I lost a whole month.
Now, however, healing and digging out of the ashes of Covid I can say that God is good. And even though I am behind, I’ve been reminded of what really matters. It’s not my IG feed or my YouTube consistency. It’s not how clean my house is or if the laundry is piling up. Nope, the only thing that counts is love.
A forced two week isolation and stillness gave me time to just “be” and regain perspective. With each day I’d wake up hoping to feel better and discover the healing had not come. I knew it would, I just needed to be patient. Ugh, who wants to be patient? One morning God whispered into my soul,
. . . but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31
I might have rolled my eyes and groaned when this verse wafted through my foggy brain, but I heard the promise. Wait on me. You’ll be stronger if you wait on me.
“Help me wait on you!” I prayed.
God’s Loving Purpose for Pain
We’ve all asked, “Why does a loving God allow diseases, viruses, and suffering?” It’s a legitimate question. Though I’ve done my heart-work before on this, my illness allowed me to dig a little deeper. (Thanks, God!)
Right before I got sick, a friend of mine had given me a book for my birthday. It’s entitled, When God’s Ways Make No Sense, by Dr. Larry Crabb. It’s really hard to read books like this when you’re feeling awful, and you’re not healing quickly. I hated it at times, but I knew there was great truth in his wisdom (and I had nothing else to do! LOL!). This author counsels many who suffer. He also has battled cancer himself. He knows heartache firsthand and the crashing waves of questions that roll over us and knock us down when God does not seem to come through with positive answers to our desperate petitions. This is the essence of the book and his belief:
God does back off from doing much good we think a good God should do, making the choice that is within His control to accomplish a greater good by denying us a lesser good.Dr. Larry Crabb
This truth requires a great trust in the goodness of God. I would only add that I don’t believe God leaves us for one hot minute. Though His hand of healing may seem removed and far, our prayers seemingly bouncing off an invisible shield, God’s hands hold us as we wait, trust, and hope in Him. As He holds us, His greater good is two-fold:
1. It grows us.
2. Unanswered prayer and suffering opens the door for others to love us and fulfill good works.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
God’s Love Through Others
We are saved by grace, but we will be rewarded according to our works. I don’t want to miss anything God has for me to do, and I certainly do not want to take away anyone’s blessing! When we fight illness, it gives others the opportunity to help us. That’s what the body of Christ does, or it should do. We are the fulfilment of Jesus who fills everything.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.Ephesians 1:22-23
Love fills everything. But what is this love? Its meaning is filtered through how others have loved us, and those experiences shape our “love languages,” different ways we give and receive love. It’s complicated unless you define love as God defines it. The Bible defines it this way:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.1 John 4: 9-12
This kind of love is Agape. Agape is the Greek word meaning sacrificial love. According to Chrsitianity.com, “Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.” When we think of love, we envision emotions and feelings, but Agape is not persuaded by emotion. It’s a commitment.
That’s how God loves and how He calls us to love each other. Of course, on our own, we fail miserably. Just look at the letter in the middle of “sin.” Yep, it’s “I.” We need help. On our own, selfishness wins, but God provided a way through the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22). The first manifestation overflowing out of us when Holy Spirit comes in and makes His home in us is Agape love.
Sacrificial Love Not Religion
When we live by the Spirit, surrendered to this holy, wholly take-over, this sacrificial love will ooze out of us. Somedays we may not ooze as much as others, but He gives us the grace and energy to extend a helping hand even when it’s not convenient. His Spirit places people on our hearts in need of prayer or a phone call or a meal.
We love (Agape) because He first loved (Agaped) us. Take a breath. Put down all your disappointments and worries, unanswered prayers and questions. What Christ did on the Cross is the ultimate demonstration of Agape. God loves you that much. It‘s unfathomable, yet, it’s life changing, heart altering, and purpose giving. Agape cancels the power of religion as Paul explains to the Galatians: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6b).
Soak in 28 Scriptures on Love
It is the month of love, and I had already planned on this year’s Bible reading plans to be based on each Fruit of the Spirit, but wasn’t it kind of the Lord to let me experience His love and the active love of others during an illness? Every word I write has been proven. Every. One. That is why I so desperately want to help you know the God of love that I know. And my heart yearns for all of us to receive the ultimate healing of Agape that wipes away selfishness and strife because I don’t want us to miss one good deed God has planned for us to do.
I’ve prayerfully picked these scriptures and written prompts for each one. Here’s a sneak peak of a few days you will experience if you choose to download the printable.
Day 1: Psalm 23:6
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Prompt: David wrote these words. Are you amazed by his close relationship with God? He trusted the Lord so much, secure in His love. In this scripture, Love has been translated from Chesed one of the most important words in the Bible. Chesed is merciful, loving acts of kindness rooted in a covenant and relationship. This love is active. It’s sacrificial. It’s a promise because this is the nature of God. Do you believe God’s Chesed is pursuing you? It actually doesn’t just follow, but according to the ancient word translated, God’s goodness and love chase us. Can you claim this scripture today? Read it out loud. Make it a proclamation over your life. If you struggle claiming Psalm 23:6, write a prayer for greater faith to believe this truth.
Day 2: Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humblywith your God.
Prompt: “Love mercy.” That’s what God requires of us. Mercy has been translated from the same word we talked about yesterday, Chesed. Look back at yesterday’s prompt for a refresher of its meaning. How will you walk this out today? Who is the hardest person to treat this way?
Day 3: 1 John 4:7-8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Prompt: Man, this one is a biggie. “Whoever does not love does not know God”! Take a breath. Maybe you’re so familiar with this scripture it doesn’t leave a mark, so let’s slow down a little bit and unpack it because this is big. It’s a New Testament scripture, love has been translated from the Greek word Agape. Read this definition from Christianity.com:
Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.Christianity.com
Prompt: Let’s fill in the blanks using the bolded part of the definition.
Dear friends, let us ___________________________________________________ one another. Write down your thoughts and perhaps a prayer to actively, sacrificially, and faithfully love today.
What the World Needs Now is Love
If you are hurting, look around, and you’ll find someone else hurting too. This sting of illness and sorrow loses its prick when shared with others. If you’re in need, let somebody help you. When you’re on your feet, look for those you can help. More than ever our world needs love, and we are the love bearers carrying the life and death of Jesus. Remember my friends, the world does not need another church service, the world needs Agape. It’s the only thing that counts- faith expressing itself in love.