Do you feel like a member of the Lonely Hearts Club? Were you disappointed on Valentine’s Day? You’re not alone.
So, no secret admirer surprised you with a card or box of chocolates yesterday. Your spouse didn’t overwhelm you with flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries for a romantic evening. Perhaps you’re buried up to your eyeballs in bills, diapers, and dirty dishes and that kind of love seems a distant memory. Or you’ve avoided retail establishments and worked extra-long hours this week just to forget that you don’t have a Valentine this year.
I know what it’s like to be lonely. In medical school a group of us single girls gathered one February 14 at the first and only formal meeting of the LLU chapter of the Lonely Hearts Club. I lived single until I was 48 years old, and I’m single again now that my husband is with Jesus. And pink doesn’t look good on me anyway!
But just because you have a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t mean romance and love are guaranteed. Some of the loneliest people I talk with are married. It’s not your Relationship Status on Facebook that’s at issue; it’s the status of your heart.
The State of Your Heart
We as human beings were made for connection. Deep, secure, long-lasting, intimate connection. We long to be known, to be affirmed, to be cherished, to be desired, to be sought after, to be loved. We want to be Number One to someone, and we often struggle to survive – let alone thrive – when we’re not.
That’s in part why young people (and older people!) so easily “fall into” sexual relationships outside of marriage, even if those relationships are destructive or unhealthy in other ways. It’s in part what lonely married people are looking for when they engage in affairs. It’s why children who are physically cared for well enough but not truly loved fail to thrive physically and emotionally. It’s why older people whose spouse dies may often lose their own health rapidly.
God built that need for intimacy into us as a way of mirroring the intimacy He shares within Himself among members of the Godhead, and the intimacy He desires with us as His people. No other part of His creation exhibits the same need or capacity for intimacy as human beings do. God is love, and being made in His image means we too are made for love.
Our need for love gets us into enormous trouble. Satan exploits it through the destruction of marriage and the cheap and superficial imitations of love and intimacy he offers. It’s the source of most of our deepest pain and our most intense suffering. It drives us to settle for junk love food and pursue relationships and activities that we know will end up destroying us.
But without that drive for love and intimacy we would never experience the full measure of joy we’re capable of even here on Earth. We would never be able to fully extend God’s love to other hurting humans or join with Him in governing His universe in eternity. Not even angels get to experience the oneness with God Himself that we can know – because of our capacity to love.
“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:3-4)
But love hurts. Or rather, the unfulfilled need and capacity for love hurts. And we’re prone to either continually grasp for superficial imitations or shut down our longings because it hurts too much. What are we to do?
2 Healthy Responses to the Need for Love
Seek God’s filling of your soul.
As Saint Augustine so profoundly said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”
Yes, there is a God-shaped hole in your heart that no one or nothing else can fill. Seeking for others to fill that part of you will always – always – end up in disappointment and loneliness even if your outward circumstances seem perfect.
This is not some sappy sentimental religiosity. Instead, it’s a fierce passionate engagement with the God of the Universe, the One who made you and redeemed you, the One who wants you, needs you, believes in you, knows you and has a purpose for you. You are Number One to Him.
The answer to the disappointment of unfulfilled desires is not to desire less, but to desire more.
How tragic if we are satisfied with a ho-hum marriage, a couple of reasonably happy kids, a good enough job, and enough friends and material things to just get by. You’re better than that! God built you for something bigger. He built you for Himself!
That inner flame may get squelched, distorted, distracted, and covered up with all the “stuff” the enemy and our sinful world throws at it. But unless you’re dead, that flame is still there. Fan it. Allow it to burn even if it hurts. The end – both here and in eternity – will be worth it!
Pass God’s love along to others.
God’s love within Himself is extravagantly unselfish. Once you’ve experienced a measure of that vertical relationship between you and God, you too will be compelled to pass that love along – regardless of the risk to yourself.
If you’re married, don’t wait for your spouse to love you. Demonstrate love to them – over and over and over again, regardless of their response. (Abuse is an aberration; seek wisdom if that’s your situation.) Serve your spouse as God serves you. Don’t look to your spouse to fill you up; get your filling from God, and then pour out that love to your spouse in serving them.
If you’re single, don’t wait to find the perfect mate before you love extravagantly. There are people in your world who need you – right now. See yourself as a river receiving an endless supply of God’s love, and directing it to the people around you who need it. (As a byproduct, you’ll be much more attractive to a potential spouse as well.)
Regardless of your age or your relationship status, I encourage you to embrace this lifestyle of love. Remember, love is not tolerance or “anything goes”. It means getting your soul filled from the inexhaustible well of God’s grace, truth, and love, and then doing the redemptive thing He sends you to do. Love gives. Love does. Anything less is not love.
Our human loneliness is real, but don’t park there. If you’re disappointed on Valentine’s Day, see that as an invitation from God to deeper relationship with Him, and then to proactively reach out in giving of yourself to those He sends you to.
Your Turn: Where do you look for love? What do you do with the love you receive? Leave a comment below.
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