I have never been fond of images of Jesus hanging on the cross. It’s hard for me to look at. I don’t want to see Jesus in pain. It makes my heart ache. This ache only increases when I dwell on the fact that it was for my sin that He suffered. I would much rather see an empty cross or an empty tomb. My heart is moved towards God when I dwell on the fact that He has overcome the grave and the power of sin. That my debt is paid in full. My heart floods with love for Him at the thought.
As a child, I was never the one that needed to experience and inordinate amount of discipline before I learned my lesson. If someone sat me down and loved on me, I wanted to do the right thing because I loved them. The same situation is true when God is changing my heart. He surrounds me with His love for me and I walk away longing to walk in righteousness and obedience. Love has always been more of a motivator for me than pain.
But today I’m struck by the realization that if I want to know love, I must also know the pain that He suffered on the cross. I have to look at Him hanging there. I have to notice the bruises. I have to note the scars. I have to view the weakness in His body, the mockers that surround Him, the ones who love Him but do not understand. Love isn’t easy by any means.
If I am going to love others, especially the unlovables, then I need to be willing to suffer.
The scripture that I chose for Week Two of 32 Weeks of Hope is 1 John 4:7:
There wasn’t a single person that Jesus died for who hadn’t grieved His heart or hurt Him in some way. We cannot understand this love, or God in the fullness of His character unless we make the choice to love those who hurt us or grieve our hearts. If you want to know God more intimately, then you must seek to love others. God is love. His nature is love. It cannot be separated from who He is…but how can we truly know Him, understand His heart, unless we love others…unless we love those who have hurt us? I would even say, especially those who have hurt us.
Only the love of God can accomplish this. It is from God. When we love the unlovables, He is transforming our hearts to make them more like His. He is restoring us to a place of intimacy with Him. He is cutting away the bondage that keeps us from understanding His heart. Where the devil wanted to create a web of anger or bitterness, God is creating a web of love that stretches all throughout our hearts.
In my own strength, I will never be able to conquer this. I will never be able to create within myself a loving heart. Will You impress upon my heart an image of Your Son on the cross. I know now that when I suffer, I am not alone in my sufferings. You have gone before me and suffered infinitely more than I could ever imagine. Help me to recall this to mind. Help my feeble hands to do Your work. I want to love others the way You do. Give me Your strength to endure the pain of a difficult relationship. Make my heart right before You. Remove all of the ugliness that my flesh clings on to. Help me to take control of the emotions when they come coursing through me like a raging river. Make my heart like You. Renew my heart, transform my mind. I want to know You more intimately than ever before. I want to be free of the things that keep me from knowing Your heart. I love You. I desire to be like You.
I pray for those in my life who are hard to love. I pray that You would give me Your heart for them. I pray that You help me to view them as You view them. That my heart would delight in them when Your heart delights in them. That my heart would be ravished for them when Your heart is ravished for them. I pray that they would be overwhelmed with the love You have for them. I pray that You would touch their lives in a radical way. I pray that You would open up opportunities for our relationship to grow healthy and strong. I pray that eyes and ears would be opened. I pray that the Holy Spirit would invade every area of both their lives and mine. I pray for wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent. I pray that I would be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Give me patience. Lord, I need You. Help me to walk this road alongside of You and to never grow weary in doing good.
If you have a similar story or a situation and you’d like to share it, I’d love to hear it. My heart is richly encouraged when I hear of God’s faithfulness or that others are facing similar struggles. If you’d like to find out more about what 32 Weeks of Hope is all about just click here. If you missed week one just click here.