“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often used to characterize the love that one person has for another or what a couple should strive for in a marriage. However, Paul’s assertion here to the Corinthian Church calls to mind the true character of Jesus Christ — Jesus’ PERFECT love for us. It is a love that has the ability to withstand the fiercest of storms and the most barren droughts. It is a love that has the ability to empower us to love even when we feel unlovable, with nothing left to give.
The depths of this Jesus-love take on a whole new meaning for those of us who fight exhausting battles in our mind on a daily basis. When we experience difficulties, distress or even struggles with our mental health, we can sink into the revolving thought pattern that our challenges make us unlovable and therefore we will fail at loving others: our spouses, our families, our friends. We fear failure and rejection, so we slowly start to close ourselves off to the very love that Jesus has for us.
So here are three things I think Jesus would want to remind us about love:
1. Jesus is Love
And Jesus chooses to love us. Over. And. Over. Again. His love is patient and kind. He is not easily angered and He keeps no record of wrongs. Understanding and accepting this truth has the ability to shatter our internal walls and the false thoughts that tell us that our struggles or difficulties make us unlovable and unable to love others. When we begin to let the love of Jesus flow into our lives, we slowly see that very same love and light shine out into the lives of others!
2. Love is Not Just Fueled by Feelings
Although we do not always have the ability to choose our circumstances, we do have the ability to choose this love. Sometimes we experience a difficult time “feeling” Jesus, battling the thought that He isn’t there. Thankfully, Jesus’ love for us is not dependent upon our feelings! Loving others now becomes an action that is no longer dependent upon our well-being or emotions, but an action empowered by the unwavering love that Jesus has for us. When our cup feels empty, Jesus is ready to fill it over and over again!
3. Loving Others Can Help Our Own Hearts and Minds
It is without question that in our lowest of lows, our physical energy, desire, motivation and ability to love is compromised. Yet, our decision to love in those moments reminds us that we were created for a purpose! Some of the greatest moments of hope and restoration occur as we choose to love others in our valleys.
Yet, when these reminders feel hard to believe and an overwhelming fear of failure seems to paralyze us, we need an easy place to start. Below are some simple ideas we can take to intentionally show love to someone in our lives this week:
— Write a short note of appreciation stating one thing about their character for which you are grateful or say thank you for how they have supported you this week. Words of affirmation can make an individual feel loved and appreciated. In Scripture, Paul constantly wrote words of thanks to God and to people that he met along his journeys, thanking them for ways they had faithfully served and cared for him (Romans 1:8; Ephesians 1:6; Philippians 1:3).
— Choose one manageable activity to serve someone in your life. It could be as simple as cleaning an area of the house, making a small surprise dinner or picking up their favorite coffee drink. Many individuals experience acts of service as their main love language. Jesus understood the need to serve others and often found ways to care for and express compassion toward those who were following Him (John 6:1-15).
— Give intentionally of your time through an activity that your spouse, family member or friend enjoys! Quality time is a crucial element in building and maintaining healthy relationships. Jesus knew this best of all, as He enjoyed fellowship with His disciples! Getting out and enjoying a movie, bowling, or walking on the beach can be healthy changes of scenery that benefit your own well-being and mental health at the same time!
Regardless of whatever mental or emotional challenges you are facing, nothing can separate you from the love that Jesus Christ has for you. He is ready to fill your cup so it can overflow into the lives of others!