God loves you. He never stops loving you. No matter how often you fail, no matter how stupid you act, not matter how great your disobedience, no matter how badly you hurt even those you care about, he never gives up on you because he never stops loving you.
So you find yourself in a mess. Your relationship is on the verge of ending; you do nothing but fight with the one(s) you truly love. You’re sure it’s not your fault, but you must admit you have acted like a fool. So now what? The situation seems impossible. Is it too late? Is it time to walk away, but you don’t know where to go?
- If you feel trapped like you have no good options, then perhaps God is telling you to stay right where you are and face your problem. The reality is that, what you’ve messed up here, you will probably mess up in the next place, with the next person. You will attempt to make a fresh start and then realize you’re right back where you were. This is the error in thinking that leads to divorce or multiple live-in relationships. Is the key to a life-long relationship finding the perfect partner? Is the key for a marriage blessed by God to find “God’s choice” for you? No! No one is perfect, so there can be no perfect partner, and God’s will has a whole lot more to say about how you treat your partner than making a ideal match.
- No one can change another person. We can only change ourselves, and that is hard enough to do. Arguing, fighting, yelling and screaming, blaming and accusing are a waste of energy that needlessly hurts your partner; you each tell the other what they are doing wrong, and it’s pointless. Furthermore it is needlessly selfish, an empty, loveless exercise in blaming the other person. Does it make you feel better? Does it lead them to confess their failure? Does it lead to a speedy and loving conclusion? I’m not saying they are without fault. I am saying you have enough fault of your own, and that is something you can change!
- Your love, that is, God’s love through you, can lead to big changes. Agape love is the ultimate game changer. For this prescription to work, it must be the real deal. The romantic nonsense being peddled in modern culture is largely selfish self-centeredness masquerading as love. So much romantic love is about how love makes the person feel; it emphasizes how the one loved serves the needs of the one loving. Is it any wonder we run into difficulty when two essentially selfish people find their partner is not doing what they are “supposed” to be doing. You can often and easily mark the moment when this love of expectation kicks in—right after the wedding or moving in together. The time of winning the partner has passed to be replaced by the time of contractual obligation, although largely the “contract” is unwritten and the “obligation” is a set of assumptions. As those assumptions and expectations begin not to be met, first disillusionment and then anger kick in. That anger and all those other negative feelings need to go. Love needs to expressed. Better love needs to be shown.
Agape love is the love of Jesus that led to a cross: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” His love is unconditional, sacrificial care and compassion for another person. In a relationship of substance—marriage, friendship, brotherhood, parent/child, sibling, even co-worker, we may enjoy a sense of give and take, of investment and reward, but the basic requirement is still agape. We may focus on their failings while we ignore our own, or we can discover the redemptive power of agape.
A. Patient, not Demanding: Despite my own wants, needs, pain; I work to understand those I love.
B. Kind, not Abusive: Harsh words or actions devastate those I love and make my own love shrivel inside
C. Content and Generous, not Envious: Without jealousy, I’m glad for your blessings, content in my own.
D. Thankful, not Boastful: I praise God, not myself, for success, not condescending to those I love.
E. Reliant on God, not Proud: I depend on God and those who love me, without embarrassment.
F. Considerate and Courteous, not Rude: Not offending those I love, I thoughtfully keep my words nice.
G. Serving, not Self-seeking: Even when I feel empty, I will try to give and help, rather than take or hurt.
H. Secure, not Easily Angered: Self-doubt, fear, and guilt cause anger; I will share them with God, not you.
I. Forgiving, not Record-Keeping: Pain unforgotten; I forgive you and will not bring those hurts up again.
J. Delighted by Truth, not Pleased by Evil: I take no joy in assuming bad motives (I can’t read minds!).
K. Protects, without Attacking: I’ll put a shield around, not a wall between us, to keep you safe, always.
L. Trusts, without Doubting: I will count on the love of those who love me and try never to doubt them.
M. Hopes, without Despairing: I look for and work for the success of our relationship, not its failure.
N. Perseveres, without Complaining: I will accept your faults and never give up on you (or us!).
O. True Love Never Wears Out: Physical desire, infatuation, even compatibility fade, so I will model my love after God’s love, which is unconditional, endures, grows, and never runs out. (If you would like to read my entire amplification of the Love Chapter, you can find it here.)
If you have read this far, then you know that this is not an easy prescription. Only God can enable us to do the impossible, but he will do that. He loves us, forgives us, and empowers us if we seek his help and trust him. Here’s the appropriate benediction: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” It is also good to remember the last verse of I Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”