5 Thoughts On Love : Even When It Is Hard

“I can’t finish the book. I’m too upset with the main character. Why does she keep leaving him? I just want to tell her to stop!”

“Keep reading,” she was told. “You won’t be sorry. This story has a great ending.”

The dialog went back and forth with some friends during a book discussion on Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, set in the 1850s during California’s gold rush. It is a story of rejection, redemption and restoration.

The allegory, based on the book of Hosea from the Bible, relates the timeless story of love between God and man. It reminds us of the deep well within each person that cries out to be filled with unconditional, redeeming love from God and from others.

But the main character is so hard to love. The reader just wants to give up on her. 

It is easy for us to love some people. Others not so much. Does it please God when we just give up? Oh, how we wish, because it would make life so much easier.

But God wants us to love more, to be more like him. We are called to love those who are hard to love. 

... that family member who lets us down
... that person who makes life difficult for us or our child
... that co-worker who treats us poorly
... that spouse who never lives up to expectations

In Luke 6:32, Jesus says “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" Jesus goes on to issue this challenge to his followers: “But love your enemies, do good to them” (Luke 6:35).

Jesus has given us the ability to love everyone, even those we think you can’t love.

But how? Do we just put on a smile and make fake conversation until we can make the quickest exit? Scriptural directives call us to a greater love.
 

1.     Pray often (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Each day, pray for God help to see others through his eyes.

He created each one of us, and it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. When we start to see people the way God sees people, we begin to treat people the way God treats people.

If you’re really struggling to love one person in particular, commit to praying for him or her every day. It’s nearly impossible to hate someone if we’re constantly asking God to move in that person’s life.
 

2.     Humble yourself (James 4:1-6)

None of us is perfect. We can be hard to love, too. Think of how you would want to be treated in this situation, and treat that person the same way.  

A humble spirit brings us more clarity. It also opens the door to forgiveness, understanding, and opportunities to reflect Jesus.
 

3.     Be still (Psalm 37:7)

When someone offends us, we often want to strike back. Give the situation some time to simmer down. Hold on to that retort and squelch the desire to retaliate. This psalm reminds us not to fret when people succeed in wickedness. 

Wait on the Lord. Trust that he alone gives answers through your patient endurance.
 

4.     Forgive often (Colossians 3:13)

Holding a grudge against someone locks us in a personal prison. Colossians 3:13 is a reminder to bear with the failings of others, and to forgive one another.

A forgiving spirit unlocks the door to greater ability to empathize with those around us.

Remember the un-payable debt Jesus paid for you? Turn around and offer the same grace! You will indeed be free.
 

5.     Set healthy boundaries (Proverbs 13:20)

Jesus was in high demand. He worked day and night. Crowds of people pressed in on him. He had compassion toward everyone, but he also had an inner sanctuary of twelve disciples.

Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to be that person’s best friend. We can love even the most difficult people by being kind, meeting their needs, and showing them respect.

Jesus said people will know we are His followers by the way we love (John 13:35). The ability to forgive anything and love anyone is a uniquely Christian characteristic.

Loving people who don’t love us back can feel thankless at times. But we have a Savior who can relate. Jesus loved us before we knew who He was or wanted a relationship with Him.
 

Which challenging person in your life needs love? How can you show it today?

Are you thriving? Got relationships?

Who is your go-to person? Who is that person that you want next to you in your darkest, most gut-wrenching hour? Go ahead, please picture the face of someone before you proceed…

Why did you choose this person? Chances are your answer had something to do with: loyalty, dependability, solid Christian guidance and counsel, trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness.

I would also posit that the person you chose is someone you have known for a while. We typically don’t learn that someone is loyal, dependable, wise, trustworthy, honest, or faithful until we have been through some of the hills and valleys and battles of life with him or her.

Sociologist Brene Brown’s research suggests that the only way to build connection with someone is to spend time together. And over time we become vulnerable, and through these vulnerable experiences we learn that we can trust this person. Then we have an authentic, solid connection.

Authentic relationships with solid connections cannot be rushed…they take time to build.

In our sometimes busy, hectic world this can be challenging. We feel guilty if we take time to play a board game with family or friends on a Sunday afternoon when there is laundry to be done and dinner to be cooked. Who has time for a slow, meandering walk with a loved one? Let’s walk briskly, get our steps for the day in and then move on to the next item on our list. Relationships take time.

We are a self-sufficient, independent society. We are supposed to be able to float our own boat; we shouldn’t have to need anyone. And yet, that is not how God designed us. In his Master plan we are all one body with many parts, and those many parts are inter-dependent. Like it or not, we need each other, we were designed that way.

In our flawed sin-filled world those relationships we crave will be imperfect. People will let us down and we will certainly disappoint others. That’s when we can be vulnerable. We can say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” And similar to a broken bone that becomes stronger after it is healed, our relationships get stronger as they weather the storms and trials of life.

Some of the world’s happiest people devote significant time to relationships. The research on thriving repeatedly supports that people who are well and thriving have authentic relationships with others. 

I often reflect on my time in poorly developed, third world countries. I am in absolute awe at the happiness and contentment of people who have so little. Most often these very happy people who have so few material possessions or comforts of life are overflowing in relationships. They have faith, family, and friends.

If relationships only grow and get stronger as we spend time with people and learn to trust them through our vulnerabilities, this same truth exists when we consider our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We can’t rush this relationship, either. It will fail to thrive and grow stronger if we don’t spend time on it. In this relationship we can be vulnerable, confess our sins, and trust that a loving God has already forgiven and forgotten. We need this assurance every day, not once a week, or twice a year.

Over the next month, I encourage you to find five minutes in your day when you can tune out the busyness of the world, snuggle up in your Heavenly Father’s lap with “The Good Book”, and just read. Read the message he wants to share with you and His world. I suspect you will find it difficult to stop after five minutes and you will long for more time to spend nurturing your most vital relationship.