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When Loving God Is A Struggle

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13

As Christians-- who claim our God is love-- it's no surprise that we are also supposed to be characterized by love. Especially when the same sentence that states God is love speaks to that.

"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8 

But if we're honest with ourselves, it becomes pretty clear, pretty quick that we fall very short of the mark of love as defined in the Bible.

Key words right there: defined in the Bible. (Did you think you could get away without me defining at least one term this post? Well, you were wrong.)

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Love is such a simplified term in our culture. The way we think of it is incomplete at best. More often than not, it is also vague and shallow, full of fleeting thoughts and feelings rather than consistent selfless actions.

The Bible, however; is anything but vague and shallow when it comes to describing love. You know the passage; 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . .” 1 Cor. 13:4-7

This is the love that God has shown his people from the beginning. This is the love that God shows to us now. And this is also the love that we are called to emulate.

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

In many ways, it seems this command would be pretty easy to keep. But when love no longer simply means deep affection but also action— patience, kindness, obedience—  and we add our sinful human nature to the mix. . . well, we tend to run into problems. (Not to say the emotion part is really all that much easier necessarily. . .)

In the end, not only do we fail to wholeheartedly love God, but we also fail to recognize God’s amazing love for us. The two go hand in hand. Just like babies, who learn to love their parents and in turn love others because of their parents love for them, so we need to open our eyes to God's love to us in order to love him in return. Like 1 John 4:8 says, God is love; what better source to learn love from?

"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

So how do you get out of this mess of mediocre love towards God? Or better yet, how do you avoid it? There are two things that immediately come to mind that have helped me a ton.

  1. Prayer
  2. Reading Scripture

 Bet you saw that coming. But let's be a little more specific.

  1. Consistent and honest prayer filled with supplication and praise
  2. Meditating on the love God shows for us through his promises and actions in scripture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the only reason we feel lack-luster in our love for God is that we have not steeped ourselves enough in praise and wonder and glory of God. We let it become old and normal. We turn extraordinary to the ordinary.

Yes, we may go to church every Sunday and regularly have private worship and family worship and go to Bible Studies, but it all too easily becomes route. It starts going in one ear and out the other without us digesting it.

So digest it!

Meditate on God's awesome love and care for you and his people in the big and small, pour out your thoughts to him (good and bad), surround yourself with others who love him, and watch your love for him grow and grow!

We are born again! We are equipped with the Holy Spirit! We have the love of God in us! We just have to nurture it. There is no room for defending ourselves or apathy or wanting to quit, there is only room for growth. And as Christians, we will grow.

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Of course, no matter what we do, we will still fall short of that perfect mark. We can get better, but we cannot get perfect and we have to come to terms with that (while still fighting towards holiness though).

Discouraging as that might seem, that fact-- the fact that our salvation and blessings are exclusively due to God's love, not our merit-- is the start of truly understanding the craziness of God's love and cultivating love for him. In a way, it's one of my greatest encouragers.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person. . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

That is how you know God's love is real.

How do you remind yourself of the love of God? How do you cultivate love for God in yourself?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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