LET LOVE COVER
the miracle of love
It wasn’t a fast pace by any calculation but rather uneventful and boring. There were not any perceived dangers but my mind was still twisted and contorted by the events of the prior day and somehow I just slammed into his rear bumper. It seems impossible that I could have been so aloof. His car was pretty and expensive and it looked very new so certainly he would ask me where in the hell my brain had been and he would have had every right to be disgruntled by my senseless lack of attention and the untimely disruption during his morning commute. He got out of his car as I fearfully anticipated some nasty remark about women drivers, but instead he looked at his bumper and then asked me if I was okay. I let him know how sorry I was and then the unthinkable happened. This tall, very physically fit and beautifully dressed black man looked at me and said “I’m just glad you are okay. Don’t worry about my bumper”. He got in his car and drove away. Maybe it didn’t occur to him in that moment that he loved me, but he did, and I felt it. He loved me by not getting angry and by not placing the appearance of his car over the condition of another human person. He loved me by letting his tender heart cover a multitude of wrongs that day. And he didn’t just love … he loved deeply, allowing the love in his heart to interrupt a collision.
The day before had been September 11, 2001, the day that evil overwhelmed and succeeded in shaking and rattling America as we knew it. I believe in the moment that I plowed into the back of his shiny car, that sweet man realized that there was something bigger than he or I causing commotion in the world. He knew I had been shaken too. He knew that shiny metal and fancy chrome emblems had little value in comparison to the value of the love our world so desperately needed. In that moment he gave me what the whole planet craves; grace, a do-over, forgiveness and a hope for redemption. In every way, he interrupted the standard. The day before 9/11, he might have been angry and responded very differently to me, but on the day after he had an entirely different perspective; a perspective we all need from time to time. Love is a miracle just waiting to happen and who doesn’t need a miracle? Jesus has this perspective of us and we need to know it. He loves us just as much the day after our collisions as he did the day before. He knows what is going to hit us even when we don’t see it coming and He is prepared for every crash and burn.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:7-9. Wow. Love covers a multitude of sins! Do you know what I think might be going on here? If we are supposed to love deeply and not grumble because love alone can conquer sin, then I just bet we are exposing a multitude of sins every time we get upset or angry. If love covers then anything less must reveal, or worse, expose a multitude of sins. Just maybe that is the miracle of love.
~ The Purpose of Pain ~
Even though God empowers us to combat our pain and the pain of others in the world, He desires for us to see its purpose. For you and I to leave a legacy of love with Christ’s name written all over it we will need to embrace our past, present and future pains. You see, God has plans for us to carry His light into our places of darkness if for no other reason than to help someone who is lost to find their way out and into His saving grace. He alone makes it possible for us to find and hold onto joy, peace, comfort and hope amidst any trial we might endure. It is also there that He is best able to prove His love for us. Our pains are not meaningless. When revered as pivotal moments in your relationship with Jesus, pain is often the catalyst that drives impactful change, change that may be behavioral or relational.
None of us want pain. Isn’t it the last thing we ever want for ourselves and for our loved ones? Sure it is and I am no different in desiring detours that would steer me clear of every possible painful catastrophe. Though I can confess that when I look back on every deeply painful trial I have walked through, I emerged stronger, more compassionate, less arrogant, more humbled, less prideful and more thankful. So, if I can see that it is true for me that pain has produced refinement and an improved quality in my heart then I believe it is also true for you. For this reason my prayer is that we could all see and appreciate that God has a purpose in pain and that it is ultimately to be used to honor and glorify Him.
The book of Isaiah has something interesting to share about how God works in the darknesses we will experience in life. What if the darkness is where treasures are hidden?
Isaiah 45:3 (NIV)
“I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
In her book, “Choose Joy”, author Kay Warren said this about darkness, “The immediate challenge for me was to believe that treasures in the darkness actually exist and then to believe I could find them. And yes, I had to accept and embrace the truth that these treasures are a special category of gifts from God, hidden riches ONLY to be found in the secret places of my deepest pain and agony.”
When we can truly begin to embrace that God is at work in every situation of our lives, even the most painful, I believe we can find strength to hunt for the gold. Those nuggets are precisely what helps us to look back on the hardest parts of our lives and exclaim confidently, “I would do it all again” because we realize that without the pain we might not have ever uncovered the treasure.
In Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) we can see that God also uses circumstances with unpredictable outcomes to reveal His greatness. “Call to me. I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah was in confinement when God gave him that instruction. There are very great things, insights, wisdom and mysteries - things we cannot search for answers to on our own - that God will reveal to us, and it is possible that some sort of painful confinement is exactly what we need to motivate us to call out to Him.
Finally, throughout the Psalms we witness over and over that David’s sorrow turns into rejoicing and his pains become songs of praise. God referred to David as a man after His own heart, the source of the greatest love of all. David was barely able to avoid pain for a moment but yet his life was used to help accomplish extraordinary fame for Jesus.
You and I would be hard pressed to find a person in the Bible who didn’t endure deep pain. Every apostle and disciple, prophet and leader walked through something they would have rather given up an arm than to go through and yet all of our Biblical heroes died leaving the legacy of the love of Christ. God desires the same for us, to expose beautiful treasures in the depths of our darkest pain.
May be we blessed to know that every pain we endure has a purpose and if we let it, in hope, our pain will lead to the kind of love that Jesus has made famous.
Love is risky, I know. And it hurts so much at times, I hear you. But the greatest sacrifice yields the deepest rewards. When it comes to love, God will always return to us what we give away for His sake.
(Prayer) Jesus, you have loved like a wild man, crazy with a passion and desire to see the massive collection of us redeemed and restored to you. Lord, empower us with more than a gentle or timid willingness to love a little. Empower us with hope that never doubts, energy that never fades, courage that never fears and joy that cannot be contained. Lead us in love that conquers evil. Amen.
I lack the proper wisdom to offer you a self-help book in this arena, so instead, here is my best attempt at a self-help paragraph. Roots of bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness will strangle the best and most beautifully potential parts of us if not weeded out. Be honest with God about your feelings, your old or fresh unhealed wounds. You can pray for healing and restoration. I also recommend asking God to ...