November 6, 2013

Why love hurts

Many years ago, I read a short article about why people struggled to love others. It said that love required giving, a sacrifice, and that part of love is too painful. Rather than pain, most of us will choose not to love.

This morning, convicted of lack of love in my own life, I asked the Lord to enlighten me, to point to the root of it and dig out that root. He reminded me of that article then took me back to the same verse as recent days, this time with a different application . . .

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings... (Hebrews 10:32)

The author of the reading compares truth enlightening the mind with love enlightening the heart. That is, when Christ came in, He brought light to the way that I think, causing discord and readjustment in my mind, but He also brought love to my heart, changing my attitude toward people.

I remember the former days when those sacrifices to love others seemed like nothing. For example, I would play for hours with children, never once considering it a waste of time. Yet love brings the other side of this blessing from God, struggle and suffering.

Today’s reading illustrates love awakened when a mother holds her firstborn in her arms. Everyone sees the glow that radiates from her eyes and the gladness of having this small bundle to love. Yet all mothers recall the other side of that love, the sleepless nights, hours of weary watching, agony when life was threatened, struggles to do the hard things when strong wills rebelled and childish lips told lies. This is the anguish of love just as light also brings its own anguish.

I love my work, yet in that light I’ve experienced weary wrestling. I love my home and country, yet in that I am deeply burdened by both. I love Jesus Christ, yet in His light my life is often a battleground as I struggle, not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and the powers of this dark world (Ephesians 5:10-20).

Love has its mountain peaks, but also its valleys. It can be paradise but also hell. It has its mountains of transfiguration and its gardens where the sweat flows like blood. Love is the “secret of the sweetest song that ever was uttered by human lips, and love is the secret of the keenest suffering that ever pierced the heart.”

Now I see that my focus has gone away from the love that God “sheds abroad in my heart” to the debilitating and painful experience of being “poured out for others.” Instead of trusting God with both extremes of love, I’ve blocked its flow by often choosing what seems safer and less painful. The trouble with doing that is that in the process, others are missing out on that sweetest song — and so am I.

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