Love. Possibly the most written about, sung about, and desired aspect of our existence. No matter the culture, background, age, or income, I honestly have never met a man, woman, or child who did not have a deep, internal longing to be cherished. Even if they initially push others away, behind the walls and beneath the pain or fear lies a hidden but very real desire to be loved.
We all have ideas or notions about what love looks like or feels like to us, even how it should look as it is shown through us to others. But how many of us consciously choose to act out of a loving motivation day in and day out? And if we do choose this lifestyle, how do we define exactly what love looks like in the mass array of circumstances in which we find ourselves? Even in the Christian community, we often quote well-known scriptures, but how do they play out in our every day lives?
A few months ago I read the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). I have heard or read this story dozens of times over the years, but this time one word jumped right off of the page at me: Therefore. It looks like a pretty harmless word, but it now added a totally new dimension to this story.
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.] Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was.” (John 11:5-6, AMP)
The verses above, as well as other passages, tell us that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus very much. They were His close, personal friends. But then we see that word: Therefore.“Therefore [even] when He heard Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer…”
By this time in His ministry, Jesus was well-known across the countryside for healing the sick and diseased, the blind, the deaf, and the crippled. It would seem an obvious act of love for Him to go to His close friends when He heard that one of them was sick. And to confuse matters even more, we find out further into the story that Jesus knew that Lazarus’ sickness would actually cause him to die. Yet, here it is recorded that because Jesus loved them deeply, He stayed away for two more days. How do these two pieces of the puzzle fit together to somehow form love?
Jesus knew something that Martha and Mary didn’t yet: Genuine love is not dictated by our emotions. Yes, we may feel a variety of emotions when we walk in love, but there should be only one Guide in our expression of love: the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew that the greatest love He could express to His dear friends was to do what His Father told Him to do, and that was to stay away for two more days. Although it might seem hurtful to Mary and Martha in the short term, Jesus loved them enough to trust His Father with the bigger picture.
We can see the deep compassion in Jesus’ heart as He tried to encourage the disciples, and later Martha and Mary, and then wept at their lack of understanding.
“This sickness is not to end in death; but on the contrary it is to honor God and to promote His glory, that the Son of God may be glorified through (by) it.” (John 11:4, AMP)
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother shall rise again… I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life.’” (John 11:23, 25a; AMP)
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?’” (John 11:40, AMP)
When we read I Corinthians 13, known by many as “the love chapter” of the Bible, we read that love is patient and kind. It is not envious, rude, or boastful, and never insists on its own rights or way. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything, and is ever ready to believe the best. It’s hopes are unfading in all circumstances.
These are truly amazing attributes, and ones we should yearn to be known for. Yet, how do we know – like Jesus did with Lazarus – how to walk these attributes of love out in the reality of our lives? How do we know what is right and just, what is truly kind and the best? By walking the same way Jesus did: Knowing, loving, and obeying the voice of our Father. The only way to walk in genuine love is to let the God of Love live through us.
This is not a one-time, quick, simple decision. It is a daily choosing to get to know our Father yet more and more–a daily desire to let Him love us so that we learn to recognize and know His ways and His voice – through mistakes and victories. Then His Spirit can lead us and love through us.
What circumstances are you in today? Maybe it seems obvious how you should handle them, or how to love those around you. Maybe you have no idea what to do. Either way, I want to encourage you to take a minute, or an hour, or as long as it takes, and sit quietly with your Father. Let His Spirit speak to you and give you direction before you move forward. He may direct you to do exactly what you were planning to do, or it may turn out that God has a bigger, more intricate plan that He wants to unfold for you and those around you. He will always confirm His plans in His Word, and they will always be consistent with His character. God is love and His plans and purposes will always reveal this truth in the end. But if we leave Him out of the picture, I can almost guarantee that love will also be lacking.
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us , to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:16-20, NLT; emphasis mine)
Find more of Amy’s encouragement in An Invitation from Jesus.
Amy Layne Litzelman is passionate about knowing God more intimately in each moment and helping others do the same. Amy released her first book, This Beloved Road: A Journey of Revelation and Worship, in 2011. She has also composed over seventy songs, recorded four CDs, and traveled to teach and lead worship across the United States and in the Philippines and China. She and her husband, Matt, live in Jackson Hole, WY and have two adult sons.
Click here to learn more about gifted faith writer Amy Layne Litzelman.