A few years ago, I sat with a beautiful young woman and watched the tears stream down her face. Six months before our meeting, her world was filled with so much. A loving husband, a healthy toddler, fun friends, and a new starter home that her mom helped her decorate.
Life was full.
But some part of her heart still felt restless, unsettled, a little empty. She couldn't put her finger on it. She tried talking to some of her friends but they laughed it off as something related to hormones that would pass.
Only the feeling didn't pass.
She started to feel detached from her husband and disappointed that his love didn't fulfill her. Why couldn't he make her feel loved? She'd always thought of marriage as the ultimate love. He was going to be the one to right her wrongs, fill up her insecurities and give her a lasting feeling of love, or so she thought.
Questions bombarded her constantly... What is wrong with him? Why didn't he say what he's supposed to say? Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm not pretty enough, witty enough, good enough?
Then one day she met a man that said things she'd longed to hear her husband say. He made her feel pretty and witty. Soon, she rationalized that she'd never really loved her husband in the first place. She convinced herself she'd made a mistake marrying so young. That this new man was her true soul mate.
She fell into his arms. A web of lies was spun. The thrill of new romance clouded her every decision.
She had not wanted to come to the women's retreat. She knew it might make her feel guilty and she was past guilty feelings. She was just waiting for the right time to leave her husband and start over with the real love of her life.
But her friends had started to grow suspicious of her pulling back from so many church activities. So, to appease them, she went.
Over the course of the weekend, the walls she'd so carefully constructed to keep everyone at a distance and her secret hidden started to crumble. By Saturday night, she sat down with me and confessed it all.
She desperately wanted to know how I felt so full of God's love. She'd never known that kind of relationship with God. She was now convinced it wasn't the love of another man her heart craved; it was the love of God.
I think this is true of many people. We spend years chasing things in this world that we think will make us feel loved. But everything this world offers is temporary. Everything.
The kind of love our souls crave is lasting, eternal. And only God can fill up our hearts with that kind of love.
The sad thing about chasing love outside the will of God is it invites so much into our lives that is the exact opposite of love. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is a picture of God's perfect love. It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy... it is not self-seeking... it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth... it always protects... it always perseveres. Love never fails.
This is not a description of what is inherently ours when we fall in love with another person. It is a description of God's love.
This kind of love can be ours as we become more Christ-like and decide to give this kind of love. It is never focused inwardly. It is never about what I'm going to get from another person. It is deciding this is the kind of love I will give away.
False attempts at love will make us impatient, unkind, envious, self-seeking, resistant to the truth, reckless and temporary.
I am challenged by this. Because our souls were designed for God's fulfilling love, if we aren't staying closely connected to Him every day, our hearts will start to feel empty. Restless. Unfulfilled.
Let us never get to the place where we think we are beyond being tempted in this way. If we are all completely honest, we are only a few bad decisions away from the same mess my friend is now trying to untangle herself from. While I have complete hope in God's ability to restore her, the consequences of her chase for love will be severe on many levels.
The kind of love our souls crave will never be found in the things of this world. Lasting and perfectly satisfying love will only be found when we stop chasing and start living out the truths of God.
Dear Lord, please help us see our marriage for the sacred gift that it is. Help me to remain faithful in a way that honors You and brings joy to our home. In Jesus' Name, Amen.