Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Can Love Ever Fail?

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss invites you to consider a story of true love.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A New England girl had just become engaged when the Civil War broke out. Her fiancé was called into the army, so their wedding plans had to be postponed. The young soldier managed to get through most of conflict without getting hurt, but at the Battle of the Wilderness he was severely wounded. His fiancé—his bride-to-be—not knowing of his condition, read and reread his letters. She was counting the days until he would return and they could be married.

Suddenly the letters stopped coming. Finally she received one, but this one was written in handwriting she didn't recognize. Here's what it said:

There's been another terrible battle. It's very difficult for me to tell you this, but I've lost both my arms. I cannot write myself, so a friend is writing this letter for me. While you are as dear to me as ever, I feel I should release you from the obligation of our engagement.

The letter was never answered. Instead, the woman took the next train and went directly to the place where her loved one was being cared for. When she arrived, she found a captain who gave her directions to her soldier's cot. Tearfully she went searching for him. The moment she saw the young man, she threw her arms around his neck. She kissed him, and she said, "I will never give you up. These hands of mine will help you. I will take care of you."

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 10. Early in a relationship most couples experience strong romantic emotions. But what happens when the feelings change? Does it mean that love has failed? Let’s join Nancy as she continues a study on the characteristics of true godly love.

We've been talking for the last several sessions about the love of God and the qualities of God's love that we want to be true in our lives. For some of us this has been a little bit uncomfortable. In fact, someone came up to me and said, "You have not only stepped on my toes, you've stepped on me up to my knees." I know that feeling because that's what's been happening to my heart as this passage, 1 Corinthians 13, has been working its way into my life.

A precious woman came up to me at the end of our last session and told me of how several years ago her husband had had a stroke. She said, "He's changed so much." Here's a couple who really do love each other, but now their circumstances have changed. She said, "As we've been listening to these qualities of love, I realize that I have failed the love test at this season of our marriage. It's a new test. I failed it in how I've responded to my husband."

Then she said—and this is so good to hear because this is where we all need to walk because we've all failed the love test, but I was so thrilled to hear her say—“When I go home today, I going to go to my husband and say, 'I've wronged you. I've not loved you in the way that God wanted me to.'"

We're talking about those final four qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things, and love endures all things (see verse 7). Yesterday we talked about what it means to bear all things—to cover, to shield, to protect, to have the kind of love that covers a multitude of sins.

Today we want to look at what it means to believe all things, to hope all things, and to endure all things. These qualities don't mean that love is gullible or that it's undiscerning when we say that love believes all things. We mean rather that love is trusting. Love is not suspicious. It's not cynical; it gives people the benefit of the doubt. It makes allowance for their failure.

In Jesus' day, the scribes and the Pharisees were considered the most religious people of their day—they were considered the spiritual giants—but they knew nothing of love. One of the characteristics of their selfish, proud, unloving lifestyle was they tended to see the worst in others. They didn't have the kind of love that believes the best. Hatred believes the worst about someone. When someone comes to you and tells you a story about someone else—and you're shocked—is your first reaction to think, "Oh, so-and-so would never do that!" Or is your first inclination to think, "Yeah, I'm not surprised they did that!"

A loving heart will assume the best—see and believe the best. A loving heart will see others through God's eyes. It's not that the people around us are all perfect, that there's nothing sinful in them that we should be concerned about. It's just that we want to believe the best wherever possible about the people God has put around us. Let's continue our little test here. Do you assume positively about people? Until it's been proven that they did wrong, do you assume positively?

One place this is really important is with your children. You know your children real well. And when you're having to deal with those children day in and day out, it's easy to start to see them through negative eyes. Or do you assume positively?

Do you give people the benefit of the doubt? Do you tend to assume negatively about people's motives? The fact is, we don't know people's motives. It's the pride of our hearts that causes us—rather than building them up—to assume negatively on them. Are you quick to jump to conclusions before getting all the facts? That's not a loving way to live. Love will say, "Let me hear the whole story." Proverbs says it's foolishness to answer a matter before we've heard it. So many of us as women—I find myself so prone at times to jump to a conclusion when I just hear the first fact of the story without taking time to love someone enough to listen to the whole story.

Are you generally suspicious of people, or are you generally trusting of people? Not because people are all that trustworthy—none of us is really trustworthy. But because you can see people through the eyes of God's love and God's grace, "love believes all things."

"Love hopes all things." Love anticipates and seeks the best in others. It never gives up. Is there someone you've given up on? Maybe it's your husband. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe it's that grown son or daughter who's hurt you so deeply. Maybe it's that person you work with. Maybe it's somebody you work with at church, and you think that person will just never be any different. "Love hopes all things." Love keeps on hoping. God can change that person's heart, and love prays for it and believes for it and works for it.

Just as long as God is God, God has grace. And as long as God has grace, human failure is never final. Maybe there's someone in your church who has really fallen. Maybe they've even been disciplined for their error as an unrepentant member of the church—and that's right to do. But in the midst of that discipline, in the midst of dealing with that unrepentant brother or sister, do you hold on to hope that God can (and you pray that God will) change the heart of that person and bring them to repentance?

The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that we refuse to look at people as they are in the flesh. People are fallen; they are sinful. They do sinful things. Some people are evil, but Paul says we don't know any man according to what he is in the flesh. Why? The very next verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If any man is in Christ, he is a new [creation]: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (KJV). 

Paul is saying, "I'm not going to look at somebody as what he is apart from Christ. I'm going to look at that mate, that son, that daughter, that former friend, that ex-mate, that step-parent, that person who wounded me so deeply—I’m going to look at that person as what they could be in Christ." That's love. There's such a power when you communicate that kind of love and that kind of hope. Some of your children may have been really worn down by others around them who put them down, who don't hope in them, who don't believe in them, who don't really express love.

I'm so thankful for a dad in particular who had such a belief in the power of God in his children's lives. I grew up living in that atmosphere of hope. I still had to make choices; my dad couldn't do it for me. But how I thank the Lord for the love of parents who do hope. My mother—living still today, who believes in the power of God's grace in my life—prays for me and believes that God will bless me. "Love hopes all things."

"Love endures all things." The picture here is of a sentry or sentinel, and he refuses to leave his post, even when the attack of the enemy comes up against him. Love has the determination to press on even when the circumstances seem absolutely hopeless. When you're facing insurmountable obstacles, love refuses to quit. It's willing to be patient and tough against the storms of life. Nowhere is this more important than in our homes—to stand for your marriage, to stand for your children and their walk with God, to believe God to win the victory in their lives. "Love endures all things."

I think about the first martyr, Stephen, who forgave his attackers. He stood his post all the way to the end of the battle—to death. He said, "I'm not going to stop loving those who've sinned against me." It's a love like the love of Jesus that endured.

So when the circumstances in your home, or in your workplace, or in your circle wherever you are, when the circumstances become unbearable—love won't quit. It endures when anything less than love would give up.

For those of you who are married, love means the willingness to endure in keeping those vows that you made—to love in sickness and in health. The woman I quoted at the beginning of this session whose husband has had a stroke, she's had years of learning to love her husband in health, but now she's being a vow-keeper. She's enduring in love. She's learning to love in sickness.

You promised to love for better or for worse. Maybe you're thinking, "I didn't know how bad "worse" could be." It could be worse, but you vowed to have a love that will endure. For many that means the willingness to stay in a difficult marriage because your vow is ultimately to God. How important it is in that marriage that you demonstrate the covenant keeping, enduring love of God—God whose love never fails. Even when we are spiritually idolatrous or adulterous, God is faithful to His promise.

"Love believes all things. It hopes all things. It endures all things."

In conclusion, as Paul finishes 1 Corinthians 13, he moves into chapter 14—and he says the "therefore." This is what love is like. This is the importance of love. This is the permanence of love. These are the properties or the characteristics of love—so what?

1 Corinthians 14:1, "Therefore pursue love." We need first to acknowledge to God that we aren't lovers, that our love is very human and fragile, that it has failed, that we have not loved people in the way that God has loved us. We need to acknowledge to God, "I've not had the kind of love that's patient and that is kind. I'm envious and jealous. I brag. I am arrogant. I do act unbecomingly. I haven't had the kind of love that bears all things and believes all things and hopes all things and endures all things."

Ladies, you and I need to repent. It's an old-fashioned word, but it's so needed today—repent of our lovelessness because we'll never have God's grace to love unless we repent of the fact that we have not loved. We need to repent of loveless religion. By the way, what a turn-off that is to the world. We need to repent of loveless relationships. We need to repent of loveless service for God, thinking we were doing so much for Him when it was not love behind it.

There are those in this room who need to confess that it was your lack of love that broke up that friendship. You say, "But you don't know what that person did to me." Maybe that person wasn't loving—was your response loving? You say, "Oh, that person made themself my enemy." Well, Jesus said, "Love your enemies." Some of you may need to repent that it was your lack of love that caused that argument this morning with your teenager before you left to come here.

Some of you may need to say, "Oh God, it's my lack of love that causes me to keep others at arms length and keeps me from getting close to others." "It's my lack of love that keeps me from being able to pick up the phone and call my parents." Selfishness and pride will blame the other person, but humility says, "Oh, Lord, it's me! I haven't loved that person as I ought."

You may need to say, "Oh God, it's my lack of love that was part of causing my church to split, that caused my family to leave that church in anger." Maybe you need to say, "Oh God, it's my lack of love that has caused my children to react and has driven them away from the Lord." I'm not saying they're not responsible for their own choices and their own behavior. They are. But maybe all you've been able to see is how they blew it.

Has this love test helped you to see that it may have been your lack of love that contributed to the breakup of that relationship? So many women in our churches today who've been divorced—and there's grace for divorcees—but it may be that as a divorcee you need say, "Oh God, it was not just my husband's lack of love that broke up our marriage. It was my failure to love him with the love of God." That's not saying it was your failure that is the only reason that marriage broke up, but God will never hold you accountable for what your ex-mate or your parents or a step-parent or a son or daughter did to wrong you.

He does hold you responsible for how you responded. We cannot repent over the sins of others, but we can repent over our own sins. You may have to say to the Lord, "Lord, I had to have it my way. I wasn't kind. I didn't suffer long. I didn't bear all things, and that's why this relationship has ended up the way it has."

You may think, "That sounds kind of depressing. I don't like the way you're leaving us on this." Well, I'm not going to leave you here. But I have to say, if you want to become a lover, if you want to love with the love of Christ, then first of all we've got to be willing to agree with God about our lovelessness. Then we can receive His grace, His forgiveness, His cleansing. Then we can go to the only source of true love—God Himself—and ask Him by faith to fill us with His love.

We say honestly, "Oh God, I could never love that person. I can't love anybody the way You want me to. It's not natural, but I know that You are the supreme lover. I want You to love those children, love those church members. I want You to love those people through me." The love of Christ is the fruit of the Spirit; and when we're filled with the Spirit of God, we will love. It won't be our love; it'll be God's love flowing through us.

We have a source of love flowing in us, the love of God that loved us when we were enemies of God, when we were far from God. He has poured out His love into us. When we love others, we're just letting God's love overflow through us into the lives of others. Amy Carmichael said,

There is no need to plead that the love of God shall fill our heart as though He were unwilling to fill us; He is as willing, as light is willing to flood a room that is open to its brightness; willing as water is willing to flow into an emptied channel. Love is pressing around us on all sides like air. Cease to resist, and instantly love takes possession. . . . As His abundance of pardon passes our power to tell it, so does His abundance of love: it is as far as the east is from the west, as high as heaven is above the earth. (This) is the great, great love of God.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been contrasting our weak human love with God’s perfect, infallible love. Nancy will be right back with more thoughts on the love of God and how it relates to your marriage.

First let me invite you to make love a greater part of your life by studying the booklet Nancy wrote called How’s Your Love Life? It includes a love quiz to help you identify areas that need to change. It will also take you through Scripture and help you learn to love more fully.

A listener wrote to say,

When I read How’s Your Love Life?, it hit me like a ton of bricks, especially the part about doing things for your family for love versus doing it for something in return. I found out that I was doing it for something in return. Reading what you wrote has truly opened my eyes and heart to love like Jesus.

We want to send you the booklet that affected this listener along with our current series on CD. They’re both called How’s Your Love Life? When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say thanks by sending these resources to you. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

The True Woman Conference coming to Chattanooga will be here before you know it, March 25-27. Join Voddie Baucham, James MacDonald, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Kay Arthur and many other speakers. Join Keith and Kristyn Getty in worship. Join thousands of women who are also seeking to know God’s purpose for them as women. Get more information at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, is there any hope for a marriage like this?

Woman: I looked at my husband and said, “I don’t love you anymore.” I wanted to be CEO, president and that type of thing. I got all of my recognition from work and what I was doing. And in turn, my love for my husband was nothing.

Leslie Basham: Hear that story tomorrow. Now Nancy’s back to wrap up our time together.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've been talking for these last few weeks about a kind of love that is not natural. It is not human; it is supernatural. It is divine. It's the kind love that endures through thick and through thin—the kind of love that according to 1 Corinthians 13 never, ever fails. It's love that is permanent. It's never abolished; it never goes away. The Song of Solomon says it this way, "Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it" (8:7). If it's love, it endures.

That's why it's sad to me to hear people say today—as I have heard women say—“I just don't love my husband anymore." The fact is if you ever loved him, then you still love him. Your love will endure; it will never fail. You may not feel loving feelings toward him. The romance may have gone out of your marriage. There may be some steps you need to take to rekindle the flame of that love, but true love—God's love—never fails.

You say, "But you don't know what my husband did to me." "You don't know how my ex-husband wounded me. I certainly had justification to stop loving him. He stopped loving me." He may never have loved you. His love may not be God's love, and it may have failed. But if you have God's love in you, that love will never fail. There's nothing more powerful than love. The love of God can melt the most calloused heart.

My dad used to say there are no tough nuts for God to crack. Why is that? It's because of His incredible love. As God's love flows through us, there are hard hearts that can be softened by the love of God. The love of God flowing through us can tear down barriers, walls that may have take years to grow up—walls of hatred and walls of selfishness.

I don't know what's happened between you and your mate, or between you and a parent, or between you and a child. But I do know that if you are a child of God, you can learn to love that person with the love of God. That love of God may be exactly what is needed to tear down those walls and those barriers.

I believe there's not a marriage that can't work. You think, "You don't know about my marriage." You're right, I don't. But I know a little bit about the love of God. What I know about the love of God says to me, if you have God's love in you, then it is possible for you to love that man without failing.

The love of God flowing through us can heal hearts, can redeem families. It can restore churches. It can rebuild a nation. Dr. Karl Menninger was a psychiatrist and the founder of the famous Menninger clinic. He said, "Love is the medicine that our sick, old world needs. If people can learn to give and receive love, they will usually recover from their physical or mental illness." Love is powerful.

Father thank so you much for what You bore at Calvary for our sake, as you were willing to be separated from your only Son. And Jesus thank You for what You bore at Calvary, the full brunt of the Father’s wrath, righteous wrath against sin. You bore it all for love’s sake.

So may we be willing to bear all for love’s sake and for Your sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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