When You Run Out of Love
It’s one day until payday. I’ve got enough money in my bank account for lunch today (depending on where I go), and that’s about it. Tomorrow morning, when I wake up, I will sleepily unlock my phone, log-onto my banking app, and breathe a sigh of relief as I see my hard-earned (well, at least I think so!) cash sitting there. Now it’ll get spent soon enough, but at that moment, we’re good. I’ve got something in my account.
Today, what if there’s an unexpected cost? What if I drop my phone or my laptop breaks? What if I forgot about a bill in my monthly budget? What if there’s suddenly something to pay? The sad reality is, I don’t have the money. I won’t be able to pay it.
Sometimes, I think we as human beings are a lot like that. We live with a certain amount of stuff within us—a finite number of good qualities. We even talk like that’s true, don’t we? You’ll hear parents say that they’re “running out of patience.” Broken-hearted lovers sob that they “don’t know if they have it in them to forgive.” Our language betrays our belief; we’re aware that often life will demand more than what we have to offer. This is particularly true when it comes to love. I’m not sure that love comes naturally to us; it just seems too hard!
Sure, there are those who we find it easier to love, those who love us back especially. But this love shortage even applies to them; they do things that hurt, perplex, and annoy us, and our “love account” feels a lot like my bank account right now—close to zero.
God never asks something of us that He will not equip us for; He’s not cruel.
Now that you are feeling pretty disheartened about your inability to unconditionally love your beloveds, let me offer a solution. As Christians, we live in relationship with the God of love—the God who demonstrates unconditional love for us through the sacrifice of his Son. Our God has always been love—existing in perfect delight, joy, and harmony in himself in the mystery of the Trinity. The Bible tells us, in 1 John 3:16, that the only way that we can truly understand what “love” is, is through the lens of the Gospel. The mystery of love is tied up in the character of God, and making sense of love without God will always leave us with an imperfect picture.
If that is true, then we can do something about our love bankruptcy. If there is a perfect, loving God who is the definition of love, and if you and I need to find somewhere to access more love, then we have found our source! We have a need; God personifies our solution.
Jesus lays this out for us in John 15. He says, in verse 9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Where has Jesus got his love for the disciples? He has got it from His source, the Father. Jesus dearly loved his disciples; the fondness, the compassion, the kindness that he shows them is one of the most wonderful parts of the Gospels. But He drew that love from the Father.
He goes on: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus then, having given them the secret to His source, gives them a commandment—a commandment that is universally admired and is universally difficult.
God never asks something of us that He will not equip us for; He’s not cruel. Jesus has commanded the naturally impossible because He has told them how to supernaturally fulfil it. Get close to God. Access the love of the Father, and loving the people around you becomes possible. More than possible, it is a route to deep and real joy.
Our relationships, and our hearts, will be transformed when we get this truth into us. We don’t have the love required to fulfil Jesus’ commandment, no matter how lovable the person in front of us is. What we do have, however, is the access to the source of all love, and He is willing and ready, even eager, to fill us with His love, through the Spirit and the Word. Just like my bank account, we may be running low, but, just like tomorrow, there is a chance to be topped up again. Everyday can be payday, as we live connected to the Father whose economy is love.