When I want to answer this question I look to two places in the Bible, first is the cross. Love is sacrificial. Jesus sacrificed everything on the cross for all of sinful humanity. The perfect One took our sinfulness upon Himself on that cross to pay the debt we could not pay, so we could be reconciled to God and once again enjoy relationship with Him.
The second place in Scripture I look for a description of what love should look like is in 1 Corinthians 13:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. 6Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never fails.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13 BSB
There is an acronym for JOY that pretty well describes this kind of love:
At first glance many may think that putting yourself last is not good self-care. Actually, when we spend our time focusing on ourselves and our troubles we’re not acting in our own best intersts or in faith. We’re allowing the enemy to distract us from our true focus and purpose – Jesus, relationship (with Him and other believers), and worship.
When we set our priorities according to God’s recipe for JOY, we are loving Jesus, others, and ourselves properly. Putting too much focus on ourselves, especially our troubles, can cause anxiety, depression, and even physical health disorders such as headaches, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal troubles. When we keep our eyes on Jesus and use our energy to help others, we shift our faith into overdrive and our focus shifts as we learn to trust our troubles in God’s mighty hands. We can only do what we can do and stop there, and allow God do what only He can do. He doesn’t need us to worry over His plans nor does He need our guidance. We need to learn to be still before Him, trust Him, His ways, and His timing.
Once upon a time, we were very much in debt, we were just keeping our heads above water and I was laid off. Unemployment was very high at that time. I had been praying for some time for God to make a way for us to get out of debt. With my unemployment benefits being less than my previous salary it was even harder to make ends meet and we were getting behind. I was out of work for a few months when we found out that hubby’s employer had to sell the company as part of a bankruptcy. Before Christmas vacation it looked like a local company was the highest bid. When hubby got back to work after the new year he found out a company from St Louis had won the bid and they would be moving the whole operation there.
The first thing the new company did was give hubs a very nice job offer to move to St. Louis. When he asked me how I felt about it, I wanted to say no (not wanting to leave kids, parents, and other family and friends behind), but I heard myself say yes, as I remembered something God told me a couple years before when we were considering some remodeling, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” We never did the remodel. And I now knew what God meant. We were moving away. No where near any place we had ever considered moving, BUT GOD has plans we cannot begin to imagine. Hubs was put in charge of the move on the California end of things. It was a seven month process. Once the house sold we were able to pay off all of our debt. Praise God! We also had enough left for some future unforseen expenses. Not exactly the way I would have thought God would help us pay off our debt, BUT GOD does things in ways we cannot ask or think/imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
BUT GOD is always motivated by love, because He IS love (1 John 4:8, 16). I tell you, it didn’t feel like love when we first got to St Louis. Actually, it started the week before we left. Our younger daughter told us she and her hubby were expecting our first grandchild. Though we were overjoyed, it felt like a suckerpunch to the gut at the same time. We had been waiting to be grandparents. Now, when it was about to happen, we were being moved far away from them. I cried out to God, “Why take us away from our kids and grands?” His only answer was, “You always have a choice.” But I knew when He said that, that any choice outside His clear will (which I knew this move was) was not a smart choice or any choice at all. We had to move. There really was no viable option to stay anyway. The only job offer hubby had received locally was for much less pay. I had not found a job and prospects weren’t good for either of us at 15% unemployment at the time.
It was hard after the move trying to adjust to being aways from everyone we knew. I made a friend at church which helped some. But I had much anxiety, even just grocery shopping. A lot of favorite brands were not here. The store was huge and the layout was unfamiliar. I became overwhelmed. For a long time I wouldn’t even venture off of the main street. I couldn’t find a job in St Louis either. Thankfully, Jim’s salary went a lot further in St. Louis than it did in California. Then, six months in, Jim got very sick and wound up in the hospital. Again, I thank God for my friend from church. I thought I might lose hubby. He couldn’t breathe. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and COPD. He was off work for a month and on oxygen at home for a while. At first it seemed like this was a new normal. BUT GOD did what only He could do and hubs has been back to work ever since, no portable oxygen and not even any meds for COPD. Since one of the perks hubs got when moving was keeping his considerable seniority, he had four weeks paid vacation that covered his time off when sick. It turns out Missouri doesn’t have any state disability like California does and the company doesn’t have paid sick leave. God had shown us His love and provision through the whole thing!
Eventually I stopped looking for work and canceled my unemployment benefits. I decided to focus on ministry. That seemed to help me a lot! It got me outside myself and my “troubles” and got me focusing on Jesus and others.
Our son and his wife had their first child the following year. In rapid succession the two of them gave us five grandchildren in five years. Not having two incomes did have one drawback, not a lot of money for travel. So we don’t get see our family, now divided (son’s family is in Wisconsin now), but every couple years or so. Every so often, if I begin focusing too much on how much I miss the family (and my health issues which are making travel harder) I get depressed, sometimes very depressed, topsy-turvy world depressed. But that’s because I’m solely focused on my “troubles” and not on Jesus, His Word, His purpose for me, and on the people He had put into my life and my path. Emotions can be so derailing if we let them. It is sometimes hard when we are overwhelmed by emotions to go to the One who can help us the most. BUT even if the only words we can say at first is “Help me, God!” It’s enough, believe me, to come into His presence and begin the exchange of your overwhelm for His peace that surpasses understanding and joy overflowing (Philippians 4:4-7, John 15:11).
God is love. He is our primary focus and following Jesus is our primary purpose in life. Jesus said what we do for others we do for Him (Matthew25:40), so we should be serving others and showing God’s love to them through our service. But we can only be the the love of God to others by maintaining an abiding relationship with Jesus first (John 15:1-17, see especially v. 5 & 16). But when we get this mixed up and put ourselves at the top of the list the flow of love is disrupted, because we get stopped up with garbage from our emotions. The worst advice anyone has ever given anyone is to follow your heart (emotions). Emotions will only lead us astray. But the heart, in the Bible is often referenced in a way that is not the center of emotions, but rather the core of who we are soul and mind. So I guess the follow your heart advice may depend upon your definition of heart and what we have stored up in there. I went looking for verses and some said that they followed their hearts to evil and others spoke of trusting the Lord with all your heart.
12″Who is the person wise enough to understand this? Who has the Lord spoken to, that He may explain it? Why is the land destroyed and scorched like a wilderness, so no one can pass through?
13The Lord said, “It is because they abandoned my instruction,a which I set before them, and did not obey my voice or walk according to it. 14Instead, they followed the stubbornness of their hearts and followed the Baals as their ancestors taught them.”
Jeremiah 9:12-14 CSB
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song.
Psalm 28:7 CSB
Let us remember…
6The descendants of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord promised Moses the man of God at Kadesh-barnea about you and me. 7I was forty years old when Moses the Lord’s servant sent me from Kadesh-barnea to scout the land, and I brought back an honest report. 8My brothers who went with me caused the people to lose heart, but I followed the Lord my God completely. 9On that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land where you have set foot will be an inheritance for you and your descendants forever, because you have followed the Lord my God completely.’”
Joshua 14:6-9 CSB
Then there is one of my favorites:
3Never let loving devotion or faithfulness leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man. 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. 8This will bring healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:3-8 BSB
In the Amplified Bible verse 3 reads, “Trust in and rely confidently on the LORD with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.” We must trust in and rely on the Lord and not in ourselves or our understanding of a situation. James 1:5 (NLT) states, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you…. [See also Psalm 51:6 and Proverbs 2:6.] Trusting in God is a loving act. A surrendering of our will to His in complete obedience to His command to take up our cross (of self-denial of fleshly desires) and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23). That is the abiding, sacrificial love Jesus modeled and we are called to also. Amen? Amen. Hallelujah!
Blessings of Hope and Joy,
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