Growing in Love
By Maria Fontaine
Very few people are intentionally mean, unkind, or unloving on purpose. Yet it’s so easy to let the priority of love get crowded out in a multitude of business. Or it’s easy to fall into measuring the behavior of others and subconsciously deciding who we think is worthy or deserving of our time and attention and who isn’t. Those are natural, human tendencies, but that doesn’t change the fact that when we lack love, when we don’t manifest love, it can have terrible consequences. It can discourage people and it can damage our testimony.
You know, someone doesn’t have to be perfect in order to deserve our love. They don’t have to be a perfect co-worker. They don’t have to be faultless, or always cheerful and considerate, or a tireless worker, or have a personality that makes them easy to like or get along with. In fact, I’m sure none of us are all these things all the time, because no one is perfect. And yet, as representatives of Jesus, our job is to love. It’s what we do. Love is what our mission is all about. Love is our trademark—or it should be! “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.” (John 13:35)
I think we might all need to periodically ask the Lord to take our self-righteousness down a few notches and refill us with His love and His perspective for our situations. In the midst of all our responsibilities and the pressures and stress of life, it’s easy to get negative about others at times, or a little judgmental. It’s human nature to size up others, and without realizing it, sometimes slip into a negative mindset.
Being negative about others can become a vicious cycle of judging and criticizing and measuring, rather than the strengthening cycle that the Lord intends of helping one another, loving each other through our bad days, forgiving each other our mistakes, safeguarding each other in our weak areas, and showcasing one another’s strengths. Love begets love. It inspires others to give their best. It brings down the Lord’s blessings. And it makes us happy. When there is a lack of love, it’s usually a cycle too. A lack of love creates more problems, which perpetuates even more lacks in our love.
Don’t put the doorknob too high for others. If you do, no one will be able to reach it. No one will measure up. None of us are good enough. Ask the Lord for an infilling of His unconditional love for all your interactions with others.
Jesus’ love is strong enough and pure enough to withstand our human faults and sins and mess-ups, which are many. Ask the Lord to give you some of that kind of love: Love that cares for others whether or not you naturally click with the person, whether or not you feel you have the time to spare, whether or not you feel the person is worthy or deserving of your time. Love that loves even if someone is disturbing your personal space or interrupting your plans. Love that appreciates people for who they are—someone who Jesus loves and has put in your path or in your life, and who He wants to love through you. Love that loves even if the person is late or selfish or rude or unkempt or disorganized or just plain in the wrong.
Stress is a real killer of love. At the time, nothing seems as important as what is stressing you. Stress certainly pushes love down on the priority list. Self-centeredness is another killer. When you’re focused on your own needs and what you want to do, you can’t even see the needs of others, much less be bothered to fill them. Lack of faith is another killer, thinking that giving to others of your time, affection, friendship or anything will cause you to lose in some way.
Resentments, hurts of the past that you don’t let go of, and hurts that are unforgiven can hinder your ability to love, and this can stretch over a long period of time, until you’re willing to leave the past behind and risk trying again. Laziness is another hindrance, when you just don’t care or you expect someone else to make the move or give the love that’s needed to others. Selfishness is another, feeling that you already do enough, you already give enough.
There are many excuses not to love, and each one seems justified if we’re only willing to love when it’s easy. But when we hear the heartcries of those who have been hurt by a lack of love, when we see the suffering that a lack of love causes, we realize that excuses don’t really matter. We get a little glimpse of how the Lord sees it.
As 1 Corinthians 13 teaches, all our hard work for the Lord and others is nothing without love. All our sacrifices are worthless without love. All our strenuous efforts are of no avail without love. Love has to be our driving motivation.
Love has to be what compels us. And love is what will keep things in balance. Love is what will guide us to stop what we’re doing and help someone else because they have a need. Love will give us the strength to press on when that is the greatest need. Love will help us see others through the Lord’s eyes.
We can be working hard, praying for fruit, doing our best to bring it in, but if we don’t have love—real love that lasts through imperfections, trials, bad days, problems, unpolished people, and all the rest—we’re not going to accomplish anything. “Without love, it profiteth nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)
One of the contributing factors to a lack of love is simply getting too busy, too focused on fulfilling your responsibilities or reaching your goals, to the point that you don’t take time to nurture and cultivate love—love between you and others, love in your own heart, love for Jesus, and receiving His love for you.
Ask the Lord to teach you how to love. Learning to love is an art; it’s not a natural human quality. It’s supernatural. It’s heavenly. That means you have to put some time, thought, and prayer into it if you want it to be a reality in your life. You won’t get better at it automatically.
If you want to grow in love, you’re going to have to make time in your life. Look at your life and your goals, and factor in some time to love. Factor in time for friendships—not just with those you’re closest to or who you naturally get along with, but time to build friendships with those you work with or who are a part of your life in some way. Factor in time for unselfish, going-out-of-your-way type love, when you do something for someone just to make their life easier.
Factor in time to be healed and cleansed spiritually if you’ve gotten off track in this area. You may need to ask for forgiveness. You may need to ask for prayer. You may need to make some changes in your life.
May we always be known for our love. I think that’s something we all want said of us—that we are loving, that we make it easy for others to be good. Love is a vital ingredient of the mission. The mission is built on love—Jesus’ love, and His desire for everyone to feel and receive His love.
The Lord wants to bless you with the love and camaraderie that you need in order to be fulfilled and happy. He wants to use you as a vessel of His love to others. He wants to pour through you. He wants to stretch you and make you capable of loving more than you thought you were capable of. Nothing precious comes easy, and bonds of love, gifts of love, sacrifices of love are no different.
Whenever you feel lacking in love, remember that He has more to give you, and His love never runs out. Love is a miracle. Ask the Lord for a miracle, for more of His nature, and He won’t fail. He’ll fill your heart to overflowing. You can never outgive Him!
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