By Casey Cassady
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37 – 40 NLT
Over the past handful of years, I have viewed the opportunity to love God as a privilege. How could someone so absolutely perfect and so good to me desire a mutual, loving relationship with “little ol’ me”? Despite our imperfection, God desires us as his “Bride”, while He leads us, provides for us, and fights for us. Not to mention, He is absolutely the best communicator I have ever met. I honestly cannot say that I have been in any relationships where all, if any, of those things applied. Even when I have allowed myself to love, it has often been the wrong people. Most of those relationships were toxic, mentally abusive, or just who God did not intend for me. Rather than there being peace and feeling as though everything was “right”, many of my past relationships felt forced and empty. As my Therapist would say, I was trying to fit a square into a circle. No matter what I did, it would never truly fit.
When I think about the love of God, it is not forced – it is innate. It is unconditionally offered to us, and desired in return no matter what! I want to say that I even feel so undeserving of God’s love at times, but I know He would not want us to feel that way. As followers of Christ, we must be able to step up and step into the love of God – and here is why.
When we embrace God’s love, we can love Him in return. Loving God allows us to live in purpose. It gives us the desire to worship Him, and the recognition of all that He has done and all that He still does so that we can lift and glorify His name. It allows us to make sound decisions, and gives us the power, through His Spirit, to ultimately become a reflection of Him. This is important because others will be able to see our walk in Him and desire the same. Furthermore, God’s love shows us our own worth so that we can love ourselves. Loving ourselves helps us be able to love others – even when it’s hard.
Often, loving others when it is hard reflects our own understanding of self – even if the other person is truly at fault and we are not. This is because when we do not love ourselves, we tend to lash out at the other person to “save face” or defend ourselves as a tool to mask our own weaknesses and insecurities. But when we love ourselves, it is so much easier to not be as offended by others. When I discovered how much I am loved by God and learned how to walk in the identity of who He has created me to be, I was able to begin loving myself on levels I never had before. For the first time, I felt as though I was exactly where and who I needed to be in life. I knew that if others could not see or understand that, that was not my issue. I never had to question my worth because I knew that God would never create me to be unworthy of everything and everyone He has planned for me. If someone does something as little as make fun of me, or as big as break my heart, it might hurt for a bit, but I know that I am confidently able to overcome the sting while loving them (to a certain capacity) and forgiving them anyway.
I also think it’s important to mention that “loving others as we love ourselves” will always require a special set of boundaries. These boundaries are determined by who the person is, and in what way God leads us to love them. Biblically, there are different forms of love, and romantic love is only one of them. A common example of this misconception could be someone choosing to be in a romantic relationship with someone, but their main goal is to attempt to “fix” the person, or to lead them to Christ. There is absolutely no reason to invest into someone so much, that we fall in love (or think we fall in love) with someone who God does not intend for us to be with.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
We must be prayerful and wise with who we choose to be in relationships with and allow God to lead us in ways that will not always involve us falling in love. I have learned from experience that a lot of heartbreak is rooted from blindly falling into a fantasy of a “happily ever after” when all we really may have needed to do for the person was to be a friend and/or pray for them. We should always understand how God wants us to love others and apply the necessary boundaries when we do. That way, we can love others in the manner that God intends – even when it’s hard.
Aside from setting boundaries, another way to love others is through forgiveness. Several years ago, I remember feeling heavy and burdened from a lot of my past. A few of my mentors surrounded me, laid hands on me, and prayed for me. I suddenly felt spirits of guilt and shame come off of me and I realized in that moment that God had forgiven me for everything I had done; and because I knew I was forgiven, I felt God’s love from that day forward on a much deeper level. It was quite the revelation and changed the way I loved myself and the way I loved others. I realized that I was not able to fully love those who I felt have hurt me. Let me clarify that God always loves us, even when we do things that He may not be pleased with. But being human, I think it is much harder for us to love when we feel offended, betrayed, or hurt – which is why we should be intentional to forgive!
This does not mean that everyone who has hurt us needs to be informed or included in a conversation of our decision to forgive them. God sees our hearts and knows what needs to be done so that we can move forward healed, and in love. But you also never know what can happen once we do choose to forgive.
One night several years ago, I was in prayer while thinking about a few people who have hurt me in the past. One by one, I prayed for each person. I asked God to help me be able to forgive them. Feelings of betrayal, heartbreak, and my life being “ruined”, began to flood my mind in detail. God led me through a series of questions and answers that I’ve needed for so long such as, “Why did they do that to me?”, “Why couldn’t they love me?”, and “Why am I always disappointed?” God showed me so much about others, about myself, and led me through a prayer of forgiveness so I could heal and move on.
Most of the people I prayed for that day are no longer in my life, but I have been reunited with one. When he messaged me ten years later, I no longer felt like I needed an apology because I had forgiven him already. Let me also mention that he was not fully to blame. I have not always made the best decisions, and did not necessarily handle everything in my past with wisdom or grace. But we did eventually end up talking about the situation. I noticed that he never even realized how much I was affected by what happened, and that in general, a lot of people probably don’t. Nonetheless, he still apologized, and I am grateful for that. That conversation was the beginning of us growing closer, and since then we have pursued each other romantically (or at least attempted to). Our story is for another time, but for the sake of this one, one thing is for sure: If I had not chosen forgiveness and love (for both him and for myself), we would not have been blessed with our son Micah – who has changed our lives for the better. I couldn’t be more thankful!
In closing, I encourage you to pray for your relationships in detail. Ask God to show you if you are loving each person the way He intends. Ask Him to show you how you can better apply boundaries. Ask Him to show you when and how you can choose others, and when and how you should choose yourself. Ask Him if you need to forgive anyone (including yourself) so that you can love them better (even if you love them from afar). I pray that you are careful with who you invest in and with who you let your guard down with. I pray that you can love others effectively because you also love yourself!! I truly hope you have been encouraged and are able to better navigate the way you demonstrate love in your relationships. Lastly, remember: When it is hard to love, love anyway.
**If you wish to connect with Casey, the author of this post, you can contact her here: https://linktr.ee/caseycassady
One thought on “Love Anyway”
💫 When it’s hard to love, love anyway! Sometimes we do things mispleasing to God, yet He loves us steadfastly! When we discover how much God loves us we can love ourselves on a new level, as He loves, and we are better able to love others! Rightfully Spoken sis! ❤️