“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (ESV)
I’ve always been a sucker for celebrating romantic holidays and milestones. Be it Valentine’s Day or an anniversary, give me all the roses, chocolates and dreamy dinners filled with soft lighting and delicious food.
But on our fourth wedding anniversary, my husband and I found ourselves separated after reaching a breaking point. Our “celebration” looked like me sitting alone in our 1950s fixer-upper while he bunked with a buddy, college style. But this wasn’t college.
As I cried into my pint of ice cream, mentally replaying the previous years, I felt shell-shocked by grief. This wasn’t the “happily ever after” fairytale-ending I anticipated when we said “I do.” No, our love story looked nothing like what I’d envisioned.
Heartache occupied the spaces where happiness was supposed to be. Marriage wasn’t turning out as I’d expected it to. Life wasn’t turning out as I’d expected it to.
The dissonance left me exhausted, discouraged and wondering: How did I end up here?
Our wedding, like many weddings, included a reading from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter.” Today’s key verse, 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a tells us, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
When we’re standing at the altar, feeling like the princess in our own fairytale, living out the words of this passage seems inevitable, perhaps even easy. But what about when real life rears up in our relationships?
When the addiction manifests.
When the financial strain crushes.
When the affair surfaces.
When the collective weight of stress squashes you flat.
When you can no longer bear, believe, hope or endure … continuing to love feels like too big of an ask.
We often toss around the word love like it’s nothing, simultaneously “loving” chocolate and our families. But perhaps therein lies the problem, for the love Paul refers to in this passage goes beyond our fickle, fragile definition.
Paul uses the Greek word agape — three syllables that carry the weight of love’s highest and most holy form. Agape is the love God graciously pours out on us: pure, unconditional and given for our greatest good. Indeed, God is the very source of agape love. 1 John 4:7 tells us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (ESV).
On our best days, we’re not naturally capable of showering this kind of love on others. Be it for a spouse, child, friend or coworker, our flimsy, feelings-based love fails us. The fairytale falls apart.
Even in our own strength, with all our summoned-up willpower and white knuckles, living out the love of 1 Corinthians 13 truly is impossible. But Jesus died that we might receive the steadfast, unabashedly faithful love our human hearts crave. Not from another human, but from Jesus Himself.
And as His agape love pours out on us, He in turn gives us the strength to pour it out in our difficult marriages, friendships and family relationships.
By God’s grace, my husband and I have celebrated many more anniversaries since that painful year when “happily ever after” came crashing down. Through the years, we’ve learned that the fairytale ending we actually need looks like two imperfect people, letting the Father’s perfect love flow to and through them — one grace-filled day at a time.
I realize, though, this is not everyone’s story. Maybe your story looks like the separation I experienced … and then a finalized divorce. Maybe your story looks like a spouse who abandoned you or was taken from you and this earth far too soon. Or quite possibly, there was never a spouse to begin with, and you fear it’s too late for the fairytale you long for.
But dear one, where our fairytales end, God’s redemption story begins.
Will you let the love of Jesus seep in through the cracks of your heart and the cracks of your relationships? In the light of His agape, what looks like an ending may very well be a new beginning.
Dear Jesus, You know how I struggle to extend love in my difficult relationships. Thank You for covering me with the perfect love my heart so desires. No matter what my fairytale looks like, please fill me with Your agape love, and grant me the strength to extend it to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (NIV)
1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (ESV)
Love will always remain. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Need an excuse to remind someone they are loved? Shop our Valentine's Day Collection! We've hand-picked gifts to remind the women you admire most who God is and how much He loves them. Including our favorite books, jewelry, apparel and more, this collection has something for every girl in every season. Click here to start shopping!
Connect with Meredith on her website where you can grab your free download, “5 Scriptures to Pray When Love is Hard.” You can also follow along with her on Instagram.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Are you struggling to love someone in your life? What is one faith-fueled way you can show this person love today? Share your ideas in the comments section!
© 2021 by Meredith Houston Carr. All rights reserved.
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