God in His sovereign wisdom has had me walking through dark, dank, and deep places of late. While I would not say that I myself am experiencing a dark night of the soul, I have family and friends who are; and in a real sense I am in those dark nights with them.
It is easy to say “I love you” and to believe that you mean it when things are pleasant and fun and there is a lot to look forward to. But what about when the green pastures and quiet waters of life are no longer in view; when life becomes arid and barren, or dark and foreboding, unsafe even, where those warm and happy feelings that we often equate with love seem so few and far between?
Ironically, it is not in the light but in the dark that we tend to see the pain and brokenness of heart and soul, both in ourselves and in the people we are walking with. It is in these seasons and circumstances where love is needed the most, that it is the hardest to give and is the most costly.
It is hard because when people are hurting or scared or hopeless they sometimes want to push you away; they will say they do not want or need you, that helping them is pointless, or that things will never change. It is hard to love people when they don’t want it, are unable to acknowledge or accept it, or cannot return it. But it is in these times—more than any other—when love is so hard, that we see just how important love is (even if those we are trying to love can’t), and how badly we need to be loved.
Loving into or out of these difficult places is not only hard but costly. It can be extremely exhausting. It can be heartbreaking. It often costs time that you would normally give to other things. It can cost financially too. It can be isolating because often other people do not understand why it is worth the effort. It may require putting dreams and aspirations on hold. And if you are not careful (and sometimes even when you are) the stress, exertion, and pain can drag you down too.
Love, if we are at all honest with ourselves is far more than just peasant feelings. It is more complicated than that. Just look at 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV), It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. The Greek word the NIV translates as “always” literally means “all.” I think the NLT catches the meaning best, Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. A love that lives up to such a description is more than fluffy feel good stuff. Love is fierce, tenacious, strong as steel, and hard as diamonds. Love certainly involves our lighter emotions, but it cannot be simply reduced to them either. For love to never give up, to never lose faith, to always hope, and to endure through every circumstance requires that love produce a loyalty and commitment that makes us want to act on behalf of the people we love. Love without action is nothing more than a shadow of love; it is an empty profession apart from the fruit of action and commitment that proves we truly possess it.
Certainly there is no clearer example of this than the cross, where Jesus was willing endure such extreme pain and humiliation at the hands of men and the omnipotent wrath of His Father for the sins of people who pushed Him away, who thought they did not want or need Him or knew they needed His help, who didn’t want it, were unable to acknowledge or accept it, and could not return it. His love did not shy away when it is hard or costly. I am so thankful that He is willing to love even when it is hard and costly. Where would I be without it? Surely nowhere good. That love breathed light and life into my cold and broken heart. And when His love is in us, our love will prove itself with like fruit.
Love is good in the daytime when life is bright and sunny, but it is no less needed at night when life is hard and painful…and perhaps even more so. I have been learning that this is one of the main reasons God brings us to dark places, so we see our need for the light of love and feel its strength, and so we can bring that same light and strength to those who need it most, especially to those who are walking in the dark, and into places where the strength of love is needed.