Is it possible to love when you don’t feel like it?
“Why am I the only one who feels the need to grow and change?” “What doesn’t (insert issue) bother him as much as it bothers me?”
Ever muttered one of those lines to God? To your spouse? Angrily?
And I’ve talked to many newly married women who’ve wondered the same things.
Love when you don’t feel loving: the human angle
All of us possess the capacity to love.
But the kind of love that naturally occurs to most is phileo or brotherly love. This is the love that gives because the other person deserves it. Or because the mood and feelings are right.
This love will give endlessly so long as the giving is mutual.
In other words, our natural inclination is to give as long as we are getting something back. And withhold when we get hurt and offended.
So God calls us to a higher type of love.
Love when you don’t feel like it: the Godly foundation
God has given us a better way to love and it’s called agape love, or godly love.
Agape love took Him to the cross to die for our sins. His love wasn’t the scratch-my-back-and-I-will-scratch-yours type. It wasn’t because we deserved it or because it felt good or because it was fair.
He died for us because He made the choice to do it. He was thinking about restoring our broken relationship with our heavenly Father.
Lets look at marriage.
Usually when we have conflict with our spouse, we want our spouse to ‘fess up and change. We want them to own up to their sin before we can feel anointed enough to reconcile.
We think it’s only fair to have a mutual “cross-carrying” thing going on – I own up to my sin and you own up to yours and then we can move on.
Unfortunately, most of the time, one spouse is unwilling to do this dance.
And this is you and I (by “you” I mean the spouse reading this post) has the opportunity to step into agape love.
So how would agape love look like at that point?
1. Agape love accepts the person, without accepting the person’s behavior.
I struggled with this idea in my own marriage. To me a person’s behavior was part of who they were and rejecting one part meant rejecting the whole.
Being a feely sanguine, it was hard to reconcile not feeling love for someone and loving them at the same time.
So when God opened up 1 Cor: 13: 4-8 (the love chapter) and Galatians 5: 22 (the fruit of the spirit), I began to see how agape love goes beyond my feelings to my will. I saw how it’s choice and action based.
It’s about what I think and the actions that result as a result of my thoughts.
Not that my feelings are invalid – just that I can’t allow them to lead me.
Choice leads, feelings follow.
When we step into agape love, we allow God to mold us and grow us. We also give Him room to work on our behalf.
Remember that we cannot change people. We do not control life either. And as long as we are trying to work our marriage or change our spouse, God’s hands are tied in the sense that we have taken control instead of allowing Him to.
But when we step back and do things His way, we give Him room to change us and work on our behalf.
2. Agape love has boundaries
God loves us unconditionally but He has laid down safeguards and there are consequences for breaking the safeguards.
In marriage, loving someone with God’s love does not mean you have to like and accept everything the other person does. It just means that your behavior towards them is filled with love.
And love in this case means you are patient, kind, not envious, boastful, prideful, rude, self-seeking, easily angered (ouch), keeping a record of wrongs, or delighting in evil. Love means you are trusting, protecting, hoping, persevering, never failing.
You can be firm and loving because passivity and silence aren’t signs of holiness. Agape love empowers you to make stronger wiser decisions. When you are in obedience, you can walk in peace and strength.You can be firm and loving because passivity and silence aren't signs of holiness.
Photo by jeniffer Costa from Pexels