Courage to Love; Courage to Forgive

 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”

I Corinthians 13:6c-8a

I always find it interesting when memories of past events are triggered by reading certain portions of Scripture.  When I read the passage from I Corinthians 13 (see above) I cannot hold back a slight grin as I remember God’s patience with me back when our three children were still at home.  As a mom I felt convicted that I was being too hard on my eldest (then about 16)  while trying to protect her from foolish decisions (or so I thought at the time!)    I opened my Bible to chapter 13 in I Corinthians (the “Love Chapter”) to get back on track in loving her better.  Starting with verse 4 I prayed, “‘Love is patient, love is kind’ ~ Yes Lord, I can be patient, I can be kinder to my daughter . . . I can resist being envious . . . being rude . . .” and so on.   My time with the Lord was going great until I got to verse 7 where I found myself starting to choke when I read, love “always trusts . . . .”  I remember starting to panic as I prayed, “But Lord, she’s 16!  I don’t know that I can trust her!”  In the next moment He spoke to my fears with the assurance, “BUT YOU CAN TRUST ME!”  It took a moment for me to absorb what He said to me.  When I did, I remember smiling to myself as I responded, “Yes Lord, YES!   I do and I will trust YOU!”  

That day was a “red letter” day for my personal growth as God gave me the courage I lacked, to love my daughter by trusting Him more.   

That’s a lovely lesson about finding courage to love (and I am grateful for it!)  What I didn’t know was that God’s faithfulness in teaching me that lesson, would later serve to prepare me for a much more challenging life lesson.  There came a time when I doubted my ability to love and to forgive as fear and confusion gripped my heart and mind.    I only recently found this quotation attributed to Mother Theresa, but the wisdom of her words still profoundly resonate with my experience:

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”        

While Mother Theresa understood the abject poverty of the societal rejects of India better than most, she also saw that the needs of people (whatever their station in life) run beyond their material needs.  She recognized that loneliness (and the perception of not being valued) is a cold darkness that can strip people bare- no matter what their status in life is.  The greater the loneliness (the more introspective and dark our perceptions) the more terrible our poverty.

 Many times loneliness is tied to deep hurt or disappointment in a relationship.  Have you known such loneliness?  The problem of loneliness is compounded, when sufferers build emotional and spiritual barriers in an attempt to guard against being hurt again.  Humanly speaking this is understandable.  Truthfully, I must confess I existed there for a while.  (I say “existed” because when we surround ourselves with such emotional/ spiritual barriers we deaden ourselves to “life” at many levels.)  I became convicted that I needed God’s help to love and forgive.  I struggled for several mornings when I did my Journey Notes.  (Check out the side panel to learn more Journey Notes Praise Journaling.)  

On the first three mornings my responses were to a series of “What if’s?” 

  • “What if I get hurt again?
  • What if I am made a fool of?
  • What if . . . ”  

FEAR gripped my heart and I could see no way out.  

Thankfully, on the fourth morning there were no “what if’s” logged in my prayer concerns.  Instead I asked:

  • “HOW am I to love?  
  • HOW am I to forgive?  
  • HOW?”  

By asking those “HOW’s” to God’s call, FAITH took over and clarity was on the way!  

I found the answers to the “how’s” in Ephesians 4:26b-5:2.   How to love again?  How to forgive?  

 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.    He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”  

(God’s call to you and me, “Stop sinning!  Take your eyes off of yourself and follow Me!”) 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  

(Be a blessor to ALL who cross your path.)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed  for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  

(Remember Whose you are.  Loving and forgiving are not optional.)  

Be kind and compassionate to one another,  forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”   Ephesians 4:26b-5:2 

It was the last piece that really grabbed my attention.  In my response  that morning I wrote:

I celebrate God’s mercy and wisdom in reminding me  that loving is not about me.  Loving is about God and it is about His sacrifice, made on behalf of all people.  For my part, loving is about forgiving because I have been forgiven.  It is about compassion granted because it reflects what He has done for me.  Having said this it strikes me that to love deeply (to truly forgive) requires a special kind of courage.  It is a courage that is rare and cannot be manufactured by human will or reason.  Such love is totally invested in God’s ability to cleanse, mend and restore what has been shattered.  Thank You God for the hope that is mine because of Your Presence in my heart and life.  There is so much I don’t understand but I choose to rest in Your ability to help me to forgive and to love as You have forgiven and loved me.”

That morning I realized in a deeply personal way that it took courage for Jesus to do what He did.  From that day forward I leaned heavily on God’s faithfulness to provide the courage to daily love and to forgive.  How about you?  Are you struggling as I did?  If you are . . . I urge you to go to Him now in repentance and in faith.  Trust Him for the courage you need to begin the process of loving and forgiving.  He is so totally worthy of our trust!

All to His Glory!

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