Sometimes love costs you everything. Sometimes it doesn’t quite make sense why you would give your whole life up for it. Why you would sacrifice so much for something that requires such incredible faith. Sometimes you find yourself lying awake in bed at night. Praying. Thinking. Wondering. Fully in the moment and experiencing every emotion that comes at you. There is something about solitude that demands honesty… When you realize that silence doesn’t necessarily equate peace, and the soul’s unrest screams louder than it did in the chaos of the day. It is those moments that you feel most vulnerable. When your soul feels naked and you are forced to be honest with God about your fears, your struggles, your frustrations and your doubts, your feelings that He didn’t come through for you in the way you thought He would. Honest with Him that you feel forgotten, as if He needs the reminder that your faithfulness to Him should merit reward.
But does it really? Is it really through our deeds and our faithfulness that God is in return faithful to us? Is it really our deeds that merit His reward? Or is it simply for the sake of love? God has had to remind me time and time again recently that there is nowhere in scripture that promises that the Christian life will be easy or without struggle, trial and patient persistence? There are however plenty of passages about love and faithfulness and sacrifice. The one that sticks out to me the most is Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” That often is the hardest part. It is especially hard because it is contrary to our human nature and what we are taught by our culture. In our culture when we go half way, we can expect to be met in the middle. In our culture good deeds merit reward and recompense is to be expected.
But that is not the way with God. That is not His character. He is both much more complex and much more beautiful than that. I have had to learn this in a more real and tangible way than ever before in my life over the last several months. There have been moments when I’ve found myself doubting God and asking why He works in the ways that He does. Asking why I so often feel left to fend for myself or learn things the hard way. And it is in those moments that I am humbled and reminded that it is all for the sake of love ultimately. I am reminded that love cost Him everything, even to the point of His life. Love is what drove Him to the cross. Love is what made Him sweat blood and do what was most contrary to His human nature. Love is what made His uncomfortable, selfless life as a humble servant carpenter not only bearable, but ultimately beautiful. Love was the aim.
And in that most pure example of Christ we are reminded that love would not exist without struggle, perseverance, pain or even sin. Because it is in the presence of those emotions, those feelings, those struggles that love makes itself most known. It is, in fact, the struggle that defines love. I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis in His book The Problem of Pain. He says,
“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character….Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. BUT over the great picture of his life – the work that he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child – he will take endless trouble and would doubtless give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentiment. One can imagine a sentiment picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less…”
This is what blows my mind. This is what reminds me to keep persevering. This is what keeps me going when I want to give up. When I feel weary of doing good, or persevering or honoring Him in the areas of my life that I struggle the most. The reminder that God does not will for me merely to be a thumbnail sketch whose making is over in a minute but instead, He is making me…He is making us, into a masterpiece. And it is the trial, the struggle, the battles that are the brushstrokes of the masterpiece. To will their removal from our lives would be to ask God to love us less which for Him is an impossibility. It is the struggle that defines His love for us. It is the battle that gives it meaning. So my prayer for anyone reading this is that you would see the great love hidden within, behind and intricately woven into your battle, your struggle and your trial. That you would know today that it is all worth it. That the power of a greater affection is at work in your life and that you would respond in perseverance, faithfulness, consistency not merely for the sake of action but for the sake of love.