I know it’s not Valentine’s Day or some other holiday that we like to express how we feel toward one another. The topic of love has been on my mind today because I’m amazed by the lengths that we’ll endure to get it. I suffered a lot of pain to get what I thought was love, when it was just an illusion. I also learned something this week about it, or I was reminded about how important real love is, and I need to write it down. I tend to remember the things I learn when I write them down!

I know I don’t need to tell you much about it. We all know what it is, single or not. We experience it from our families and friends first before significant others. We learn about it in songs and books and movies. But, do you feel it? Do you feel loved today?

I hope so! I’ve realized that a lot of frustration in my life comes when I am looking for love in the wrong places, mainly from people. I don’t even realize that I’m doing it, but I expect life and happy things to fill that void in my heart. You might say, wait a second, aren’t you married? Don’t you feel loved by him? The simple answer is yes, of course I do. Sometimes I don’t let myself receive enough of it from him or someone close to me hurts me and it distracts me. I don’t know why I do this but I’m guessing that it is related to some of my painful experiences.

Lately, I’ve experienced some difficult situations, and upon self-reflection, I realized that I was caught up in the same pattern. I expected someone to behave better, to act as though they cared, and simply that I thought they loved me enough to not hurt me. I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God what went wrong. I forget that I have an unrealistic expectation for everyone around me to love me unconditionally. I know it’s unrealistic and when I think about it I remember that it’s not fair for me to have that expectation. I know that I don’t love others perfectly or unconditionally either, so I should not expect that from anyone else. So, what’s the problem? I subconsciously expected someone to fill the void in my heart that only God can fill.

Of course God loves us all the time, but we don’t always remember that, especially if we screw up. We search all over the place looking for love to fill our hearts and find that other things and people come close, but it’s not enough. My husband and I love each other dearly, but we’re not supposed to make the other one happy all the time. It’s not our job. We need to seek our happiness from the Lord, and when we do, we’re happier together and neither feels extra burdened or stressed, and we love each other better.

Same for love. We show our love toward one another, but if we’re feeling a bit empty, we need to pause for a second and think about why. It’s usually because I am expecting my husband’s love, or someone else I know, to always satisfy my heart. It does, but I still have the void. We are to love God first, spouses second. When we reverse the order, trouble comes whether it’s a mere heartache, or loneliness, pain, and especially selfishness. When we turn to God to fill that void in our hearts first, it unleashes a power (of sorts) in our lives, and especially in our marriages. We set our spouses free to love us the best they can, and it’s okay if it’s not perfect. We also don’t care that it’s not perfect because our void is gone. We’re more willing to love selflessly and so does the other person, which is pretty amazing when that happens. Even the things that we do for our spouses, including chores, don’t seem like such a drag. Why? Because our hearts are filled with God’s love which is perfect, PLUS love from others, and thus we can give of ourselves more.

It’s easy to love people who love us back, or are kind, sweet, or whatever word you wish to use. It is not easy to love those who hurt us, especially when it is a spouse, parents, children, siblings, or friends. Oh, and that command to love our neighbors as ourselves? That’s not easy either, but we do have a perfect answer that works over and over and over again. The way to love others when it seems impossible is to let God fill our hearts with his love. It’s the only way we can love others without being so easily offended, and do things for others when we’d rather do them for ourselves.

So, I asked God to fill my heart again. Let me just tell you . . . what a difference! I was able to forgive that person I mentioned earlier, and two other people made comments to me this week that normally would have offended me, but I let them go without hesitation. I also had a great time with my husband, and the things I had been worried about no longer seemed to be so frustrating. I actually felt joy and peace too. The Bible says that God daily loads us with benefits, and obviously one of those is Love. Just as I ask him to provide for us daily, I can also ask him to remind me of his love or fill me up if I’m feeling on the empty side. He is faithful to answer such prayers. It’s who He is.

Are you feeling loved today? If so, rejoice! I know I am! If not, turn to the Lord and ask him to fill you up so that you have the strength to love others, for those times when you don’t feel like it. Let His love satisfy you this week, and keep track of it. If you let Him, his love will change your life.

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