Do you ever feel like no one sees you? Your sacrifices? Your late nights? Your exhaustion? Yup. Me, too. Sometimes the demands of adulthood seem relentless. I wonder how I can fulfill all that is expected of me.
But then God posed a question–a relentless question. His voice was persistent, asking the same thing over and over and over. I had to find an answer.
This question was formed while I was doing a new Bible study about Jesus’ last words to His disciples. The author, Kim Erickson, issued a challenge:
“…think of how you could serve in love only. Do not consider who ‘needs’ you. Do not consider what you can do well. Do not consider what others will recognize or value. You should only consider what you might be able to do in complete and total love.” (His Last Words, page 42)
This challenge bothered me. I couldn’t make sense of it. If I stopped doing the things I felt obligated to do, nothing would ever get done. My kids wouldn’t eat. The house would be a disaster. We would wear dirty, wrinkled clothes. The church would be short a pianist. You get the picture.
I knew that this love was not the touchy-feely kind of love that gives you warm-fuzzies as you clean up your child’s vomit. At the same time, I understood that this kind of love was empowered by the Holy Spirit. However, I just couldn’t reconcile not doing anything because I didn’t have love-feelings about it. Hence the burning question:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “DO THINGS WITH LOVE”?
As I studied 1 Corinthians on my own, God began showing me the answers to this burning question. (I have written about it here and here.) In a nutshell, I learned that I have certain rights and freedoms, but God calls me to sacrifice those in the interest of helping others. Jesus Himself set that prime example when He left heaven, became a human, and allowed Himself to suffer so that we could be saved from sin. The Christmas season is an excellent object lesson for this sacrificial love.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
So are we supposed to forsake all our wants, needs, rights, and freedoms for others? Are we to become doormats? Isn’t this called “co-dependency”? Well, that depends on WHY you sacrifice your freedoms.
Merriam-Webster defines co-dependency as “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition”. A detailed description can be found here. A co-dependent’s motivation is to make themselves feel better by becoming indispensable to another.
In contrast, real love recognizes our own rights and freedoms. It acknowledges that they are just as important as the other person’s. But then, like Jesus, love sets aside those rights and freedoms in order to truly benefit the other person…Not just to make them happy, but to provide a long-lasting benefit to their well-being.
Real love is not the same as giving your kid candy to make them be quiet. It is helping them with homework when you’d rather have your nose in a book. It is making breakfast for the family with eyes half-closed in sleep. It is staying up to talk to your husband when he has a late night at work.
But what about ME?
When do I get a break? When do I get sleep? When do I get my needs met?
Let’s see what Jesus told His disciples about love and obedience:
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” –John 14:21 ESV
Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments. In turn, when we love Jesus, we will be loved by the Father. Then Jesus will love us and make Himself known to us. Of course, God loves all of us. After all, Jesus died for ALL mankind. But there seems to be a special love for those who obey Jesus in love. (also covered in His Last Words, pages 61-66)
Wow! When I sacrifice my rights and freedoms for the good of others, GOD SEES ME. The Father Himself notices my obedience. He is pleased with me just like I am pleased with my children when they do sacrificial things for each other. In turn, I get more of Jesus in my life. What an amazing trade off!!
Instead of preserving my energy to gain more, I am supposed to spend my energy loving others. This might mean doing things I don’t enjoy to benefit someone else. It means that I might not feel the love, but I act on it anyways. I sacrifice my comfort for another’s well-being. Then God refills me with more of Himself so I can love more. God is pleased with the sacrifice, the obedience.
What does this mean?
It means that I obey God–that I put myself aside to do what He asks of me. It means that He fills me over and over again so that I can keep sharing His love with others. It is acting in faith, trusting Him to enable me with His Spirit. This love is supernatural. It is beyond human understanding. I can’t manufacture it with good feelings.
It is Divine.