If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3
Suffering is something we want relief from or from which we want to rescue others. It is awkward and messy and often over stuff that from the outside seems easily resolved or simply reframed in a more positive light. But Biblically, suffering isn’t something to avoid or anaesthetize or panic over as if a horrible cosmic mistake has occurred. Suffering, whether through the small tedious responsibilities of the day or the larger tragedies and disappointments, is the very avenue through which God’s children are shaped to become His image. It is not so much the source of suffering that matters so much as what it is revealing in our hearts. One thing tears one person up and doesn’t phase someone else because of each heart’s different affections and demands. When those are threatened or denied, they are also exposed. But it is not to shame us that God brings us through this, but to birth more of Himself in us in place of our chosen replacements.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. James 5:7
As I have been trying to process which side is up, where I am and what I am doing here, I continue to be bombarded like a kid who gets turned over in the waves and can’t stand up in the continual surge of new waves. Our new puppy that came home December 13th and has quickly become a beloved family member started throwing up yesterday afternoon. She is now in a veterinary hospital with parvo which kills most puppies who get it. After crying my head off last night about a dog and then crying some more with Ellie in her bed, she mentioned hearing voices outside her window the other night when our neighbor’s sensor light came on. Prowlers? I just couldn’t process one more thing and went to bed wondering what it means that in God there is no darkness at all as the darkness was just feeling so thick around me.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17
My recently discussed fears would much more accurately be described as insecurity. The insecurity is entirely focused on how I “fit” into this neighborhood and into the bigger story God is telling. The anxiety is entirely about the discomfort I feel being in a different place, with different sounds and different expectations than I am accustomed. And my response has been sadness, anger and snarky, mean comments to my children and husband. On Sunday, it finally occurred to me that I actually hate people. I don’t really love them. My thoughts, words and attitudes to those around me (whether in my own kitchen or walking down my street) are entirely about how they conform to my sense of order or how they disrupt it. I hate the disruptions and the ones who are responsible for it.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:4-5, 9-11
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12
The overflow of my heart through my spiteful, hateful words lately has exposed a lovelessness for people that Jesus has come to change. His love for His people was entirely about His love and not in response to how well He connected with their styles, habits, obedience, service to Him or even love for Him. There is no fear in love because genuine love does not regard self-preservation or self-satisfaction as a factor. The darkness cannot overcome love, because God cannot and will never be overcome or overpowered. My need for the world around me to conform to a picture with which I am comfortable comes from a heart that has me and my comforts on the throne to be served above all else. I am not a loving god, but am redeemed and being conformed into the image of the author and sustainer of life. He has shown me my lovelessness not to shame me, but to remind me that He is God and I am not, and that He is faithful and He will do it. I will not be changed overnight, but like the farmer waiting for his crop, I will wait with confident hope. Then, as my focus changes from how others serve my identity and need for order to the needs of others and how I can serve rather than be served, I will begin to experience a greater taste of His love for and through me.