We get married because we fall in love. Many get divorced because they say they “fall out of love.” Because of this, we tend to think that love is a feeling. We don’t recognize it as a choice, a tool we desperately need to use when navigating our imperfect relationship.
Love is a blend of affection, devotion, and loyalty. It is part emotion and part commitment. When you feel like you don’t love your spouse anymore…that’s a normal feeling because feelings increase and decrease in all relationships. When you feel that way, however, it is a red flag that you need to pull out your God-tool of love and start using it intentionally.
When Mark chose to separate and was pursuing divorce, love was my tool of choice. I have to be honest, it wasn’t my idea. It was God’s. Several days after I discovered the affair and confronted Mark about it, I was despondent and begging God for direction. “What do you want me to do?” I begged. “Lord, you have to tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do!” I sobbed.
As I began to calm down, God spoke to my heart. It wasn’t an audible voice, but rather a strong sense of direction and peace. “Jill, I want you to love him.” Immediately I protested, “But Lord he’s not very lovable right now.” And then God whispered back, “And sometimes you’re not either.” Well He had me there. “Ok, Lord,” I whispered back, “You’re right. You love me when I’m not lovable, so you’re going to have to show me how to do that.”
A few days later as I was reading my Bible, I opened it randomly to the book of Romans. Romans 12:9-21 to be exact:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God couldn’t have shown me how to love in a practical way any clearer than that. I began, to the best of my ability, to love every time I interacted with Mark. It wasn’t perfect, but in the majority of my interactions with Mark, God met me in the moment and showed me how to respond with love. Many times I would have to slow down and pray before responding. I needed to choose a loving response because I usually wasn’t feeling’ it in those moments.
Jill’s love was powerful and God used it to soften my hard heart during our dark season. Never underestimate the power of your God-tool of love.
What about you? Where do you need to use your God-tool of love—especially when your spouse isn’t real lovable?