We recently started our third round of our in house Biblical counseling training called Equipped to Counsel. It is really exciting to spend nearly a year with people looking at how God’s truth changes people. I know His truth has changed me and I’m sure you can speak of how it has changed you, too.
One of the things that we try to get across to our trainees is the idea of sacrificial love, or agape love. We’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians 13:7 as part of our sermon series. One of the parts of that verse says, “Love endures all things” (ESV). The NLT says, “endures through every circumstance.” To be honest, I think this is one of the truths hard for people to believe in counseling.
On the surface we believe it. “I can endure anything,” we tell ourselves. “I’ve been through childbirth,” or “I survived (fill in the blank).” But real, sacrificial, agape love endures every situation, no matter how hard, or what the consequences may be.
When someone comes for counsel on how to respond when they have treated unfairly at work, what they want to hear is, “Tell your boss she is wrong and walk out!” But that isn’t the kind of love God calls us to. Enduring love is being respectful to your boss and forgiving her even when she is mean and doesn’t deserve respect or forgiveness (see Colossians 3)
When a spouse is selfish, does things to intentionally hurt you, or they aren’t living like the spouse God created them to be, love endures this as well. When a spouse cheats and doesn’t repent or even see where they are wrong, love endures. More importantly, it is willing to sacrifice self and put aside the hurt and betrayal for the benefit of the other person being drawn back to God and restored to a place of obedience with God again. True love, not Hollywood love, true God-glorifying, sacrificial love remains nice, patient, and doesn’t leave their spouse.
Agape love prays for change, shows compassion when it isn’t returned, and cares for the person who is lazy, even when they don’t deserve it. Love endures really crappy situations in life, because God designed His love to endure.
This is not easy. But as the one who felt the consequences of the other person’s sin against God (people don’t sin against us, they sin against God and we feel the consequences of it), if we choose to let God fill us with His love, then we can and will endure every circumstance. We can endure even when our heart says don’t because there is too much pain, even when our friends and family tell us it is ok because they hurt you so bad, even when there are no signs of change or repentance in the other person.
So when those hard circumstances in life come, and I promise they will, how will you handle it? Will you retreat to try to avoid them, will you give up easily? Or, will you endure, hope, and never lose faith in a God whose love is always sacrificial and always available for you in every circumstance?