On Love and Suffering

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This week a friend of mine helped me to shed light on the popular love passage found in 1 Corinthians 13. The familiar words of this passage are often recited at weddings: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NKJV)

What struck me as we discussed the above words was the opening phrase “love suffers long.” Some translations phrase it "love is patient," but the idea of longsuffering in love conveyed in this passage sheds light on the heart of our Savior. Usually we do not think of love and suffering as going hand in hand. When we think of love we think about the "warm and fuzzies." We think about first crushes and high school sweet hearts. We think about laughter and moments spent with friends and family.

When we read in 1 John 4:8 that God is love, we think much the same way. We think about joy and hope and triumph, along with a sense of being well-cared for. While all of these notions do certainly reflect God's heart, we cannot deny that love involves suffering. The definition of longsuffering is to have or show patience in spite of troubles. Jesus serves as the primary example of how love and suffering correlate. Jesus' love for us led him to the cross. His concern for us led Him to make the painful sacrifice of giving up His earthly life. His care for us was so great that He allowed Himself to be beaten, whipped and crucified, in order that we can experience freedom and fullness of life.

The same is true of our love for one another. When you truly love someone, there is always pain involved. You let someone close enough to see the darkest parts of you. You allow someone to see your edges. You see theirs. When that person is broken, your heart breaks too. Their pain causes you pain. It's real and it's raw and it's beautiful. When we allow ourselves to delve beneath the superficial levels of the "warm fuzzies" and show each other every corner and crevice of our hearts, we invite healing. We help to hold each other up. We support one another. With that comes the amazing realization that we are not alone.

Despite the pain and the trials that will inevitably come, love bears it all. Love chooses to believe that God is at work no matter how rough the season and knows a brighter day is coming. Our love for one another causes us to hold out hope, even as those we love struggle to find meaning in the midst of their brokenness. Love endures. It doesn't give up. And the love that we are rooted in, the love that comes straight from our heavenly Father, it never fails.