If you’ve been married for any length of time, you know that love is more than an emotion. It’s not something fleeting that can just come and go. It’s not something that is brought on by the way he looks in a certain outfit or how she smells in her best perfume. As exciting as it can be, it’s not about the butterflies in your stomach.
Love is a choice. It’s something that you must work at. It’s a decision you make. Don’t believe me? Wait until it’s 2AM, you’re both trying to soothe a screaming child that has been at it for over an hour, you have to leave for work in about 5 hours, and you’ve been wondering for a couple weeks how you were going to make that month’s mortgage payment. If love was based on an emotion, that would be enough to end it right there. But it’s not.
Even the “love chapter” of the Bible alludes to this same fact.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [I Corinthians 13:4-7]
Have you ever paid attention to that last sentence? Love bears with imperfections. It endures the struggles and the hardships. When it is wronged, it does not change. Love is work. That’s not the kind of love you feel in 6th grade. That’s more than the feeling of holding hands for the first time. That’s commitment. That’s telling the other that no matter what happens, no matter what hardships we may go through, I am in this for the long haul.
At our congregation, our Wednesday night Bible class is made up of “young professionals” (roughly those in their 20’s and 30’s). We were talking recently about struggles that we face compared to the lives of David and Solomon. A statement was made that has not left my mind in almost a week: “Just like I have to get up every day and choose to love my spouse, I have to do the same thing every day for Christ.”
What amazing clarity and insight that brought to me. How often do I get down on my spiritual life and wonder “Why am I having a hard time following Christ? Why am I struggling to want to do what He says? Why do I continue to sin?”
I promise you that I can be an extremely hard person to love. No one knows this better than my wife, but she chooses to love me anyway. Just like being married isn’t easy, neither is being a Christian. Christ tells us that we have a cross to carry if we want to follow Him (Matthew 16:24). If necessary, we have to turn our backs on our family (Luke 14:26). We will be hated (Matthew 10:22). It’s not all going to be rainbows and puppy dogs.
If your love for Christ never progresses past the superficial butterflies in the pit of your stomach, then that love will go away quickly at the first sign of hardship. Instead, it must mature into something that is much deeper and stronger. A love that can overcome any trial. A love that is unwavering when temptation arrives. A love that bears and endures. A love that allows you to look into the eyes of those persecuting you, and decide to go to the cross for them anyway.
That love is a choice, not a feeling.
When you wake up every morning, make the resolute decision that you choose to love Christ above all else, no matter what Satan has planned for you that day. Let that choice begin today.