Asking the Lord to expand your capacity to love, to love like He loves and feel what He feels is a dangerous prayer for your heart. Do you know how much God loves us? Because He is madly in love with each one of us, longing for relationship with us, rejoicing when we succeed and desperately wanting to be there when we stumble and fall if we’ll let Him. He continues to love us with His fiery passionate love when we are the most unlovable. I know this. Yet that is a prayer I have been praying for many years… mostly out of ignorance at first, and then as I have grown in that love, I have prayed it intentionally.
Around six years ago, I ended up in an almost parental role with a teenager who was going through a lot of family problems at the time. He slept on my floor many nights, I fed him, took him to and from school more days than not… I really invested myself into this kid’s life and grew to love him like a son. I supported him at his sports events and did my best to be a good spiritual influence in his life. And one day out of nowhere, he decided he hated me to the core. He was never the most loving person to start with, but he went a little overboard in letting me know how much he hated and despised me, and even his girlfriend had no idea what in the world had happened with him. And thus it was left like that for over a year.
I remember laying in bed one night praying for this kid around a month later and I ended up literally sobbing as I was laying there, worried about him and mourning over the loss and not understanding what had even happened to cause it. I can’t imagine what parents who truly love their kids go through when they are rejected and cut out of their lives, but I know what it felt like after 6 months and it sucked. As I was laying there, God began to speak to me. He said two things very clearly. I think if He had said anymore, I would have probably died right there from a broken heart.
“How do you think it makes me feel when I long for a relationship with my children their entire lives and they reject me completely and end up spending an eternity in hell?”
And if that wasn’t bad enough!
“How do you think it makes me feel when you go a whole month ignoring me, not spending time with me and barely acknowledging me unless it is in a conversation with someone else?”
I cried myself to sleep that night.
Over a year later, I was in the middle of a 40 day Daniel fast and I guess this kid just woke up one day and decided he didn’t hate me anymore… An answer to a year’s worth of prayer. I took him out to O’Charley’s in Paducah and we caught up on a year’s worth of happenings and the Lord told me to break my fast that night and celebrate because He was celebrating with me. That is probably the best salad and chicken tendets I have ever had in my life! Ha ha.
God blessed me again a year later. He and his girlfriend showed up at the church I was pastoring for the last night of our revival. At the end of the service, the visiting pastor did something really unusual — he told the congregation to come up and express their appreciation for me. And this kid, who was graduating high school in a few days, came up and grabbed me and hugged me and told me he loved me and he appreciated everything I had done for him. That was a lot coming from a kid who I had never seen hug anyone but his girlfriend, and whose only response to “I love you” had ever been “Yeah…” A few days later I got fired from preaching, which is a whole other story. But God knew I needed that encouragement and affirmation to realize that I was making a difference in people’s lives no matter how much me or the enemy got in the way and screwed things up.
If you want to love like He loves and feel what He feels, He will answer that prayer. But it takes hours on your face with Him every day just to survive. So if you’re not willing to invest that kind of time with Him, then just forget it because the enemy will take the very answer to your prayer — love — and use it against you and attempt to destroy you with it. Love will cost you everything. Look what it did to Jesus. He was despised and rejected by men. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. The kind of man that people hid their faces from. (Isaiah 53)
Prepare yourself to be rejected, despised, persecuted, gossiped about, completely misunderstood… And prepare for it to hurt really bad. Even when you think you are rock solid in your relationship with the Lord, it can completely destroy you if you have any strongholds or fears of rejection that you haven’t worked through with the Lord. I have spent periods of weeks and months out of fellowship with God and other Christians because I have been so hurt and upset by how people have rejected me when my motivations were based in love. It hurts when the people you love the most totally reject you, throw you out of their lives, then seek to take hostages with them. I think only in the last two months has God really began to set me free from rejection and fear of rejection, but even that doesn’t take away the sadness and mourning over the loss of so many relationships that were truly precious and like family to me.
So one might ask — Is it possible to love too much, to care too much? Let me answer a question with a question… Does the God of the universe love and care for you too much?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:12-13 (ESV)
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10 (ESV)
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” – 2 Corinthians 12:14 (ESV)
I rest my case.
We are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ so many times. We are commanded to even love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Both, the Word says, are so that we may be sons of our Heavely Father. That doesn’t really leave much wiggle room, does it? If you have any doubts, feast on these verses…
1 Corinthians 1:1-13
1 Corinthians 16:14
2 Corinthians 12:15
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
1 Peter 1:22-23
1 Peter 3:8-9
1 Peter 4:8-9
2 Peter 1:5-8
1 John 2:10
1 John 3:10-24
1 John 4:7-21