God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV).
Human beings, we know, are born with an innate need to be loved. In certain Newborn Intensive Care Units, for example, volunteers come at scheduled intervals to hold the tiny preemies in their cupped hands, singing and speaking tender words to them. All the vital signs on their hospital monitors show marked improvement after these babies have been touched, held, and treasured. Although they’re virtually unable to know what’s happening to them, love still comes through into their hearts and makes a tangible difference.
But not only has God created us with a need to receive love; He also has created us with a capacity to give love—a supernatural, God-given ability. Even inside those relationships of yours that have become the most difficult, where the risk and pain they cause can often feel like more than you can handle, God has given you a spirit of love, not fear. You can keep moving toward them, not worrying if it will cost you more than God will repay. There is nothing happening relationally in your life that love cannot overcome and conquer.
But what if they disappoint me? I’m afraid I couldn’t deal with that. God has given you a spirit of love, not fear. Keep loving that person in spite of what they’re doing to discourage you in their character or decision-making, in spite of the failings they can’t seem to understand or the weaknesses they can’t seem to avoid. Just love them. You can do it. By faith.
But what if they wound me? I’m afraid my heart couldn’t take that. God has given you a spirit of love, not fear. Your love for them could, in fact, be the one thing He uses the most powerfully to get through to them and change their mind and responses and turn this whole situation around. Your job is simply to keep loving them through it. You can do it. By faith.
But what if they leave me or betray me? I’m afraid that would kill me. God has given you a spirit of love, not fear. If they do leave, He can be trusted to love you through that circumstance, and you will come to know His love in a way you’ve never known it before. You can do it. By faith.
Even if the worst appears ready to happen. Even if the worst has happened.
Let love rise up in you. God has given it to you. Allow it to overcome what’s been said to you, done to you, and whatever’s happened in your life to turn these relationships into such complicated, unpredictable minefields of conflict, drama, stress, and awkwardness.
Wherever you may be fearing the fallout of relational failure, realize that the fix for sure is love. Only love will get you forward. Keeping score won’t do it. Nagging demands won’t do it. Waiting for the other person to figure things out first won’t do it. Only God-enabled love will free you to keep investing in these relationships, giving each person the love they truly need, whether they know they need it or not.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.