A question of love

(Rocky Nethercot) #1

Hello! I have tremendous respect for your ministry. I know you think deeply about things and I’m hopeful you can help me with a question I have. I have been praying for a long time to get more of God’s love in my heart for others. I don’t think I love others nearly enough. I notice my wife picks up on how other people are feeling very easily. Sometimes she will remark how so-and-so was obviously feeling sad, or something like that, and I will never have picked up on it. Further, I can tell that she really understands their sadness is a much more visceral way than I do. I can say something like, “Oh, that’s too bad,” but it’s more of a mental process, I’m not feeling it like she does.
I observe that my instinct deep down is not loving. Like when I’m driving. Someone cuts me off and my instant reaction is just not love at all. I want to chew them out or something, more often than not I’m able to resist this urge, but it takes thought and will power, me telling myself it’s not the right thing to do. I don’t love these people, not deep down. With thought and will power I can force myself to treat them in a loving way, but it’s forced. It’s not really me deep down. I’m at odds with myself.
So I want to be more loving. Have wanted it, and prayed for it for years. I believe that the bible says if we pray and ask something and if it’s in alignment with God’s will, He will grant it. I’m struggling to understand why I can’t get this pray answered. Surely it’s God’s will that I love others. Jesus said to love God and others as myself. I’m really struggling with why I can’t get an answer to this prayer, a prayer that would seem to be in perfect alignment with God’s will, after all God is Love, as the bible says.
Thank you so much in advance for any insights you might have. God bless you and the whole ministry there.

(Matthew Mingus) #2

Hello Rocky,

First of all I want to say that your desire to do God’s will is really awesome. Love is something that I struggle with on a day to day basis. I have always felt that it is something that I need to have more of. The fact that you are thinking this deeply about it is a great testimony to your love for God and your desire to do the things that He wants of you.

You mentioned your wife and how she picks up on things much easier than you do so I wanted to mention that first. My wife is the same way brother. I sometimes feel like an emotionless automoton when it comes to feeling how others feel. My wife on the other hand excels at it. I think that is truly a gift that women have. Women are much more in touch with emotions than men are. Not to say that we as men cannot feel or be emotional, but we are just designed in a different way. So do not feel like you need to be that way necessarily. I have found that women are like emotional jedis, they just have a connection to emotions that I think God specifically designed them with. Certainly we can be emotional too, but we are designed differently and it can take some practice to get really good at being more empathetic and connected with understanding how others may be feeling.

Next, you mentioned driving in your car and getting rather, unloving, when someone cuts you off. I had to smile at that because I know exactly how you feel. I probably have incidents like that more often than I even want to admit. Let me just say, I think that God is answering your prayer brother. He is just answering it in a very special way. Allow me to give an example. I found that when I had kids, I was not so great at being patient and understanding to them in all situations. I would pray every day for God to give me more patience with my kids and to help me with understanding. Then I heard something that really helped me to understand what God was doing. He is not always just going to reach down and give you a generous portion of what you ask for. If you pray for patience, or love, or understanding, God is going to give you situations in which you can exercise your patience, or love, or understanding muscles. I realized that I was praying for patience, and God was sending me a multitude of situations in which I could exercise that patience muscle, and let me tell you I get a good workout every day.

I fully believe that God is answering your prayer in this situation. But what He is doing is providing you with situations that will remind you to take a moment and consider the way He wants you to react. Do not worry Rocky, we all have moments where we lose patience, or feel angry instead of loving, we are all human after all. But when that happens, you said that you look back on it and think about how you could have done better and I think that is the key right there. You are actively assessing how you react to a situation and then you challenge yourself to improve. Just remember that we are quite often required to do the work ourselves. God cannot just give you love, or make you more loving, but He can give you situations that will require you to exercise that love muscle.

Take heart Rocky, I think you are on the right path. Keep challenging yourself to do better. Get that love weight and start lifting brother, and always remember to take a little pre-workout…aka read God’s word and what it has for you that day. You are not in the struggle alone brother, we are all in this together. Keep strong. I hope that this helps you a bit and if you have any more questions we look forward to hearing them. God bless you and thank you for sharing your awesome question. Hope to hear from you again soon.

Matthew Mingus

(SeanO) #3

@hezekiah May the Lord Jesus grant you both deeper understanding of His love and transformation of heart by the Holy Spirit as you seek Him. My thoughts on how to understand your experience are threefold:

  1. Don’t expect to have the same emotions / feelings / sensitivity as another person
  2. Love is an action - not a feeling - it is a response to God’s love and forgiveness in our lives
  3. It is normal to need to use self-control to do the right thing as long as we are in this body - we are not yet free from our fallen nature

First, do not expect to have someone else’s emotions / sensitivity. Like Matthew, I am not as perceptive as my spouse. We also have very different backgrounds and experiences. Our emotions are a product of our entire lives - the way we react to circumstances is something that has been learned for those we grew up with and our own self-understanding. We cannot expect to be like another person in these respects because our biological makeup and experiences are not the same.

Second, love is an action and not a feeling. You may not feel empathy as much as your wife - but you can still train yourself to be more aware of other’s needs and respond to them. This process need not involve emotion - it can be rational. “I am going to attempt to pay attention to other’s needs today” - and then that day you try to notice what others might need.

If we look at the Bible on love, it is all action. How did God prove He loved us? By dying for us. How do we show our love for God? By keeping His commandments. What is love? It is patient, kind, trusting, hopeful - all things we can practice.

Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 14:21 - Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

John 3:16 - 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.

I Cor 13:4-7 - Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Third, we should expect to have to fight against our fallen nature. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control because we are at war with our sinful flesh. We overcome our sinful desires by crucifying our flesh and walking in the Spirit. As long as we are in this fallen body, that will be the case. One day in Heaven we will be free from our sinful body, but until then, fight the good fight brother!

Galatians 5:16-18 - So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

(Andrew Bulin) #4

@hezekiah, I’m so glad someone else was brave enough to post this. It sounds like you just described my weekend. X_x

You also describe something that Paul continually dealt with:

Romans 7:15-19 NASB
[15] For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. [16] But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. [17] So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. [18] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. [19] For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. …

Seriously though. I cannot tell you how many times my wife has asked how I can be so insensitive, while participating in a forum such as this where we are trying to do our best to listen empathetically to others. (She knows how to put it to me!) But then in the same moment, I’m reminded why God has blessed me with her, though she may have the worse end of the deal… She compliments me in a way that only the Lord knew would be best. She shows me how I need to be more sensitive, how I need her in my life to help me to be a better person. For me, it was not fit for me to be alone.

Then there is the reactive temper. One can only imagine why Christ would put up with followers who could react rashly the way I do when life situations (like traffic) are far more less than suboptimal. I’m not excusingit, but trying to say that while I am still in my sin, His sacrifice for me continues to cover me in His grace. Am I saying then that we have all the more reason to sin? Far from it! But He already knows that I’m less than perfect, He is strong where I am weak, and expects me to still serve His will. I’m reminded of John and James. There was likely a reason they had the nickname, “Sons of Thunder.” Also remember that it was loving John, the disciple that Jesus loved most, that wanted to reign heaven’s fire on disbelievers when he felt they had snubbed them and their Lord (Lk. 9:54).

God calls us to be obedient to His call now. Not when we are perfect, not when we have it all right. He expects obedience now. In following Him, we are slowly perfected as we serve His will. You are in good company as it seems so many are already replying with the same challenges. And then you have confirmed that you have been given a wonderful companion in life to serve with you where you may fall short. Don’t beat yourself up too much, but do continue to expect better and pursue righteousness as we were called to do.

I hope this is encouraging some way. I’d love to think that some day you and I are going to have it all together. That day will come, but when we are with our Lord in paradise, in glorified bodies that are no longer broken. Until then, I pray for us that we stay the course, that we always have the nagging sensation of an unloving heart which makes us mindful daily to be humble and hesitant to react, and quick to rely on those the Lord has placed in our lives. We’re in this together, and your post makes me feel like I’m in good company with those that wait and trust in the Lord, despite the imperfections they acknowledge and leave at the Lord’s feet.

God bless you.

(Brian Upsher) #5

Hello Rocky

Thank you for your question because I think it is something that all of us struggle with. I also understand that it is not just about you ‘acting’ in a loving way but actually being transformed as a child of God to have an inherent heart and desire to love people. You are wanting the Holy Spirit to do a transforming work on your heart so to have a genuine love stemming from God. The question I would ask you is how is your heart for loving God first? The greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. If you have a passion and deep desire to love God more and to receive love from God, then the natural flow on effect from that is to love others. If you are struggling to grow in love for God, who is perfect, then it can be harder to love your neighbour who is imperfect. A good question to ask God is to ask Him to reveal to you what is preventing or hindering your love for Him? Is there unforgiveness, or idolatry in your life, or past sin that you are not willing to give up? I am just trying to relay what I have learnt personaly that affected my love for God and ultimately for others. Without first being able to submit to God I was loving people as an act of works… I would go away and ask “did I show them enough love; should I have done more; I think maybe I did that nice thing actually for selfish reasons?” I actually ended up weighing on the scales whether I admisitered the appropriate amount of love- am I alone in this? As Christ kills our flesh based desires and He becomes more alive in us, His power and love naturally flows through us as a channel for His grace- I suppose it is part of being a 'New Creation".

A book I read recently may help to answer some of the questions around this topic. It is free online or you can order it from Amazon. It is called “First Love” by an author named Geoff Woodcock. https://onewithchrist.org/all-studies/5-first-love/ This is the website you can go to and download the PDF of the book.

Have a read but a really great question Rocky :grinning:

God bless


(Pat Finley) #6

I don’t think it is normal for a person to value another’s selfish and careless acts above their own life and car or vehicle. You are not Jesus, and Jesus was not driving vehicles, so one can only assume what Jesus would do. Boundaries comes to mind. I think you are asking too much of yourself to feel love to another who invades your space, not respecting, caring, or giving a second thought about consequences of their uncontrolled mindless actions.

(Sarah Abigail Kuriakos) #7

Hi @hezekiah:

I think all of us can relate to what you’re going through to one degree or another, at one time or another. I particularly like, and agree with, what @SeanO said. Because God made each of us unique, we each will feel and perceive things differently than everyone else, and some will be more sensitive than others to things in general, and especially to the feelings of other people.

As a general rule, women are better at empathy than men are, though that’s not a hard and fast rule. Men are much more concrete, and women are more intuitive and feeling oriented. So that’s why your wife is able to pick up on other peoples’ feelings more easily than you are.

If I might offer some practical suggestions to help, you might, with God’s help, be able to see a change in this characteristic that you dislike in yourself.

First, I would suggest that you ask God to help you see other people through His eyes. If you can get to the point where you can see people as Jesus sees them, you should see a big difference in being able to feel their pain, in being able to sense how they’re feeling.

My other suggestion would be to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and wherever it says the word, LOVE in that passage, substitute your name. Then read it out loud to yourself several times everyday. I think you’ll find that over time, as you meditate on that passage of Scripture with your name inserted, you’ll begin to see some of the changes that you desire in yourself.

If you combine those two suggestions I think you’ll see God working the changes in you that you desire to see in terms of an increase in empathy for others, and an increase in an ability to sense what others are feeling. It won’t happen all at once, but over time, as you keep on meditating on Scripture and working at trying to see others as God sees them, you will get better and better at it.

And please know that all of us struggle with this. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Romans 7, in particular Romans 7:24,

O wretched [woman] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

And I thank God for Jesus Christ!

I hope this helps!!

(Tabitha Gallman) #8

Hi Sarah,

I have also been praying to see other people through God’s eyes. This has helped me with my problem of lack of empathy.


(Rocky) #9

Hi Rocky from another Rocky (there are not many of us in this world)
Firstly as many have said in the answers - do not feel alone-. We all including the apostle Paul suffer the same issues. I feel there are 2 main thrusts here. 1) what is love and 2) what is God’s will for us.
In my mind the mere fact that you are recognizing that you may not be dealing with your fellow man in the way Jesus did shows that you love and care. You love and care enough to acknowledge that you could have interacted with them in a much better way. That’s love. Unfortunately we are all born sinful and we live in the devils domain thus that love is always affected. Our Lord gives us grace and methods (prayer and confessing to Him and other believers) to ensure that we do not carry the heavy load but take on His burden which is light. The main warning here is ensure you do not carry our continual failure and guilt but hand it over to Him, pick yourself up and carry on. Secondly the question is what is God’s will and more specifically what is God’s will for me. Well I believe that His love for us gave us free will. Thus He does not dictate our everyday moves nor will he make us robots to His will. he clearly states His will in the 2 main commandments. Love Him with all you are and have and love others as yourself. That is what He wants us to do and how He wants us to live. Bear in mind we live in our original sin and a sinful domain thus it is not easy. Trying, failing, repenting and asking for mercy and grace for our failures is what Jesus gave us.

It’s amazing to love and be loved by such an amazing God.

Rocky Schmidt

(Graham Alder) #10

So much good insight here that I’ll not repeat but just to reassure you Rocky that you’re not by any means alone in what you’ve described. My coldness for want of a better word troubled me for a long time and still at times does, my awful temper likewise. I looked at my past and wondered why I was like this not really able to come up with sound answers other than that first and foremost I’m a sinner in a broken world - but by Gods Grace not a prisoner anymore. Touching on what Brian said a big part of it for me was my lack of love for God, to give examples that indicated for me my issue it always bothered me that I couldn’t say ‘Lord I love you’ out loud even by myself, that may sound odd or small but it pained me. In situations with my wife or family members I knew full well I was being cold but there was this barrier in me and I was fighting with ‘it’ knowing I was in the wrong and wanted to do differently.

Then I was sat in communion one day at an event and the pastor said something that really struck a chord with me, he said in prayer that we (the congregation) are here ‘because we love you a little and want to love you more’. That one line just spoke to me so powerfully about the need to be honest about that state of my own heart. Over the past 2 years or so God has really worked on me in this area, about His love for a broken world and how I am part of His remedy. Praise God I’m being changed, starting at home with my wife and kids, extending to colleagues and neighbours to the strangers I pass in the street, God is showing me opportunities to flex these muscles and yes it’s not perfect but it’s a joy to see the Lord work in this way. Trusting you will see something of this unfold in your situation. God Bless you brother.

(Andrew Bulin) #11

This is a great quote! I have to mull this one over for a bit, but I’m seeing it fit is so many places for my life personally. Especialy if I consider that Jesus came to make dead people alive with a new heart which gives testimony of Him and glory to God. We can only love more because we are connected to the vine, and HIs Spirit empowers us to do so (John 15:5). Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!