I have a quote that makes up my home screen background. It says, “Beautiful Girl, you were made to do hard things. So believe in yourself.”
We’ve all been through rough patches in our lives. I wonder if you, like me, have questioned God about how you would get through it. If you could handle it. If it would ever end. I know I have. I know I’ve stood in my bedroom crying, whisper-yelling at God, asking Him how on earth He thought I would survive my situation. Telling Him I can’t. I couldn’t. Why was I there? How could I get out? Was there even a way out?
I’ve always loved fairytales. I’m a sucker for peasant girl turned princess stories. For unworthy girls being loved. For broken girls being seen as beautiful. In particular, the fairytale of Cinderella and the Biblical account of Esther are two of my favorites. Stick with me, I know I’m jumping around here.
Have you ever complained that you weren’t enough? That you weren’t up to the task? That the other person had hurt you too much–you couldn’t forgive them? That you would forgive once they showed signs of change? That you wouldn’t love them until they loved you first? That you couldn’t handle it?
Did you know that’s an insult to your Creator? Have you ever heard a nail complaining to Home Depot that it couldn’t withstand being pounded on the head? That it can’t hold things together? That it didn’t feel like being hammered down? That would be ridiculous (aside from the fact that the nail talking in the first place would be ridiculous). To us, it’s obvious that nails were made for that. We can see that the purpose of the pounding is to bring unity. To bring divided things together. To build something better.
But haven’t you felt some of those same feelings? Complained about some of those same beatings? Maybe instead of you being squashed, you are in the process of bringing unity, of making something better.
When God created our bodies, He already knew our purpose. Don’t you think that just maybe, He designed us for it? I’m not saying that He gave us everything we needed–if we had all of that, we wouldn’t need Him. But I am saying that He will prepare us for the storms that we have yet to go through. That’s one of the reasons that it’s important to seek Him in the calm as well as in the storm. To pursue depth in our relationship with Him instead of just faking it. We weren’t made to do this on our own; we were made to bring glory to His name. It’s not about us, nor is this life done, the race won, in our strength.
Christ is in us. I AM lives in me. I don’t know about you, but for me that means that what He is, I am. What He has, I have. His blood covers my sins. His love pours out of me, so I don’t have to love others in my own strength.
Let me unpack that last part for a second. I don’t want to project an image onto you, so I’ll just tell you what that means in my life, okay?
I’ve been hurt before. I’ve withheld love from those whom I decided didn’t deserve it from me. From those whom I was scared to be open with because I had trusted them before and they had rejected me. Thus, I became scared of loving anyone because loving a handful of people and having them hurt me left doubt that I could be treasured. I was waiting to love until someone loved me first, so I withdrew and watched people from the emotional cave I had made for myself. I didn’t let anyone get close until I had watched how they treated other people, if they respected other people or if they rejected them.
I lived there for years.
I let fear of being hurt chain me down.
I watched people that I wanted to be friends with, but was too afraid to open up to, move on. That’s when a realization hit me like the stones of David hit Goliath. Love was passing me by. Friendship was passing me by. I’d blocked everyone out. No one could get in. I had gotten to the point where it was even hard to love those that did love me, not to mention those who didn’t.
In doing so, I was spiraling downward. You see, God created us for relationships, not only with Him, but also with our fellow humans. When He created Adam, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. When we side-step that, life becomes meaningless. Why do we get up in the morning if not to fulfill the plans God has for us? To go against a part of our existence–our ability to be in relationship with others, will leave you exactly where it left me: contemplating why life is even worth living. It will only lead to death. Trust me, I’ve walked that road.
People are going to hurt us. That is non-negotiable. But we have to choose to love anyway. Sound hard? It is.
In the beginning of Song of Solomon, Solomon’s lover says that her beloved is hers, and she is her beloved’s. But by the time the lovers’ story is done, she willingly and joyfully admits that she is her beloved’s, and he is hers. See that shift? She chooses to love first. We love because God first loved us, not because people love us first. Loving people first flies in the face of fear.
Wanna hang around a little longer? I’ll tell you what I mean by that.
Have you ever heard of a little thing called counterfeit money? It is something created to try to be a substitute for the real thing without having to invest in the real thing itself. To mimic the effect without the responsibility of ownership. If you had an endless supply of counterfeit money that seemed to work just as well for all day-to-day needs as real money, would you try to go out and work for the real thing? Counterfeit would, in theory, work just as well. Eventually, you may not even remember that what you are dealing with is fake. Maybe someone taught you it was real. Maybe you even believe yourself that it is real.
The devil has a counterfeit for many, if not all, good things that God has for us. (James 1:17 tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. This means that nothing good comes from the devil or by chance. If it’s good, it’s from God.) I believe that the counterfeit of love is fear. What if the people we say we love, we are actually just afraid of? What if that’s true and we don’t even know it? What if we think we love them, but are actually just living in fear?
To know which one it is, love or fear, we need to determine what exactly love is.
(I know this is long. Y’all hang with me now. You’ve made it this far.)
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. It keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
So if that’s love, what is fear?
Fear is impatient. Impatience doesn’t stick around and pray for improvement. Impatience doesn’t look for how to help others forward. Impatience gets the heck out of there when things get hard, because it won’t wait for deliverance and healing. Impatience is afraid that things will never change.
Fear is unkind. Obviously, if you’re afraid of something, kindness to it is not your first response. When I see a spider or roach, getting it a bite to eat is by far the first thing from my mind!
Fear is jealous. Fear is afraid that someone will do better or have better than you. Fear feels resentment because of someone else’s rivalry. Jealousy is afraid that you won’t measure up because someone else measured higher than you did.
Fear is boastful. A fearful person boasts of his or her own accomplishments because they want other people to see how great they are so that the other people won’t leave them. Fear makes people boast their attributes and sell themselves so that they can be accepted.
Fear is proud, for some of the same reasons that it boasts. Pride is a counterfeit for the confidence that we have in Christ.
Fear is rude. Fear is rude because it thinks that if it can hurt first, it won’t be hurt. Nip the opposition in the bud, so to speak. Strike to avoid being struck. But it’s not self-defense if the other party isn’t actually on the defensive, but is on your side. All you’re doing is pushing them away because you’re afraid to be open with them. You’re afraid that if they see who you really are, they won’t love you. So you put on a mask that you’re not, telling yourself that it’s not who you really are, and that if anyone truly cared, they would see the real you, and you would be okay–but until then, you’re safe. Unknowingly though, all you’re really doing is pushing them away. People aren’t attracted to rudeness. It’s honey that draws flies, not vinegar. Fear demands its own way, but love is selfless. Love lets someone else have first dibs when our default human nature says, “Me first”.
Unless we study God, His Word, and His love, we won’t know what love actually is, does, or looks like. But with the great I AM in us, we can confidently say, “I AM LOVED.” and, “I AM LOVING.”
So are you in a place right now with some unlovable people? Some people that you know you could never love in your own strength? I have good news for you: you don’t have to love them in your own strength. You can love them in God’s, because that’s what you were designed to do. You can love them first, before they begin to be kind and loving to you. You can love them well, and you can chuck fear out of the window, because when God’s perfect love comes in, it casts out fear.
If God didn’t give you more than you can handle, you wouldn’t need Him. Humanly, we don’t have the capacity to handle hard things. But since the Cross, we can do all things through Him who gives us strength. We are more than conquerors.