him from that place of warmth and joy. Those are great times and when they come, I take the opportunity to soak them up and tuck them away as a fond memory for another day.
But sometimes life is hard. Sometimes I’m worn out and stressed and don’t feel or act loving toward Gary like I do when everything is going smoothly. And sometimes Gary doesn’t act so lovingly back to me either.
Sometimes Gary does something that is hurtful. And I have an opportunity at that point to give love to him from a place that is very hard and painful. But when those times come, I very often want to act loving or protective of myself instead!
And the funny thing is, when I choose to love myself before I love my husband, I am choosing not to love him. It’s not like I can take a “love-break” and come back to loving him when I feel better toward him.
Sadly, in those moments, I’ve believed the lie that love should feel good when I offer it, so painful love must not really be love. For the record, I’m choosing not to believe that lie anymore.
So, what does painful love look like?
- It is swallowing your pride and apologizing when you know your spouse is more to blame.
- It is pushing aside your own hurt feelings to focus on your spouse’s feelings.
- It is letting go of the expectation that everything should be fair at all times because love doesn’t keep a scorecard.
- It is forgiving your spouse even before they ask or even see their need for forgiveness.
I could go on, but my point is that very often true God-like love hurts. Each one of those actions or attitudes can hurt excruciatingly in the moment that the gift is given to our spouses. And what’s worse, they may not even realize the sacrifice we’ve made. But that doesn’t matter . . . because God does.
Amazingly, God not only notices our sacrifice, but he also blesses our willingness to experience and express painful love to our spouses. A word of warning: You may not see how much it blesses your marriage until much later. And that could discourage you if you let it. I know that I have. But from my first-hand experience, I can assure you that in time, God will grow your love and marriage exponentially through the power of painful acts of love.
Just yesterday I had to have my umpteenth cortisone shot in my RA infested knee. I don’t look forward to those few seconds when the painful needle is being injected, but I look forward to the long-lasting blessing the medicine brings.
It’s the same way with painful love. And when those God-ordained moments come to express painful love to your spouse, remember that there’s an awesome blessing on the other side of the pain!
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven …” Proverbs 17:9a (NLT)