The Hard Work of Love

I was laying with Jayt (my 5-month-old) in bed. He was staring up at me sweetly and smiling. I was kissing his neck and temple. The two of us just snuggling so contentedly together. I said, “Oh, I’m so in love! I could just stay here forever! This is love.”

I sensed God say, “No, it isn’t.”

I said, “What is it then?”

He replied, “Pleasure.”

I retorted, “What’s the difference?”

God said, “Pleasure is for you. Love is for him.”

When Jayt is happy and quiet and endearing, I feel so in love with him, but what is really happening is that I am taking great pleasure in him at that time because he is behaving in a way that is pleasurable to me. Love, however, is constant and steadfast and must be given from me to him no matter the circumstances. Even when he’s screaming or fussing, I can love Jayt. My love for him must not be based on his behavior or his personality. Love is for him because it’s something I choose to freely give him because he is my son. Pleasure is for me because it’s what I partake of when he is doing what I delight in.

There have been moments when I have found it difficult to even be in the same room with one of my children. I couldn’t stand to be around that child. I felt like the worst mother in the world for feeling that way. What I didn’t realize at the time, but God is helping me to understand now, is that just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean I don’t love them. Their behavior or personality is just making it difficult for me to take pleasure in them.

When a teenager is rebelling, when a baby is screaming, when a toddler is tantruming, or when a young child is arguing, those aren’t the moments when we take pleasure in our children. Those are difficult moments. But, as Christ’s followers, we don’t have a fragile love to offer. We have been given the strongest and most enduring of loves, and we can pour that out on our children when they are at their worst. We can act towards them with the utmost love because we have been loved to the utmost. Philippians 1:9 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…”

We can grow in our knowledge of love by understanding that there is a difference between love and pleasure. When they bring us flowers from the yard or squeeze our neck and tell us they love us. When we giggle and snuggle with them or enjoy a good long talk late at night. Those are the times when it is so easy to love our children. We feel the pleasure of those moments and the love just flows naturally from it. But when they shout angrily at us or lie about the same thing again. When our days are filled with never-ending frustration and exhausting difficulties. Those are the moments when we must choose to do the hard work of loving them. 

I love what one of Nadine Brandes’ characters says in A Time to Speak, he says, “Your feelings are human, but your actions are what show His strength.” Our feelings of frustration with our children are human, but our actions can show God’s strength. God is love. It is God’s will that we love our children and He has told us that when we are weak, He will be strong. When difficult moments come we don’t have to feel guilty because we’re not enjoying our children at that particular moment, but we do need to move forward with them in love. Our actions must demonstrate a strong and unending love that covers them even when they are undeserving of it. 

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”  -Psalms 143:10

Lord, teach us to do your will. Teach us to love our children no matter how we feel and no matter how they behave. Thank you for the times when our children bring us great pleasure. Thank you for the times when they don’t and your love has the opportunity to abound to us and to them. Lead us on level ground. Your love is our firm foundation.

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