“They are way too young.”
“They are totally incompatible.”
“They’ll be divorced within a year.”
These words were spoken over my husband and me in 1985 shortly after we were engaged to be married. Yes, we were young. On our wedding day I was barely 18; he was almost 20. We were opposites in almost every way. Except for our love for Jesus and each other, and our desire to change the world, we had little in common. We’ve had some rocky seasons in our marriage, but I’m happy to say we just celebrated our 31st anniversary.
The years have flown by. It almost seems like yesterday that Jonathan and I decided to get married. We were so full of hopes and dreams, and convinced that it was God’s will for our lives. I believed that the Lord had spoken a promise to my heart.
“This is the one I have chosen for you. Through your relationship, you will learn about My love.”
My heart longed to experience God’s love more deeply. Learning about His love through marriage to my best friend sounded like a fairy tale. What more would a girl need?
You’re probably shaking your head at my naivety.
“Relationships are complex,” you’d counsel.
“You can’t expect that much from another human being,” you’d caution.
I’m not sure my teenage self would have listened though.
Fast forward twelve years, and I would have been ready to listen. Jonathan and I were the pastors of a small church in a small town. Jonathan worked a full time job 60 miles away to support our family. My days were spent homeschooling four kids, caring for a newborn with special needs, and holding down the fort of ministry. I struggled with depression that, in hind sight, should have been treated medically. I loved my husband, I loved my kids, and I loved our congregation, but I felt lonely and empty. The Lord’s promise spoken to my heart was a distant memory. I wondered if I had been hallucinating.
As I questioned the Lord through tears, I felt prompted to read 1 Corinthians 13. I argued, “But I already know what it says. That’s the Love Chapter.” Nevertheless, I opened to the passage.
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. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).
I continued with my defense. “Lord, I’m doing my best to love, but I’m not receiving this kind of love from anyone.”
Ever so gently, the Lord pointed out my error. “This isn’t talking about human love. This kind of love comes only from Me.”
Suddenly my eyes were open to God’s precious love poured out on me. Beyond the gift of new life through Jesus, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit (which would be more than enough), He cared intimately for me. Because I had experienced His faithful love, I was able to love my husband, children, and church. They were doing their best to love me, but I expected their love to make me whole. Human love, no matter how wonderful, can never do that.
Are we expecting too much of our human relationships?
Please understand, I believe we should invest in our marriage, family, and friendships. God designed marriage to be a picture of Christ’s love for His Church, and we should strive for that (Ephesians 5:25-33). Our relationships should be healthy and respectful. There is no room for abuse.
However as human beings, even with the best of intentions, we love imperfectly. In healthy relationships, we let each other down. We get in trouble when we expect love from people to fill the emptiness in our souls. That place belongs solely to the Lord.
It’s true. All we need is love. But it’s God’s love we need. As we live in His love, we are able to love others whether or not they deserve it. Our relationships may be lacking or even broken, but they never determine our worth. When our hearts are filled with God’s love we thrive as His dearly loved children regardless of the circumstances.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your perfect love. I am grateful for the kindness and acceptance you have poured out on me. Help me experience Your love and receive worth from You alone. As I live in Your love, empower me to love those You have placed in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.