I often get emails or private social media messages asking me in similar questions: “How can I love this person when s/he has hurt me? How can I let go of the hurt when all I can do is cry when I think about it? How can this person be worthy of my love when s/he never loved me?” Those are hard questions, and I often do not have proper answers that would suffice or able to help people cope with their present pains or sufferings. At times, I, myself, even struggle trying to love and care for people who had hurt me in the past or are still part of my life! Sometimes it is just hard, even though we really want to forgive and love, as soon as we see the person or experience some types of flashback, the emotions take over and become hard. Love is hard because it is not always easy.
The first thing we all to recognize that to love is, at times, not dependent on the other person’s attitude or response. The Lord Jesus Christ challenged His disciples to love beyond those who love us because everyone can love those they like! (cf. Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:32-36) He challenged His disciples to love their enemies just like our Heavenly Father who cares for all. Therefore, to be perfect, Christians are not just simply to be free from sin but to be perfect in love just as our Heavenly Father is perfect in His love for us. If we are free from sin or only think that we are better than others, we begin to become self-righteous or self-centered, demanding others to live according to our standards. At times, we ridiculously set out expectations and demands that even the saints or the Almighty cannot even please us! We often put ourselves on a pedestal and judge others, thinking that we are excused from our own standards but condemnatory toward others. We think that we are better than others as if we are the spokespersons for God and have the right to demands things go according to our ways. Nevertheless, many times, we have made ourselves our own gods, and in turn, isolate ourselves from others because of self-righteousness and irritability.
Secondly, we have to accept that not all things will be perfect. Often times, we hope and pray that healing will come naturally with time, or that matters will work themselves out, or that things will be fine as we have hoped. Nevertheless, many times, they will not. Some relationships will never be reconciled or like the past! However, just because things are not perfect, it does not mean that we stop choosing to love. At times, things are much more than human or natural problems that can simply be solved. At times, our human issues are also spiritual matters as well! The Devil and his minions can see what is going on in us, and many times, they will interject to create divisions and turn us against one another. Even though they cannot control our wills, they do have the ability to play with our emotions and stir things up by instigating and provoking what ticks us. They are always around us so they can see what set us off, hence feeding the reactionary flames and emotions to further rupture the people and relationships. Think about it! Many times, what is going on in our lives and what causes dramas and overreaction is not just something natural. We can sense something stirring the pot or pulling our strings to make us become so overworked, emotionally unstable, and dramatic about small issues if we just take the time to think, reflect, and pray about what is going on.
We do not like to hear this, but many times, the obstacles that exist in our lives and our relationships with one another is permitted by God for our greater sanctification. However, they are often manipulated by the Devil and his minions by how they play with our emotions and pride, reaching deep within our ego to feed, plant, flame up, or rupture what is there in order to create greater division and resentment. If we take the time, we can see the shadowy and dark presence creeping in. Therefore, let us also not forget that God‘s grace is there! Hence, the only way to overcome these ruptures, hurts, sufferings, and divisions are Christ and His love by making what is His’ our own.
While it is so easy for people to talk about love, it is harder to accept and practice it as it is. Maturity both in virtues and faith often come at times when we are challenged and pushed to the limit as to love. Just because we did not get what we want, it does not mean we ignore the call and return the same “favor” given to us! If that is the case, when would Christian love and discipleship be put into practice? While we cannot change others or expect them to love us as we would like, we do have the ability to desire love and change ourselves. Sanctification and maturity is not only for priests and religious, those who are consecrated or seem to be holy; it is for all! God wills and desires it for each and every one of us.
Therefore, it is important to remember and recall our responsive attitude when things do not go right in our relationships with others, as well when things are not as we expected or want them to be for the moment. Simply put, being Christians is not only about some things or when things go right. It is in each and every moment and in others that we choose to be sanctified and formed as disciples of the One who got rejected and misunderstood, yet forgiving and loving. Each and every opportunity is a divine gift for us to be humble to grow in ways that we did not expect or wanted things to work out as we have hoped. It is not simply something coincidental. It is providential! God allows imperfections to happen because He sees the opportunities present to to sanctify and teach us in and through the inconveniences.
Please let me reemphasize, it is important to remember that love is not just a one-time matter and one hill to overcome. It is a life-long journey of many mountains to overcome and many valleys to cross. We have to choose to learn, adapt, and will to love when it hurts, else we will shut down and walk away when things do not fit our tolerance level anymore. This is where the sacrificial aspect comes in! Many times, we can only choose to embrace the hurt and embrace the opportunities to sacrifice in the midst of the hardships and struggles as to love. It is much more than mere human will though! This requires every fiber of our being as well as divine assistance with the grace of God. It is both a natural and supernatural, human and spiritual, battle to love. This is one of the hardest things for us to accept as human beings, but much more as disciples of the One who chose to love even when we betrayed, rejected, and abandoned Him.
Therefore, it is important to remember that to love is not simply to make sure that things go right, in order, neatly planned, or be our ways before we do something. It is important to remember that love is not simply a feeling or emotion, it is the personal choice and willingness to truly care, forgive, and choose to love even when it makes no humanistic, sentimental, or emotional sense. We have two choices at each and every challenge: either be stuck in resentment and let it eats us away and locked us in our own anger or choose to forgive and let it sanctify us. While the choice to love might seem like something earth-shattering, it is not possible without divine grace. Yes, love is hard and challenging! Yet, it is worthwhile and grace-filled. Therefore, let us just try to love, one step and one day at a time.