I would argue that is the greatest desire and the greatest need of the human heart. We all seem to have an innate longing that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings others would find value in us. So many people in our world go to great lengths to find love and acceptance, but discover that they are fleeting and hard to obtain. Even though we live in an increasingly disconnected digital society, there is no lack of drive to seek love and acceptance.
A big part of our problem is that we are not quite sure how to define the word “love.” I love ice cream. I love my wife. Both of those statements are true to some extent, but they don’t really mean the same thing. The only thing I truly love about ice cream is the momentary bliss I experience when I bust open a pint of Salted Caramel and go to town for about five minutes (okay, maybe twenty five minutes). I love what ice cream does for me while I am experiencing its delights. Although I often find myself regretting my decision to eat the whole pint the next morning when I step on the scale. I don’t think about my ice cream’s well being throughout the day. I don’t wonder if ice cream is doing okay while I am away at the office. It’s only there to satisfy a particular craving at a particular time. So when I really consider it, I don’t truly love ice cream. At least not in any meaningful way.
Sadly, I think there are people in this world that would define their love for others in the same way I define my love for ice cream. They see relationships as a means to an end. They want something very specific from another person, and they simply desire to pay whatever price is necessary to obtain that thing (whether its sex, power, money, acceptance, etc.). After they have gotten what they desired from the other person, they find that they are no more happy or satisfied with their life, and they eventually walk away.
I do truly love my wife. It may be a weak, broken kind of love, but it is love nonetheless. My care for her extends beyond the things that she does to satisfy my own momentary desire for happiness. Around five years ago, jenni spent ten days in the hospital with a high fever caused by a blood clot in her leg and a thyroid storm. Those were some of the worst days of my life. I slept on a glorified shelf by the window of her hospital room every night. I was scared out of my mind, my heart was full of pain, and I wanted more than anything for her to be healed so that we could leave this nightmare behind us. Eventually she got better, but it took time and effort.
While she lay in the hospital bed delirious for the first few days, there was not much that she could offer me in the way of relationship. I mostly just sat there by her bed and prayed and cried and read the Bible. But I could not leave her side. Even going down to the cafeteria or getting a breath of fresh air caused me anxiety. I needed to know how she was doing moment to moment. My care for her extended beyond her ability to look cute or smile at me or to encourage me in my weaknesses.
I don’t tell that story to create some image of myself as the perfect husband. Trust me, I’m far from it. Since that time there have been countless moments of selfishness, foolishness and just plain sin in my relationship with jenni. But over time, my love for her has grown deeper and our commitment to one another has been strengthened through the hard times we have faced together. I believe this is the core of what love is truly all about: accepting and caring for the other person even as we understand their failings in a deeper way. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s really hard work at times. I suppose that is why so many give up on love and end up settling for something less to try to satisfy that desire.
Let me shift the focus now to God’s relationship with mankind. In the Bible, the apostle John says that, “God is love.” He is the very embodiment of love. In fact, most theologians argue that God is perfect in His love. He can’t help but love the humanity that He created in His image. At times we are all tempted to doubt this love. We can all fill in the blank with questions about the hard things, the pain, the sadness and the evil of this world. God’s answer to these questions was given 2000 years ago when He sent His Son Jesus to die on our behalf. All of the sin, evil, wickedness, sicknesses, selfishness and harm that this world can do to us were placed upon the shoulders of Jesus as He hung on the cross. The penalty of sin and the effect it has on our lives were absorbed by Jesus.
God loves you. I know He does. Not because of what you can bring Him to show your worth. Not because you have proven yourself to be worthy of His love. How then? I look at the cross. I see the God-man hanging there who cried out on behalf of his accusers, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” God knows your weaknesses and your sins. He knows them better than you, yet He has never stopped loving you in spite of them. His heart of love has never been reduced even a smidge by your personal shortcomings. Even now Jesus intercedes for you and His thoughts of you are more than sand upon the seashore. Take comfort in His love. Find peace in the arms of Jesus today. He loves you!