I woke up this morning with a song playing in my head–“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” a “U.S. Billboard Top 10 ‘Pop’ Single” (coming in at #5) sung by James Taylor in 1975 (YouTube video below). Hmmm . . . well, Valentine’s Day is only a week away, but as far as I know there’s no one out there pining for me. Guess I’ll have to buy chocolates for myself again this year. Not to worry, though, since I’m trying to stay away from sugar and artificial sweeteners at the same time so I doubt I’ll buy any this year. Who needs chocolate, right?
Years ago (1993) there was a youth movement in Christian circles titled “True Love Waits.” Of course, it promoted sexual abstinence for teenagers and college students until marriage, but in my own life the phrase has an entirely different meaning. I’ve been waiting all my life for “true love” to finally show up. It ranks at #1 on my “Waiting” list, with “finding employment” coming in as a close second after almost four years of looking for that very elusive job.
I know I’ve mentioned it before in a past blog post or two, but I’ve never intentionally gone looking for love in my entire life. Well, I mean romantic love. It’s not that I didn’t want to experience it, but mostly what I found was lust, not love. And I wasn’t looking for lust either, not that the pull isn’t there. But lust is momentary and, well, pretty much selfish. And, it’s momentarily satisfied but, like greed, is insatiable, and is never happy with what it has and always wants more. So I stopped looking for love when all I found was lust. I decided to wait until love came to me.
I suppose there is nothing worse than “unrequited love.” Maybe “unrequited attraction” is a better description. And maybe it’s the same in your case, too, if you think about it and have ever experienced it. We call it “love” but love–real love–comes with sacrifice. A longing for someone doesn’t necessarily require any kind of sacrifice other then a broken heart on our end when it is not returned or reciprocated. I have experienced that kind of love (well, longing). Sometimes it was someone I noticed and took an interest in but for whatever reason they weren’t interested in me (it usually ended up that they were already attached to someone else or just weren’t interested which is always a little bit devastating). And sometimes it started with someone who was interested in me but by the time I finally “got it” the interest on their part had waned and they had moved on. After all, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, right?
There’s a story in Genesis 29:16-30 about a man named Laban who had two daughters; Leah, the older daughter, and Rachel, the younger. Leah was described as having “weak eyes” but Rachel was described as being “beautiful in form and appearance.” Jacob (one of Isaac’s sons) was in love with Rachel and told Laban that he would work for him for seven years in order to have Rachel as his wife, and Laban agreed. However, at the end of seven years Laban actually gave Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel (see Genesis 29:21-22). Because Leah was hidden behind a veil, Jacob didn’t realize he had married her instead of Rachel. When Jacob realized what had happened, he went to Laban to find out why and Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work” (Genesis 29:26-27). And as the story goes, “And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. . . . Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years” (Genesis 29:28, 30).
So Jacob ended up with both sisters as his wives; however, he loved Rachel more than Leah. Imagine how that must have made Leah feel. It’s not like she had much choice in the situation. Let’s read about it in a devotion I read this morning in Our Daily Bread:
Leah must have laid awake all night thinking of the moment when her new husband would awaken. She knew that it was not her face he expected to see, but Rachel’s. Jacob had been a victim of deception, and when he realized that a “bait and switch” had occurred, he quickly made a new deal with Laban to claim the woman he had been promised (Gen. 29:25-27).
Have you ever felt insignificant or second-best? Leah felt that way. It’s seen in the names she chose for her first three sons (vv.31-35). Reuben means “See, a Son”; Simeon means “Heard”; and Levi means “Attached.” Their names were all plays on words that indicated the lack of love she felt from Jacob. With each son’s birth, she desperately hoped she would move up in Jacob’s affections and earn his love. But slowly Leah’s attitude changed, and she named her fourth son Judah,which means “Praise” (v.35). Though she felt unloved by her husband, perhaps she now realized she was greatly loved by God.
We can never “earn” God’s love, because it’s not dependent on what we do. In truth, the Bible tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In God’s eyes, we are worth the best that heaven could offer—the gift of His precious Son. ~Cindy Hess Kasper
Love sent the Savior to die in my stead.
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led.
Why should He love me so? ~Harkness
Nothing speaks more clearly of God’s love than the cross.
The divorce rate in America attests to the fact that human love is fickle. “Various studies on US rate of divorce show significant differences when a comparison is made in 1st, 2nd and 3rd marriage breakups in America. The marriage breakup rate in America for first marriage is 41% to 50%; the rate after second marriage is from 60% to 67% and the rate in America for 3rd marriage are from 73% to 74%“ (quote source here). While we are familiar with the divorce rate being around 50% now in America, I was shocked when I read the divorce rate for second and third marriages. Overall, it only gets worse.
Rarely do we ever find a love like the description of love given in I Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails . . . .”
I’ve failed that test many times in the past and I’m sure you have, too. It’s not easy being human, and our own desires get in the way all the time. I know of only One Person who has never failed that test–Jesus Christ–“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5) . . . and “The Word became flesh [in the person of Jesus Christ] and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
In John 3, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling class, came to Jesus at night stating, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (v. 2-3).
It is within this dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3 that Jesus states how a person can be born again–“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:16-21). Jesus Christ is the One and Only Son of God.
Real love comes with sacrifice, and Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross at Calvary for you and for me. It is not a fickle, human love that comes and goes with our feelings, but the ultimate sacrifice made for the redemption of humankind, and the only sacrifice there is that’s available to us. It was and is a sacrifice made out of a love that we as humans cannot fully comprehend this side of Heaven, and it’s available to anyone who truly seeks Him, as stated in John 3:16-18 above and again, here–“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
If you’re like me on this upcoming Valentine’s Day, you may not get chocolates or flowers or other expressions of love from anyone, but the love that is offered through Jesus Christ is a far greater love than any love found on this earth of ours, and not just on Valentine’s Day, either, but forever. And while Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to give it to us, for us it is a free gift from God if we only believe in Him and in the sacrifice He made for us.
How can you resist a love like that?
In a word, don’t . . . .
YouTube Video: “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” sung by James Taylor (1975):