Forgiveness, Loving others

When someone is hard to love

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Her message left me shaken. She said if we had just 30 minutes together, she could get things off her chest; she was angry and needed to tell me the specific ways I’d hurt her.

We’d had this same conversation a couple of years before, so I knew that another venting wouldn’t liberate her. She’d placed me on a pedestal I didn’t belong on, and I wasn’t sure how to convince her that I could never be who she wanted me to be.

What she wanted was a perfect mentor, but what she really needed was Christ.

And while I knew all of this in my head, there was still a tender space in my heart that longed for her to look past my faults, to realize I was just six weeks a mom, rendered useless by exhaustion and illness. I wanted her to love me in spite of me.

To let me off the hook.

Yet what my heart longed for her to do for me—to love me unconditionally—I’ve so often failed to do for others. I’ve demanded their perfection. I’ve wanted to extract profuse apologies from those who have wounded me. I’ve itched to unload the silent rant that’s played on repeat in my head.

I’ve actually expected others to make me happy, to help preserve my emotional equilibrium.

IT’S COMPLICATED

Pastor Milton Vincent once said, “Our lives are complicated by agape love.” Because we will wrestle deeply with sin till we see Jesus face-to-face, our relationships will likewise be deeply impacted by sin—our sin, others’ sin.

Agape love steps into that sinful mess and says, “No matter what you do, no matter what it costs me, I will care for you, think the best of you, put you before myself, forgive you, and show you kindness.”

Until my late twenties, I thought agape love was synonymous with simple, harmonious relationships. Life experience has proven, however, that to love someone selflessly often means opening myself up to relational conflict, hurt, and disappointment.

But where others fail us, that is exactly where we get to experience more of God. 

  • Where an in-law seems demanding and unreasonable, that is where God’s grace and reasonableness become sweeter to us.
  • Where a friend is insensitive to our needs, that is where we get to marvel more at God’s constant care and compassion.
  • Where a church leader misuses their position and causes grief, that is where God shows Himself to be the perfect Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

As we learn to see God more clearly in the midst of relational hurt and disappointment, we can let loose our stranglehold of expectations on those around us and, instead, be free to love them lavishly.

Isn’t that what we all long for—to be lavishly loved smack-dab in the middle of our mess?

The problem is, I fail more than I succeed at loving like this… like Christ. So I must continue to spend time with Him, to read His Word, to pray and pour out my heart to Him, asking that “He might increase and I might decrease” (John 3:30). And as I do, two things happen:

I remember how much I’ve been forgiven.

News flash: I have an inflated view of myself. So much so, that the very offense I hold against my offender, I myself have been guilty of countless times. My pride blinds me to my own faults (or at the very least, minimizes them), and shifts my focus to the unforgivably large faults of those around me.

Time spent with Jesus humbles me and helps me readily confess that in my sin nature I am capable of the very worst of sins. If an infinitely loving God has forgiven the vileness of my sin (all of it!), how in the world can I refuse forgiveness to a fellow desperate sinner? (See Matthew 18:33.)

Joy suffocates judgment.

It is impossible to hold onto a grudge when my heart is overflowing with joy in Jesus. As I rejoice in the greatness of my Savior and His gift of salvation, I am compelled to share His love with those around me. Any judgment or wrath I had in my heart for my offender is swept away by time spent rejoicing in who God is.

Where do you feel hurt and disappointed today, dear sister? Who has wounded you or made your life feel painfully complicated? Take heart: that is precisely where God longs to meet you and amaze you with His goodness.

 

For more thoughts on this topic, you can read “5 Ways to Pursue Peace in a Difficult Relationship.”

**Please note that this post is not addressing issues of abuse.