Get That ‘Love’ Stuff Out of Here

Ah, the day after Valentine’s Day. Or, as I like to call it, the “75% off love day.”

Whereas just 24 hours ago, love was everywhere–flowers, balloons, candy, red hearts–today, all that remains are the few stragglers of which stores are desperate to be rid. Hence the cheap prices on wilted roses, sinking balloons, stale candy, and crumpled hearts. And while I love a good deal (I’m midwestern–it’s in my blood!), it’s actually a little sad how quickly our culture moves from celebrating love to throwing it away.

Yes, okay, I get it–these items are just *things* not actual love. But isn’t it a heartbreaking representation of our society’s views on “love?” To our modern day sensibilities, love is all about feelings. It’s an emotional thing. Love is something we experience with our senses. It’s something we consume. And then, once those strong feelings fade, we toss it out. Mark it down to 75% off and move on to something newer and shinier.

Is it any wonder the decline in marriage, skyrocketing divorce rate, or prevalence of lonely singles in our country?

We’ve lost the true meaning of love.

While emotions play a role in those initial feelings of attraction and/or connection, real love is so much more than that…and it must be. Because emotions can change on a dime. Think about how many emotions you’ve felt since you woke up this morning. I’m writing this blog post at 9:00 AM and already I’ve felt grumpy (because I didn’t want to get out of bed), frustrated (because my son couldn’t find his homework when it was time to leave for school), happy (because I hit all green lights on my way to drop my kids off), sad (because I noticed a hole in my favorite pair of shoes), and irritated (because my husband left a mess on his side of the bathroom).

Whew. Exhausting.

I’m going to admit that I didn’t *feel* love towards my husband or children this morning. They irritated me. They frustrated me. They down-right got on my nerves (how many times do I have ask them to gather their supplies the night before or clean up after themselves?!) If I was going purely based on my emotions, I might start to believe that I didn’t love them.

That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But why? If we’re going by society’s definition of love–feelings–then I’m speaking truth. I didn’t feel love for my husband or children this morning. But the reason this statement seems to wrong is because, deep down, we know there is more to love than feelings. And this knowledge comes from the spirit of Truth God implanted in each one of us.

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (verses 37-39).

We are not only commanded to love, we were created to love–first to love God, and then to love people. As the French archbishop Francois Fenelon put it: “Love God. Everything will come by love.”

But what does it mean to love God? If we go by society’s definition of love (that based on emotions), it would be extremely difficult to do. I’ve been following Jesus for many years now, and even I will admit–there are some days when it seems like God is far away. When it feels as if He doesn’t care, doesn’t love me, and doesn’t care. If I were to love Him based purely on my feelings from day-to-day, I probably would have given up a long time ago. Because some days it feels impossible to love Someone you can’t see, whose ways are mysterious and unknown. And, if I can’t love God, how can I ever truly love people?

Therein lies the truth–we can’t truly love people–with a real love–until we understand what it truly means to love God. And loving God isn’t about our feelings.

As Fenelon said: “God is not expecting any particular kind of emotion from you. All He asks is that you remain faithful.” He goes on to add that “faithfulness unsustained by pleasant emotions is far purer and more reliable than one dependent on tender feelings.”

Loving God means remaining faithful to Him despite our feelings.

Some days I can feel God’s presence all around me. I can hear His voice, sense His whispers, rest in His embrace. Other days, He seems far away. Maybe I’m grumpy, maybe I’m “sin sick,” maybe I’m mad a certain person or circumstance. Maybe I’m mad at Him. Truly loving God means that even on those days when I don’t want to, I live my life faithful to Him.

Jesus reiterated this in John 14:15 when He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Keep in mind, He’s telling His disciples this right before His crucifixion. They were scared, confused, and perhaps even a little bit angry that it didn’t appear as if Jesus were going to fight back against Roman oppression, which they hoped He would do. He understood their emotions were probably all over the place. So He gave them this directive; loving Him meant staying faithful to Him and His teachings. No matter the circumstance. No matter their feelings.

Loving God isn’t about emotion. It is about will. Fenelon said, “Please understand about love. All I ask is that your will lean toward love. Regardless of how you feel, make up your mind to love God.”

This is true even in our earthly relationships. To truly love another person–whether it be a spouse, child, friend, or relative–is about our commitment to remain faithful to him or her no matter how we feel. Emotions come and go; you may have experience several just reading this article. But the love God desires for us and from us is stronger than our feelings. It is a love rooted in Truth and bolstered by faithfulness.

Of course, in our sinful, fallen natures, even the strongest of wills can falter under the pressures of daily life. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in; it is through God in us that we are able to love Him and love others.

And that’s the kind of love that will never be 75% off.

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