Love God and love others. Two of the basic necessities of being a christian. I classify them as necessities but they aren’t just necessities, they are requirements. But what if you struggle with one of these? What if you struggle with both? There have been moments in my life where I have struggled with one more than the other. When I first began following Christ, I had the hardest time loving Him. I would say that I wanted to but that wasn’t true. I didn’t know what it meant to truly feel love for Him. It’s something that would always be on my mind though. I would wonder why I can express so much love for others and can show how much I care about them but when it came to my creator, I became cold. I think part of that was because my faith was shaking. It was weak and I was learning. Because of situations I was involved in at the time, I had a very warped perspective of God. I thought He had abandoned me and I would never seek Him. I expected a divine intervention in my life because I didn’t want to put in the effort. Thinking back, a lot of my anger was directed at Him. I was frustrated in my life because things weren’t going as I had planned. I needed someone to blame so I blamed Him. I was immature spiritually. I while may have been immature but it lead me to answering the question, why am I so mad at you God? What I’ve come to realize is that He is the one who cares for me, He is faithful. I was so intent on finding someone to blame but I didn’t realize that it was me. This helped me come to the understanding of what my own brokenness is and my desires of the flesh. I put myself up on a pedestal and deep down, had no humility. I was a broken person, I still am, and it took me a long time to realize it. We aren’t perfect people and that’s all I was striving for. I would lie, let myself get angry, hurt others, and I kept wondering why can’t I love God? Now, I’m grateful that He put me through those situations. He dragged me down and has given me a new perspective. Because of Him, I am here. Through many different trials and multiple different occasions of heart ache with Him, I have been forced to look to Him. Using the word forced makes it sound like it was something I didn’t want to do but that’s exactly it. I didn’t want to submit to Him but I’m thankful that I have. So many times, I didn’t want to believe that He was true, that He is real. I live in a family of people who are non believers and I live in a world of non believers. I am going into this knowing full well I am going to be judged for what I believe. I am going to be hassled, questioned, and more for what I believe. Knowing this, why would I ever choose to follow and believe in something like this? Because it’s the truth. I have seen it with my own eyes. He has washed me clean of my sins and of my past self. He has erased all doubt from me and all of my skepticism. I can honestly say that I didn’t fully believe until a few months ago. Until He pushed me emotionally and I had no one else to look to but Him. And what I found is that He comes through, always. Now He is the one I look to for everything. It took Him bringing me to the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life to. From there, I grew in intimacy with Him. I can now say that I love Him because I need Him and I want to do everything for Him.

In the current state I’m in, my struggle comes from my ability to love others. I’m grateful that I have grown my relationship with Christ. It has been the most rewarding and important relationship in my life. But what I currently struggle with is genuinely loving others. Every day I find myself thinking about how far I have fallen when it comes to love. But what I am grateful for is how God still gives me a desire to love others. I find myself having vengeful thoughts, judgmental thoughts, and thoughts that hurt no one but myself; yet every time I experience these thoughts, I also experience a series of questioning. A large part of this thinking and questioning has actually come from this prayer challenge. I am becoming more aware of where I am weak and that often comes in the form of comparing myself to other. I have very low self-confidence and self-worth and every single day I compare myself to others. Whether it’s beauty standards, personal qualities, etc, I unfortunately find myself evaluating my worth. But through Christ, things have gotten better. One of the most important things to me has been the realization that I am and was made in the Image of God. Knowing this has been so incredibly powerful in my walk. Just knowing that God is the ultimate beauty and knowing that I am but a small glimpse of His beauty helps. Not only does that help but Psalm 139 has helped me so much. The Psalm itself is a tad long to write out but it describes how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit us together, he took the time to make us intricate and detailed. The fact that God took the time to develop each one of us personally and give us uniquely different qualities helps so much. So when I compare myself to others, I find that I now try to thank God for what He has given me instead. I look at the positive and beneficial things He has given me. It has proven helpful but again, this is still something I struggle with on a daily basis.

The challenge of the day was affirming others and I have been trying to stick to this challenge for a couple of days. I want to grow my love for others and what I have seen is over these past few days is my heart changing little by little. I have been asking God to show me that I still love people. I used to have great love for others and I cared so much. But recently my heart has grown hard. It saddens me to think about it but it’s true. I haven’t wanted to care about people because it seems that whenever I do, I get hurt and the care is never reciprocated. I used to crave being loved so I would pour out love to others and expect it in return. But what I have realized is that no one will come through for you. God’s love is the only love that will come through for you. So now I’m trying to keep myself centered in Him so when I lose love, when my caring for others backfires, I still am centered in His love. He calls us to love others and it’s so easy to say I just want to love God and that’s it but that’s not what we are called to do. And I’m so quick to see how damaged the world is and to say “the world is so lacking in love, no one wants to show love so why should I?” That question is exactly why we need to spread love. The world is lacking so deeply and is craving love. We are to spread the love of God and be an example of Him. That’s an easy thing to say and type out on a keyboard but actually acting on it is a bit more complicated. Some days I find myself waking up and I don’t want to see anyone. I battle with myself to care for others now. It used to come so simply because I wanted something from the love I showed others. As I stated earlier, I would pour out myself and my love to feel loved by others but that doesn’t work. That is a flame whose wick will eventually run out. What I am now realizing in my walk with Christ is that we must share the love of God because otherwise our lives can get stuck. We need to break an unknown cycle that occurs in everyones lives.

I recently attended a theological lectureship and heard an outstanding sermon on love and Augustine. It was focused on sections from Augustine’s book Confessions of Saint Augustine, an autobiography. The speaker spoke on how the human heart is restless. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I have been focused on issues I’ve had with past friendships and how I felt like I was never enough. There have been many instances where I felt like I’ve never been enough for people, even as friends. At this moment I know that I am enough in Christ. But I found myself wondering why I never felt like I was enough. I started examining the patterns of those I was friends with. I realized they were stuck in a cycle and they will always be looking for the next thing, person, object to place affection. They were always looking for satisfaction that will never be reached. The sermon I heard encapsulated this incredibly well. He spoke about how we are beings who are constantly searching for love. We look for that next high. Whether it’s through food, sex, pornography, toxic relationships, etc. We find ourselves submersed in sin because we are drawn to sin. That temporary high we feel takes place of God’s love. While we are in a state of “being high”, not just through drugs but through other vices, we think we are satisfied and we think we have found what we are looking for. But then the high wares off, or we become immune and we look for another or more. What we are actually craving is love of God. To love Him and to feel love from Him. This spoke to me so much. It helped me understand my own nature and understand the nature of past friends I have been so frustrated with. It explains so much and the speaker continued to explain only a glimpse of Augustine’s book. I plan on getting it soon and after I have finished this prayer challenge, I’ll be writing my thoughts from the book. So stay tuned!

Loving God and loving others. Both things I strive for. Through affirmation, I found myself longing to grow closer to others. I pushed myself to do little things on day thirteen. Compliment someone, converse with people that I may not want to. What I concluded was if you spend the time to really see Christ in a person and to see the good in them, it’s not hard to love them. I’m still working on loving others and genuinely meaning it. I plan on fully expressing it when I truly experience it and when I don’t, asking myself what’s stopping me.

God bless you and remember, you are beautifully made in the image of God. 

Side Note: I am planning on running the Chicago marathon with Team World Vision, an organization that runs to raise money for clean water for kids in Africa. If you’d like to donate you can go to this link Donate Here. Besides that, prayer is always appreciated if you feel so inclined. 

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