Love Never Fails

I think we need to understand some things about love. About real, true love. It can be beautiful and exciting — it’s pure, it’s healing, and it’s holy, and we need to make sure we understand it.

Love, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a strong or constant affection for a person.” I agree with this definition, but there’s more to be said; there’s more to be done. Love, in the Bible, is put to action:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Love, as defined by society, is only the feeling — the warm feeling of only doing what your heart desires and what wouldn’t emotionally hurt the other person. It’s based on passing emotions, something no one should have to work at. It’s the butterflies-in-your-stomach, jittery, swooning feeling you get when you look at a person you care about. You can’t control it, you don’t want to control it, and it’s the best emotion in the world. Within the right context, these are all very good things! There’s nothing wrong with getting these types of love-feelings.

But real, Biblical love is something more solid, withstanding, and even more beautiful than this. I don’t think I would even classify it as an emotion because it doesn’t depend on feelings to exist. Real love is an action.

It’s accompanied by patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, morality, truth-telling, and it’s strong.

Merriam-Webster’s definition says “constant affection.” Almost anything we do that’s constant requires effort and work. I think this word “constant” aligns perfectly with God’s definition, because love doesn’t give up. Those who truly love are patient and kind, and they don’t give up on a person.

They don’t leave their brothers and sisters in the dirt when they’re struggling because they don’t want to deal with it. They don’t give up on someone who’s isn’t quite grasping the truth; they keep trying to teach because God doesn’t give up on them. They don’t forsake their spouses just because one or both parties have changed since the wedding day.

Real love works. Real love gives. Real love won’t bend to the world’s influence.

Real love isn’t easy — we have to work everyday to be loving, to understand how to love. We have to put the amount of effort specific to the love we’re giving. When we love someone, no matter who it is, we’ll work to show them that. We’ll work within ourselves to really love them, and not just act like it. Giving up isn’t an option — love endures all things; love never fails.

But it doesn’t mean we let sin abound. This means that if we truly love, we will be patient, but disciplinary. We won’t let our brothers and sisters continue in sin because we know what that could mean for their souls and for ours. If we really love, we’ll teach the world about the light and truth of God’s word, and we’ll show them Christ through ourselves. We won’t let God be blasphemed and His word twisted by untruths.

There’s another facet to love: correction.

1 John 4:8

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God is love. God is the embodiment of love; He possesses each and every trait listed above. How can we compare God to a passing, fleeting feeling? How can we compare our great and holy Creator, the very one who sustains us and is patient with us each and every time we forsake Him before giving Him our all, to an emotion? We can’t set Him on the same plane as something the world portrays to us as wavering, unsteady, and circumstantial. And if we can’t put Him there, then we can’t put love there, for God is love. 

Our parents correct us because they love us. Hopefully our friends correct us because they love us. Because if we were never to receive correction, how would we ever be able to progress?

Correction in the Bible

In each of his letters, Paul begins with a greeting. They usually include a note of thanksgiving for his brethren, emphasis on the good that church is doing, and then he goes on to offer ways in which they can improve to please God. At the end of each letter, after his correction, he bids them farewell, and wishes the grace and love of Christ and God be with them.

We’re given all these letters of firm correction, but we wouldn’t dare say Paul didn’t love his brothers and sisters. Because it’s clear that he did! He even suffered violence and imprisonment trying to teach them what was right.

Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) took Apollos, who was actually speaking boldly of the way he understood the Scriptures, aside to explain the word of God to him more accurately; he obliged because he loved God. Philip (Acts 8) stopped to explain the book of Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch not because he was prideful or a know-it-all, but because he wanted this man to be part of the Kingdom. All of the apostles and other disciples went from city to city proclaiming God’s word because they loved the people and wanted them to be saved.

Love is going to act upon what is right — on solid, firm truth, not just feelings of affection. Because feelings of affection can lead us down paths that we never dreamed of. We can have these loving feelings toward sin, toward things or people that we aren’t meant to emotionally love, that are opposite of what God has commanded we love. They can drive us into darkness instead of into God’s light because they’re not always the same as the logical truth.

2 John 6

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Because God loves us, He gave us His word — He gave us this New Covenant to live by. He knows what’s best for our souls, and because He wants us to have a hope of being with Him in eternity, He disciplines us through His word. Everything God does for us, including discipline, is because He loves us. It’s because He wants us to be with Him.

Everything Jesus taught and everything He did while He was on earth was because He loves us. If we want to shine Christ’s light, we should love the way They love, with both God’s mercy and justice in mind.

If we truly love God, we’ll do His will, and we’ll pay attention to all of the truths found in the Bible, not just the ones we like. We won’t base our decisions and our loyalties on feelings. If we truly love people, we’ll treat them the way 1 Corinthians 13 describes real love — with patience, humility, kindness, hope, while bearing their burdens. We’ll walk in truth, show them truth, and proclaim to them truth because these are things that will lead them toward heaven.

 

// How do you show love to others? What are some ways to do this? Or verses about love you want to share? I’d love input in the comments section. 🙂

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Love Never Fails Pinterest graphic

 

 

 

 

The Living Will Lay it to Heart

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2, ESV).

I used to have a hard time understanding why the writer would say something like this. Why would anyone benefit more from sadness, grief, and mourning than joyful fellowship? What does this mean?

I learned the answer to my questions over time, as I grew older. Funerals are not particularly fun events to attend. They aren’t exciting or happy; in fact, I usually end up in tears even if I’ve never met the person. They make my heart hurt for the family and friends because they’re now missing their loved one. They make me wonder why things like this happen to some people, to people who are wonderful people and others who seem too young. But it’s grown more apparent to me over the years that this is exactly why the Ecclesiastes writer says what he says (despite the fact that it’s an inspired message from God).

The living will lay it to heart.

Heart-wrenching times can be the most heart-changing. The still-living will have a chance to reflect on the purpose of life. Those with honest and open hearts will observe their lives and the state of their souls in that moment – second-guess the way they’ve been living, or decide just in what ways they could be better. They have an opportunity to learn Who is in control and just how short this life on earth is. It’s a somber occasion that could be life-changing to those who haven’t yet found life in Christ. A funeral could be the moment when someone realizes that they want what Christ offers because that person now sees how much time is lost by waiting. Realizing that only God can fill the void. Even just that one soul whose eyes were opened in a house of mourning will be rejoiced over (Luke 15:7).

I’ve never been to a funeral or memorial service in which God wasn’t mentioned, one in which some trace of faith wasn’t shown. I’m sure there are some in which He isn’t acknowledged, but He’s there nonetheless; He still sees, and He still knows the state of each person’s soul. During grief is when people want to talk to God the most – to understand the situation or at least find some inkling of comfort. It shows that God will be praised in all aspects of life. God will and should be praised even in the darkest times because He is the light (1 John 1:5). If God is on our side we won’t be surrounded by darkness.

I’ve come to appreciate funerals and use them as a chance to pray for yearning and hurting souls, pray for my own soul, that I’ll live a life worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1). I hurt for people and with people, I cry and comfort and love, and it’s because of God that I can do all of these things. It’s because of God that anyone can move forward after a loved one’s death. I’ve learned to pray the hardest and display the biggest faith because of my attendance at funerals. I’ve learned that it’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to sit in my feelings for a while because I know I’m laying it to heart. The lowest points in life are often the most eye-opening moments – the ones in which I come to see God’s majesty more clearly than ever. I never want to discount the grief that those touched by a loss have during this time, but, more often than not, it takes an event this extreme to bring others to the realization that their lives are worth something to God, that they need to live a Christ-filled life.

God is there, and He is working. I pray that everyone’s eyes are opened, no matter the reason – because a life in Christ is worth the grief and worth the tears. They won’t last long, and time certainly won’t last long enough to miss the open door.

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (ESV)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

 

We All Need To Slow Down

We’re going home for Thanksgiving with our families this week! After tomorrow, I’m going to be taking a break from the computer for a few days to spend time with them.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year in which families can get together (some for the only time all year). It’s a time in which we have the opportunity to free up our schedules and simply be with the people we love, thanking God for the blessings in our lives. I talk a lot about how much I love Christmas, but to me they go together. I think the holiday season coming up is one of love, thankfulness, and joy; it’s all one big reminder that there’s so much more to life than we remember sometimes.

Especially after recent world events, I’ve been thinking harder lately about the blessings in my life. It’s caused me to realize that I need to slow down. I took a step back and looked at my life. I have overwhelming, undeserved blessings. I have good health and a roof over my head. I have a husband, friends and family who care for me, a new family to be a part of, and material blessings that I can’t count.

We all need to slow down. Our society lives life frenzied and rushed, seemingly only thinking about things that won’t matter once this life is over. Materialism lures us in, only to cause stress and busyness. Which leads me to this: Life is a gift; it’s not certain. Take the time to to stop and breathe – to count the blessings you have and thank God because all good and perfect things come from Him (James 1:17). The world is far from perfect and far from peaceful, but no matter the bad, God is love. He brings peace.

We shouldn’t rush through life, taking everything around us for granted. As of now, I’m choosing to live an intentional, purposeful, slow-paced life because that’s what I need. I need to focus on the big picture and take everything in. I firmly believe it’s what we all need. We’re not meant to take up our time rushing and worrying from one day to the next.

Try it; put busyness aside and, with a clear head, spend time with your loved ones – make it intentional. Take a day (or two days!) to take care of yourself and nourish your soul. Spend time in prayer and in the Word. Appreciate what you’ve been given. Make a habit of being grateful, and take time to slow down – just see where that leads you.

 

 

My Self-Esteem Comes From God

There’s so much emphasis in the world now about self-esteem and freedom of individuality. These things are good. While I think they’re both very important, I’m here to say that mine comes from God.

For most of my life I’ve struggled with insecurity. Sixth grade was when my insecurity really started to show itself. I had started at a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders. Fifth grade was great because I was still in the same class as my best friend, and my twin brother was on the same “team” as we were (team = group of three teachers among which the students would change classes for math, science, and English). But when I got to sixth grade, lots of things were changing. I didn’t have very many friends in my classes, my friendships were shifting around, people started gravitating toward different interests, and I was starting to struggle in certain school subjects. Not to mention that this was the time in my life when I was starting to experience changes within myself and see the world as it is instead of from an innocent child’s world-view. The new school wasn’t my favorite because it had only been built a year before my class arrived – they were still working out logistics, and were extremely strict because they didn’t balance discipline with love. This only added to my insecurities because I thought I couldn’t measure up.

I got to middle school, and cliques started forming. I was making new friends and keeping old ones, but I still felt like I didn’t fit in, and I was different than a lot of people I used to be close to. I liked academics and music, and I didn’t think I was considered “cool” or “popular.” I had middle school acne, braces, and my hair was frizzy. (Just FYI, I did finally learn how to use a straightener. Phew. 😉 ) I was really little so my clothes didn’t fit right. Once I got to eighth grade, my self-esteem was getting better. I didn’t care as much about fitting in with my classmates, but I still struggled with self-image. I struggled with that “everybody-is-looking-at-me-and-thinking-bad-things-about-me” feeling.

Sometime around middle school. I had received a trophy after a voice recital...but I still didn't look very happy.
Sometime around middle school. I had received a trophy after a voice recital.

High school was its own beast. My problem spiraled from normal, puberty-age self-esteem issues, to obsession. Tenth through twelfth grades were especially rough in this area. The perfectionist in me started to show. I compared myself to everyone around me based on my clothes and academics; nothing I did was good enough. I loved my life! But deep down I didn’t quite love myself, and that kept me from achieving so many things I would have liked to achieve. I could have been better at sports, band, art, or even academics if I had felt better about myself and pushed myself to try harder. I just didn’t think I could do it or even that I was worth it. When I was good at something, I didn’t think I was or ever would be…so I quit. I put myself through countless personal struggles because of my lack of Godly self-esteem.

My brother and I at a football game, probably my junior year of high school
My brother and me at a football game, probably my junior year of high school. Getting there, but I still don’t see genuine happiness.

My senior year of high school, I decided it would be best for me to leave my hometown and attend Auburn University. I had been to some football games, visited a church there that I loved, and my best friend and brother were going, so I knew I would be OK there, and I loved the idea of starting over. I knew I could grow if I forced myself out of my comfort zone to live in a brand new city with brand new people and experiences.

This was a life-changing decision.

Not only did I grow academically, I grew personally and spiritually. I still dealt with lots of insecurity (with added anxiety, but I felt much better about myself with a brand new start. My sophomore year of college was when I really decided to get it together and truly find myself. I tried on-campus counseling for my anxiety; I tried meditation and yoga because I thought maybe I just needed to calm down. I even thought about getting medication. During counseling, I was having some relief, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. I still felt like something was missing. That year I prayed, studied my Bible, and loved myself the hardest I had in a very long time. By my senior year, I was taking much better care of myself. What I realized was that I needed to pour myself into loving my God and He would help me love myself. I’ve always known that, but I had never really known it until that year. That was the year I started this blog – to share the renewed joy I had found.

I have never been more right about something in my life – that more prayer and Godly focus was what I needed.  I had always believed this was the case, but I was in a rut that I needed help getting out of. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Counseling jump-started the process – helped me get out of myself – and God led me to the end. By my junior year of college, I had a new-found confidence, a boyfriend who would [exactly two years] later be my husband, and pure joy in the Lord. I had found contentment in myself and my God, instead of the world. It’s beautiful how much I can see God’s plan working when I let Him take control. Trust me, He knows exactly what He’s doing.

The summer before my senior year of college. Sure, I was in my favorite place, but I had pure joy glowing from my smile!
The summer before my senior year of college. Sure, I was in my favorite place, but I had real joy glowing from my smile!

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t still have my own struggles – that I don’t still have bouts with insecurity or anxiety. I do. What I am saying is that God, my friends, and my brothers and sisters in Christ have made those burdens so much lighter. I now truly believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I’m able to write this to people I don’t even know – and may never know – because I’m confident in my God’s abilities, and I want everyone to know that. My self-esteem doesn’t come from my clothes (although I like having pretty clothes), it doesn’t come from the people who surround me, or the popularity I have; it comes from God. My individuality comes from my born-again identity in Christ. And it comes from the love He had to sacrifice His Son for me. For my self-doubt and my God-doubt. God wants me in heaven with Him one day, and that’s better than all of the physical beauty, worldly individuality or popularity anyone could ever have.

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