How Can I perfectly Love God?
learn the many facets of love and grow into perfect love of god
What a gruesome sight! And this is love. Do we really understand what love is? Probably not. It is a mystery. God showed us love–perfect love–but the evil one has been busy confusing us as to this really is, so we won’t strive to love like Christ, but rather to love like the world.
Loving like Christ, who loved perfectly, is one full of suffering. But, for the most part, we don’t want to love like that. We beg and beg God to remove our crosses, to make our lives comfortable, to give us what we want, so we won’t have to be like Him.
Do we really want to learn how to perfectly love God? We will have to follow His example…and it is full of wonderful, but painful suffering. Are you ready?
“I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
How Can I Love God More
Many of us want to love God more fully; we want to love God more than the world. And we can. We can love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, if we learn how to love.
Most of us don’t realize the reason we have such a hard time growing closer to God is because we don’t really know how to love. We think we are loving but in fact we are doing many things very wrong.
One of the reasons we don’t know how to perfect love God is because love is confusing. There are many different kinds of love and many of us think they are good and true, but they aren’t.
Hopefully after reading this article, we will have a better understanding of the different kinds of love:
- perfect love,
- true love,
- real love,
- appreciative love,
- ownership love,
- selfish love,
- sensual love,
- and false love.
Then after we learn the differences, we can seek God correctly and learn how to grow in love with God, so one day we can love God perfectly.
What Do You Do to Love God?
If I were to ask you, “What do you do to love God?” You might say, “I pray and help others.”
OK. But, did you know, no where in The Bible does it say, we love God, by praying or doing good works? This is true.
The Word does say that God will love us (bless us), when we pray and do good works–according to how much actual “love” is in our prayers and works. And amazingly, even if our desire to pray and do good works is quite misguided and there is hardly any real love in us or even if there is no real love at all, many times, God will still shower His love upon us. God does this hoping that after experiencing His love we will want to sincerely love Him in return.
“The Lord, your God, will bless you in all your works” (Deuteronomy 15:10)
But our prayers and works aren’t how Our Lord tells us we love Him.
Christ prayed and did good works, but He did them from a heart of true love–actually perfect love. If one of us were to pray and do good works and even if we rose into doing many prayers and great works, but if they were from a heart lacking true love, then our prayers and works–no matter how many they were–wouldn’t be truly loving God at all.
I could pay an athiest to pray and feed the poor all day long, and if he needed the money he would, but he wouldn’t be loving God by those actions, since his heart wouldn’t be set on God–seeking to please/love God…but his interests would be in the world, pleasing himself.
And sadly, many of us unknowingly do this…we pray and do good works, seeking our own interest–not to LOVE GOD.
“They offer me prayers, but not the kind that are pleasing to me. Like those who shouts praise with their mouths and are silent in their hearts, they stand next to me shouting with their mouths while in their hearts and thoughts they wander around in the world.”
–Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden
How Do We Really Love God?
God tells us clearly over and over again in The Word how we really love Him, and that is by keeping His Word–by not offending Him. Yes, we love God when we obey Him.
“Whoever has my commandments [in his heart] and observes them is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21)
If I do my pray and good works, but I’m not striving with all of my heart to not offend God and to amend every sin…do I have a heart that really loves God. No. How can we really love God, if we are complacent with offending Him? We can’t.
We know the athiest isn’t interested in loving God by his thoughts, words or actions. He desires to make his life better and is focused on himself. If he happens to “obey” God’s commands or serves another it is for some self-benefit, not for the intention of loving God. And he surely isn’t focused daily on seeing to it that he doesn’t offend God. He could care less about offending God. So an athiest proves clearly by his actions and desires of his heart that he doesn’t really love God.
However, for someone who wants to love God (has any degree of real love), we must desire to obey God so we can love Him/not offend Him…we can’t want to obey just because we don’t want to get punished for disobedience or because we want to be “the best person we can be” but to LOVE GOD.
We must remove our focus from being on ourselves and put it on God. Our reason for why we do what we do must be fixed on loving/not offending God.
We can’t just say, “Oh, yah, I do that”…no, there must be a real intention/desire in our hearts to love God with everything. Plenty of people do good for others, but have no desire to love God through those actions. That doesn’t count.
We might ask, “If we want to really love God, how great of a desire to love God do we need?” “Is a desire that is only in our thoughts or words enough to have some amount of real love for God? Or is a desire that is also lived in our actions the kind of desire the emits real love?”
Well, of course our desire to love God would only be half-hearted or false if we claimed to want to obey God so to love Him, but we weren’t even seeking God for help and making/keeping resolutions to stop sinning.
To have any kind of real love for God, we must be sincerely working to amend our ways towards the goal of becoming a perfect self-sacrificing saint (to stop offending God), not because we want to be a better person to boost our pride, but because we want to one day perfectly love God.
But not only that. Did you know, if we do good works, but we do them according to our will; if we do them when and how we want; if we do them when it is convenient or comfortable for us (neglecting what is challenging), if we neglect unceasing prayer and don’t always ask God to guide me–but focus on gaining accomplishments doing what I think is best-are our good works keeping to God’s commandments and loving Him? No.
God tells us to do everything according to His will, and He goes on to explain how vitally important it is, not only to loving God but to obtaining Eternal Life.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Truly, we can’t do anything without God–His grace–working through us since our desire to sin is so great within us. Without surrendering our will for God’s, allowing His grace to move us, how can we love Him?
“Without me you can do nothing [truly good]” (John 15:5).
How Can I Perfectly Love God?
If we want to truly love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (perfectly love God), then we need to allow enough of God’s grace to fill us to where we perfectly observe God’s law and no longer offend God again (His grace prevents us from sinning). Since we can’t perfectly love God if we are still offending Him.
Please don’t think it is impossible to never sinning again? That is the devil trying to convince us of that, so we stay complacent with our sins and don’t seek Christ’s mercy to transform our hearts. Many saints have obtained perfection…from St. Stephen in the Bible to St. Therese of Liseux. And we can too. Believe!
“Since that day [when I had made my Act of Oblation on June 9, 1895], love has surrounded me and penetrated me through and through. Moment by moment, the Merciful Love of God renews and cleanses me and leaves my heart without a trace of sin.”
–St. Thérèse of Lisieux
But to truly love God, we must truly desire to not offend Him. Truly loving God is when our desire to love God is so great, that throughout our day we seek God for grace (strength to not sin), as we strive with all of our hearts to keep our resolutions so to avoid/amend our sins and live for His will….it is when our hatred for sin grows so great we would rather suffer anything–even death–than offend Our Beloved Lord again.
True love is when we finally love God above ourselves. It is when a constant disdain for sin (constant love for God) lives in us and moves our hearts, which have been greatly humbled (knows ones great sinfulness), in which we desire to surrender our sinful will and focus on living God’s will perfectly in every thought, word or deed…so we can never offend God again–love Him.
So, there is the difference with perfect love and true love. Perfect love, sins no more and true love sincerely desires to sin no more.
Therefore, if we pray and do works in the name of God, when we aren’t resolved, I mean really resolved (working and changing) to stop our sins–so to one day truly love God and become the self-sacrificing saints God calls us to be, then how “good” are our prayers and work? Are we really loving God at all with them? No.
Oh, in the eyes of God…even if they are fantastic prayers and works, they are actually an abomination of love. Yes, to profess love for God but still want to scourge Him–to still not be truly working with all of our hearts to stop offending Him–the One we declare we love, not working to gain true love and of course perfect love, is a great abomination. And most sadly, this is what most of us do. Even those of us, who seem to have great faith because of all of the blessing God has given us, our love for God is actually still an abomination (not even real love). Wow! It is time to humble ourselves so we can change.
Honestly, what did you do today to see you stop one more sin, remove one more attachment, so to one day live the faith perfectly and never offend God again? What are your resolutions? Anything? If you aren’t a perfect saint, then you still have much to change. You are still offending God/not loving Him.
To help us learn how to grow into the image of Christ, Lifting Our Values has a book, “How to Grow into The Image of Christ” with great ways we can motivate ourselves (schedules we can make, charts we can diagram–to learn discipline and see our progress) to do what is necessary so we can one day, perfectly love God. Yes, we have a lot to change…but with God we can!
God’s Unfathomable Love
If we one day want to perfectly love God, then one of the first steps we must take is gaining HUMILITY: a true understanding of our sinfulness…so we can humbly seek Mercy to change us.
So let’s humbly admit our failures to love. Then knowing God’s great love for us run to Him. He wants us saved. We know this. Look a His love: how He went so far as to die for us, to send us fantastic strength (to amend our ways) through the sacraments of His Church ,and He even become His own creation and lived on earth, just to show us clearly how we need to live so to we can learn how to love and obtain a saving faith. Our Savior is waiting to guide and transform our hearts of self-love into natural hearts of true love for Him.
Wonderfully, from God’s unfathomable mercy, He allows us to say we love Him, day and night, when so few truly do.
And through all that abuse, He still loves us and calls us over and over again, hoping one day, before it is too late, we will hear and decide we are going to sincerely set our hearts on perfectly loving Him–so we can embrace His saving forgiving mercy and live with Him forever in Heaven. Oh, such love!
But by nature, it is very hard for us to truly love God…since from Adam and Eve’s first sin, we all suffer from the consequence of their offence and have a great inclination to sin…sadly, we want to sin, as we can see from our constant habitual sins; we don’t want to love God more than we want to sin; we prefer to sin instead.
To change our hearts, into hearts that would rather suffer anything rather than offend God–hearts that truly love God–we will need to accept God’s grace and much of it.
God intends on transforming our hearts of self-love that seek to do what we want (that seek our will of self-gratification/self-love) and makes them hearts of true love–that seek to suffer and sacrifice, like Christ, for the salvation of souls. And then even transform them into hearts of perfect love. We just need to learn how to accept His grace.
Our Desire to Sin Confuses Us
Within each one of us, is a desire to sin and a desire to love God. But our desire to sin confuses us as to what loving God really is.
From our innate love for God, if it isn’t smothered out by the world, we will want to praise and serve God, so we go off and do just that. We hear God calling us…God has a very special plan for each of us. Most of us aren’t real sure what this call is, or we know some of it but not the true plan. Or we only see the first step or some vague step, but not the rest. Nonetheless, we see our gifts and talents and we feel desires, so we do the best we can, with what is around us, and go off and serve God.
But if we don’t come to know what truly loving God is, we will continue to feel satisfied that we are loving God from our prayers and works, since by nature, we feel naturally gratified when we do “good”. This is why people of little to no faith will do a big works of charity. It feels good to do good. But sadly, our prayers and works will still never truly love God, if we don’t allow God to change our hearts so He can save us.
For some of us, to help move us towards wanting to truly love God–a saving faith– Our Lord will bless us with feeling and experiencing His love from our prayers and works. Now, from God’s mercy, we will have more than just the “feel good” sensation that even atheist gets when they do good.
But, with these feelings and experiences we must be very careful that we don’t allow them to inflate our pride. If we don’t know they are given to us to help change us, to help us stop our offences against God–to help serve God and grow in faith to truly/perfectly love Him, then we most likely will be confused by the love we feel and pride ourselves with it…leaving us blind and dead. Beware!
Then from our pride, we will think God’s blessings on us, are God telling us how great we are, when He is simply wanting us to use these blessings for the salvation of souls.
From this confusion, we will pray and do good works being motivated by the pleasure they bring us…not seeking to pray and serve so we can love/obey His Word (His command to pray unceasingly and to live to serve) so we can never offend Him and perfectly love Him, but rather for the personal gratification we feel.
What Kind of Love Do We Have?
Part of this humility we need to be able to accept God’s mercy so we can begin to change, is found in learning what kind and/or kinds of love we really have for God.
Many “say” we love God, but what kind of love do we really have? How great is our love? Is it a love that is true enough that we can accept God’s saving forgiving mercy for all of our sins? Or is it only a little bit of love…mostly a selfish or false love? Not enough to receive much if any forgiveness.
“The one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:49).
How close to perfectly loving God are we?
Different kinds and degrees of love :
- false love – is any love to where we profess with our words or feel in our heart love, but in the next moment, our actions show malice. There are many kinds and degrees of false love…but it it all stems from saying or thinking one thing, but doing another.
Sadly, this love is in all of our lives to some degree until we obtain perfect love.
- sensual love – is when we feel we love someone because of the sexual gratification they bring us. Much of the time this feeling is so strong and satisfying, we can mistaken it for true love, but it is far from it. It is really a sexual and selfish love combined–it is a “you make me feel so good” type of love. Some of us will do anything for someone when we are filled with this love.
It is driven from our sexuality/lust/self-love not our heart/soul. It starts from our sexual attraction (which of itself isn’t sinful) but for most it doesn’t develop into true love. Most marriages have sensual love in it (at least in the beginning), but not true love, which is why our marriages fail and lack joy–its because we aren’t loving like Christ.
- selfish love – is the love most of us have with God and others. It is a love that wants to be loved in return; it’s loving someone for what they do for us. We might not think we have this kind of love, but that is probably because we aren’t aware of it’s symptoms, but if we know what to look for, we can see it is greatly prevalent in us, unless we have implored Mercy over and over again to rid it from our lives.
In our marriages, if we have selfish love, we love our spouse for the joy they bring us…not to love and serve them wanting nothing in return, as we joyfully carry any cross they bring us for the salvation of their soul (like someone with true love does). The whole reason our marriages and our relationship with God fail is because we love with selfish love. We don’t live to serve and suffer so to love God and others, we want to give and have another give to us return.
- ownership love-is the love like a parent has for their child. Or even a pet owner has for their pet. It is an unconditional love (as long as we are willing to tolerate their wrongs)..so it really isn’t so unconditional for most, but it is a love that forgives when errors are made and helps even when malice is given. It tolerates much because we feel ownership towards someone/something. But when the crosses out way the perks, for those lacking grace, this love can leave and become replaced with selfish love. And we will only love is we are receiving the love we desire in return. Then we could disown a problem: child, parent, pet, spouse, etc. Much of the time, if great energies were put into loving someone, and we feel turned on, then selfish love develops, which can bear equal energies of hatred in return. This love can be very good and we can even have it for God (like a child who unconditionally loves a parent) and feels “I love God no matter what He allows to happen in my life.” But it is only good if we don’t allow it to fall into selfish love, when things go wrong.
- appreciative love– is the love we have for God or someone when see the kindness/love they have towards us and all the good they do. This is a good and natural love and it can increase within us as we see/understand the love another has for us. We see this love in all walks of life…for we love doing good to others who do good to us.
But we must be careful that it doesn’t fall into selfish love, when we don’t see or feel love anymore. Or become sensual love, if we have a sexual attraction towards someone who is kind or doing good for us. Rather this love should move us into growing into true love for God or another.
- real love – is when we are trying love God or another, but there is still some selfishness intermingled in it. It isn’t pure selfish love to where we only do good wanting good in return, but it isn’t true love either (a love that has no self-love in it). It isn’t a false love that only puts forth a half-hearted effort to love either. It is a love that will sincerely strive to change and never sin, so to not offend God.
Now, this desire to love can come from a fear that we will be punished (making it imperfect love coming from self-concern), but if that fear arises from God’s grace, it is considered real love…a real valid desire to love God.
Of course to obtain eternal life, our desire to love to avoid punishment must leave and our desire to love must become simply to not offend God, because we want to love Him, and this intensity of desire to love must grow from just having a sincere desire to love into becoming true desire to love. This is the love we must have to receive Holy Communion worthily.
- true love -is when we are willing to suffer anything–even death–to love God or another…not because of courage, or from a great desire to be good but just to love. It is when we sincerely desire nothing in return for the love we give; we love for the sake of love…we will reduce ourselves to being a servant of all, and will even endure any cross (suffering)…even receiving hatred in return for the love we give. It is a willingness to give all we have happily, to see we never hurt/offend/ fail to love.
This is the love Christ taught us. It is a desire to love/serve/suffer with gratitude for whatever occurs (trusting in all God allows as being meant for our ultimate good). When we don’t have this love, our relationship with God or with others have problems or completely fail. This love is what allows us to unite with God (be in a state of grace) since our self-love (idolizing ourselves/seeking what we want) has left. We can have this love for a moment or it can continuously dwell within us, which is what is needed to have a saving faith.
- perfect love -is when we possess all of the qualities of true love and love God so greatly, we have now perfectly surrendered our sinful will for God’s perfect will. Now, nothing we do is rejecting God’s grace from consuming our souls and God’s love is causing us to no longer be able to offend God again as we perfectly love Him.
As we can see, love has different forms and intensities and it varies in many aspects of our lives. But, all Christians should be striving to never offed God again–perfectly love God.
What is this Perfection We Should Seek?
To never offend God involves a lot, but not to worry, when we accept God’s grace, He makes transforming easy.
God expects us to seek His grace to do it all, if we really want to love Him. The entire Word, The Mass and everything we do should be done seeking to perfectly love God–so to be free of sin.
To never sin–to perfectly love God–means we must ALWAYS LOVE, which is to:
- • always do what God (Perfect Love) wants us to do at all times; in all of our thoughts, words, and actions (have no self-will)
- • always fulfill every facet of God’s Word perfectly (commit no sins or omissions: acts of hate or neglect against God)
Yes, this is hard, since by nature we do all for self-love (not to love God). But in time God’s grace will make it easy, if we allow Him. We can learn how to reject our will for God’s, reject evil and choose good. Then our self-willed actions and our sins we chose, which brought upon all kinds of anxieties, will leave. We will live a life of wonderful peace…truly loving God, with real hope, walking with Jesus to Heaven.
Always Seek Mercy For Help
We can see this pleading to God for grace to make us perfect with the prayers from the saints, in the Word, and even in The Mass. If we have prayed The Mass, we will know we ask God to make us perfect (free from all sin) during each Eucharistic celebration we partake in.
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from EVERY evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy [grace], we may be ALWAYS free from sin and safe from all distress [through trusting/loving God], as we await the blessed hope [from living the faith] and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Doxology)
This is what we all should be striving for–to perfectly love God–by praying unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so God grace can consume us, so one day, we can always be free from sin.
The Development of Love
Let’s look at the developing person to see the various kinds of love in our lives. A young child, for example, who is so young they can’t talk but has grown enough to recognize their parents absolutely loves their parents. Why? What kind of love is that?
Well, when someone does good for us and cares for us, we love them in return. The more time someone spends caring for us the greater bond of love for them we can develop. A child knows who feeds them and cares for them. By human nature, we love them and want to be with the ones who care for us.
Now, what kind of love is this? True love? No…Is it sensual, paternal/maternal, or perfect love?….no. Actually, it is selfish love.
I know when we hear the word “selfish” we think all sorts of horrible things associated with that…and true, it isn’t pure nor the desired love we are aiming for, but selfish love is the beginning of the process we will take to grow into truly loving God or anyone.
Parents love being with their babies. Why? Because they bring them joy…oh, looking at their cuteness, receiving their smile of love and/or watch them grow, and so much more. Our children bring us pleasure, and we love them for that. But that is selfish (doing or liking something for our own benefit)
There might be some who strictly love our babies because they simply belong to us, and we don’t run to them and love them for all of the “feel good” moments they bring, which is pure paternal love. But most of us have selfish love (wanting something) intermingled with that pure paternal/maternal love.
However, this pure paternal/maternal love is not necessarily a gift from accepting God’s grace, as even atheists can have a true paternal/maternal love for their child. This love can come simply from our human nature.
But for most of us, the love we have for our children is derived from some amount of selfish love combined with paternal/maternal love, but we want it to grow into true love.
Everyone, who sins, outside of a few very blessed saints, starts out our relationship with God from no real love or from selfish love, since we love God for all the good He does or has done for us.
‘We love [God] because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
And that isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t good either. Yes, loving someone for the “good” they do or have done for us is selfish…it is loving for what we can get or have received, but that kind of love can bring about true love and then perfect love.
Sure we must have an attitude of gratitude for all God has done for us, but we want to mature in our thinking/faith into a true and then perfect love of God…especially since selfish love doesn’t embrace God’s saving mercy.
To understand this more clearly, ask yourself, “Does Christ love us for all of the good we do for Him?” No. If He did, He would hate us, since we are so dreadfully sinful.
Frankly, from a lack of much grace, most don’t do anything truly good. Yet, Christ took upon our flesh, He too on the form of sin (our sinful nature), died for us to forgive our sins, showed us how to accept and keep His free gift to obtain Heaven and helps us daily to hopefully get us there.
“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we [sinners] might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God [we have sinned], but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
He did all of this for us–for the sinner–not because of the good we are doing for Him or how good we make Him feel or what we have done, but from perfect love.
When Selfish Love Turns Bad
However, selfish love much of the time does’t grow into true love, and then it can lead to great sin.
When selfish love turns bad, we stop loving someone for the good they have done, and we only love them when they are doing good for us–when we are getting what we want. We forget about the past.
This is the kind of love that destroys families, marriages and pretty much everything in life. It is the root of unforgiveness of all sorts and the killer of souls.
When we suffer from selfish love gone wrong, we live life not seeking to love, but wanting to be loved by others. We will love others only with the hopes of getting love in return and when we don’t get it we are unhappy. “I have done all of this for you, and what have you have done for me?” is the attitude of those suffering from deadly selfish love.
Oh, for those with deadly selfish love, God isn’t our everything as we seek His love alone…no….everyone else around us is. And if we aren’t being loved, we are despondent or even depressed.
We see this broken love in marriages and families all of the time. People choose to marry when we aren’t truly in love or even aiming for true love, since we don’t know or understand what that is.
Oh, we start out so happy, “I love my spouse he/she makes me feel loved, special and valuable.” “I would die without him/her.” “She/He completes me.”
We love our spouses for the “good feelings” they make us have. We are full of a great overwhelming sincere of love for them–but sadly, it is just selfish love. And from that selfish love not transforming into true love and becoming bad, we fall into destructive patterns of deadly selfish love.
Then, when those good feelings of selfish love begin to dwindle through trials and tribulations or just time, all we have left is just a commitment. Next, we either find something else to fill our desire for selfish love…work, hobbies, friends, etc. and/or we become miserable…complaining, being angry, dwelling in self-pity at our lack of selfish love we aren’t receiving (not getting what we want from others).
Each person responds differently to a lack of selfish love, but for those who live for such love from others, it is followed by depression/self-pity/demands/anger/complaints… “Oh, my spouse doesn’t even know our kids,” we will exclaim, as we demand our spouse to do more… “Am I a slave, who does everything around here,” we will declare as we brew in self-pity thinking we do all of the work. “My spouse is so boring…I deserve better,” as we pridefully think, we deserve a better life. “I work hard all day and what do you do?” as we tell our spouse they are useless and we are the great one. “My spouse doesn’t want to have sex,” as we see our spouse as an object to satisfy our sexual desires to get what we want….oh, we complain and complain and complain. This leads to endless marital problems.
If one’s spouse is unhappy and complains and the other spouse doesn’t change to fit the demands and selfish love isn’t restored, there is now a break down in the marriage (irrreconcilable differences), since what we were living for is now gone.
But that is far from the plan God has for marriages. To learn more please read, “God’s Plan for Family and Friends.”
In a house of selfish love gone wrong, each member looks to make the other do “good” for them, to make their life better, fair, to do what they want…to make them happy. Not that both working as a teem is wrong, but if that is what love is, we are dead.
Then, from seeking this happiness, we will give to our spouse, but only if we believe we are getting what we think we deserve in return or we have no other choice as something worse might happen.
While those with successful marriages have figured out if we keep our spouse happy, we are happy, since they will treat us well. Plus by nature, we like to make others happy, so we do what they want to make peace and make us happy.
This is how most marriages stay intact through the mutual giving in order to receive selfish love in return…sadly, most have never grown into true love. But for some, since their selfish and sensual love is so strong, they whole heartedly believe they truly love one another, but most don’t know what truly loving how Christ loves is.
In many marriages, if we do choose to carry a cross in our relationship, since one won’t do their fair share, what we want, suffers from some sin or for some other reason, most will complain about it and/or only tolerate it for so long. Then we bitterly reject it as we peruse a life of self-love away from Christ’s life of peace (trust in the cross), seeking that temporary happiness that comes from the world through abandonment of the cross.
If we do bear a cross with or without complaint, most of the time we are priding ourselves on how “good” of a spouse we are, loosing all merit from God, since we have sought it in the form of pride.
But this problem with selfish love going wrong isn’t only isolated to marriages, it is in all aspects of our lives. The reason we do most everything is because we like it and want the feel good experiences from it. Then when what we are doing stops being fun, even if it is good, we begin to leave it for something more enjoyable.
Oh, even parents will love our child for all of the “feel good” moments they bring, and we might tolerate a certain amount of problems, like a spouse would if the pros out weigh the cons. But a parents tolerance is mostly from paternal/maternal love hoping the “feel good” moments of a happy family life will someday out weigh the bad and making tolerating the bad worth it.
But many times if our child doesn’t fill our selfish want for respect, authority, and/or love–as we suffer from selfish love–and they do something to offend us, we will become dispondant, some might not forgive them, or not speak to them, or even disown our own child. This broken behavior occurs because we are greatly lacking in true love, even parental love and our desire for power over them is so great, we will even forfeit selfish love to feel vindicated. Oh, the sins we have.
While others, who are greatly offended, who are less wanting of power, but wanting of family love, and will do anything to keep the family intact even ignoring the sins of others or placating them, since they live for the happy family they desire (just another form of selfish love). Oh, there are so many ways we seek selfish love that are rejecting real happiness for the world.
The problem is we don’t know what true love is nor seek to live it.
Love but not Real Love
Another problem is, many will do an act of charity/love (even a great one) in one aspect of our marriages or family life or life in general, thinking from that one act or even several acts, we are really a great spouse/family member/person, especially if others seem happy with us. Then, from our pride, we don’t see the billions of other ways we aren’t loving how Christ loves.
Much of the time, this act of charity we performed that we think is loving how Christ loves, in God’s eyes isn’t even real love at all.
The love we give much of the time is so far from Jesus’ love, it is a love seeking to make others happy. Did Jesus come to earth to make us “happy”…hum…no. Is that what Christ really did? Did He say things, buy things or do things just to make others feel good? Do we hear about the bounds of complements He gave, great parties He held, or plentiful gifts He bought…ah, no.
The love we give, much of the time, isn’t really the love Christ gave. It is a love to boost our own self-love. Christ didn’t say things to make friends–even though of course, we don’t want to make enemies–but He said and did everything to bring the truth, for the salvation of souls.
Much of the time, doing those worldly things we do that make others happy isn’t necessarily bad, unless we are causing someone else to become attached to the world, but most of the time they aren’t truly good either.
Sadly, most of us, from the devil deceiving us are blind to what is truly good. Then from priding ourselves on the good we believe we do, we have lost sight of many of our wrongs we ignore…then we never learn what is truly good, or our sins , nor grow into the image of Christ and love how He loves.
Honestly, we want to feel like we are good loving people…not sinners in need of a Savior. From being tricked away from The Way, we live to give and receive a life of pleasure. We don’t want the cross of Christ nor contrition for our sin, or to love like Him…not all of the time or in every way…most have been deceived resulting in us not even striving for that goal, since we don’t even know this should be our goal.
Since we want a self-satisfying life of pleasure, tragically, much of our life is given to the evil one (the World). But that isn’t what God chose…and if we desire to love Him perfectly, we need to follow Him and the example He gave us. What a fantastic example that is!
What is true love? What is this love Christ gives us? Is it loving those who can’t love us back? Yes; when we love how Christ loves, we don’t seek to be loved; we seek to give love. But is that all that makes up true love? No, actually, there is much more.
Let’s look at the married couple again. Let’s say one spouse gets cancer and the other, from their great love, gives all of themselves to care for the other.
“Now, surely that is true love,” some will say. Well, that can be an act done from true love, but we must remember, even some athiest’s, who love their spouses, will care for them as they die too…so there must be more to true love–loving how Christ loves–than simply loving someone when they can’t return love to us.
You see the athiest, who still has a strong marriage, might feel a strong ethical bond to commitment and/or perhaps have great love for his wife from that selfish love, most of us have. It just never went bad. The athiest continues to remember the wonderful life they had together, over looking the bad, as they grew to care/love for each other for all the good they have done for one another, which is beautiful, but it isn’t true love.
You see Christ, however, doesn’t just love those who have loved Him, even though Christ wants to be loved. But regardless of if He receives love or not, He loves everyone…especially those who hurt (offend) Him. Like Our Lord said, someone might find it noble to die for the righteous, but who is going to give their life for a criminal/a sinner.
“Perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7).
But forget about giving up our life for those who offend us, are we willing to even think a kind thought, pray a real prayer or do anything truly good for someone who constantly hurts us? Do we have a heart of true forgiveness like Christ…true love?
If we do, then when we aren’t loved and are hurt by another, we will trust in God’s will (what He allows) as good (God’s divine providence-what He will use for good), have great sorrow for the sin another has committed against us and God. We will still love them and even more greatly desire to serve/help our offender, as we feel badly for their lack of grace to love.
From God’s love dwelling within us, we won’t become angry or depressed, when we don’t receive love/kindness from another. That abuse/mistreatment/wrongdoing won’t sway our desire to love unconditionally and live to serve them like Christ. No, we will joyfully carrying our cross for them, praying much grace is sent to them, as we do good for our offender for the salvation of their souls…just like Christ does for us.
This is the kind of love that converts the selfish into images of Christ and saves souls. This is the love the athiest doesn’t have. This is how we really love Christ and love like Christ has loved us.
But when we greatly lack the love of Christ in our hearts, even others mistakes are a problem for us and a cause of complaint. Inconveniences are pridefully scoffed at–even someone cutting us off in traffic is a moment of anger. When someone wrongs us we don’t let it fall off of us and/or have pity for them, we will have pity for ourselves for having been wronged. We won’t love like Christ loves, but we seek what benefits us, what is kind to us and what is the way we want. We don’t want or accept our cross to save souls; WE ARE SELF-CONCERNED.
Many say we believe in God and claim we love Him, but what kind of belief and love do we really have when God allows tragedy to occur in our lives; what happens? Do we trust in what God allows knowing He will make all good…suffering and all. No, sadly, most reject God’s cross…complain, worry, wanting our will.
“Charity [love of God] is a right attitude of mind which prefers nothing to the knowledge of God…For anyone who really loves God prefers to know and experience God rather than his creatures. The whole set and longing of his mind is ever directed towards Him [not towards any worldly pleasure or person].”
–St. Maximus the Confessor
We don’t want to love Him by trusting in Him as we carry our cross for the salvation of souls. We selfishly want things our way, the easy cross free way, as if we know better than God. Where is our belief now?
Some will become so angry with God, for not getting want we desire and allowing us or someone we love to suffer–then, from selfish love going bad, we turn from Him and even perhaps stop any kind of love all together and maybe even lose all belief. Oh, how sad.
What Do We Do With Our Crosses?
To love God and carry our cross, what does God want us to do in our marriages, families or life if we have to suffer? Are we just supposed to let our spouse ignore our children, lay around and have us be a slave, watch our spouse long for a better husband/wife, put us down, and be treated as a sex object to satisify one’s desire? What are we to do?
Well, God has a perfect plan for each of those crosses, and it isn’t ignoring the problem. Even though sometimes doing nothing is the correct response to a cross. But loving our crosses and following Christ doesn’t always mean doing nothing, and just carrying our cross when something goes wrong.
Knowing how to carry a cross correctly is all involved in our INTENTIONS OF LOVE. God wants us to look for His will (what is the greatest good) and do that. God’s will is for us to do what is best for the salvation of another…not live self-seeking, doing what removes our suffering, but to love like Christ and live for the salvation of souls.
So if our spouse comes home from work and ignores his/her children as he/she watches TV and plays video games, that isn’t good for his/her soul. That is sinful. Sure that sin gives us and our children a cross…but God intends to use that suffering/cross as good, if we allow Him.
So to allow God to take our cross and make it good, we want to seek God’s will. We know God wills us to do everything to lead others to Life–to guide our spouse away from his/her sins by our prayers, words and actions. This is what Jesus tries to do everyday with our sins. Now, how to do this is where love, tact and great patience comes in.
“With all humility [knowing our sinfulness] and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another[‘s sins] through love” (Ephesians 4:2).
It isn’t easy knowing what to say or do to help someone see their errors, to go to God for grace and to want to change, but through trial and error…praying God helps us know when to speak, act or just do nothing except pray, is key as we learn as we go. God will eventually teach us and soften one’s heart if we persistently seek His will with all patience and love.
If something we do to enlighten/guide them makes our loved one angry and produces a non fruitful result, stop. Learn. If something we do provokes thought and a desire to change, continue. But in the meantime as we wait for God’s grace to take effect, we are to carry our cross HAPPILY, how ever long God wills, for our spouse or anyone’s conversion, knowing what great grace God will send them through us imitating Christ.
This is the same process we will go through for each cross we carry, no matter what it is. We need to look for what is God’s will, help lead others or ourselves away from sin and do what is the best for another’s salvation. If God intends the cross to leave great, if not great! God’s will is great!
If we aren’t strong enough to carry our cross, we are to look for help, but always seek Our Lord’s will.
“The way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).
For example: Here is a hard one–sexual sin. It is running rapid inside and outside of marriage. I could write a whole book about this, but I speak about this in more depth in the article “What is God’s Plan for Family and Friends.”
Yet, God has a very specific plan for our sexual desires, but most have no idea what that is. But to touch on this a little, God desires to use our sexual attraction/desire to help sanctify us.
Our sexual act with our spouses is not only meant to procreate for God’s honor and glory, they are also supposed to help each other learn sexual self-discipline through denial and when necessary to satisfy our sexual desire, when denial is leading to lust of neighbor, so to help us gain sexual self-control and purity.
“Do not deprive each other [so to not fall into the greater sin of lust of neighbor], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time [to grow in holiness], to be free [from sin] for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Sex is never to be longed for with the intention of satsifying our sexual drive for self-gratification. God is to be our source of joy. But please understand there is anything wrong with uniting with our spouse to love them and satisfy our sexual desire are receive pleasure, as long as we are open to having children, just like there is nothing wrong with eating cake at a party to celebrate either…but there is nothing truly good with that either…as I address in the other article.
Yet, how many spouses treat each other only as an object to satisfy our sexual desires? We “say” we want our spouse to “love” them, but loving them is far from most of our minds during our sexual encounter, getting what we want–selfish love–having an orgasm is. This is reality. Lusting over our spouse for our sexual gratification isn’t love…it is lust…we can say we want to love our spouse all we want, but God who reads our hearts knows the true intention of what we do and lust is a sin…even with our spouse. It makes our spouse an object, a tool to use to satisfy our desires of the flesh.
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh [lust]…is not from the Father but is from the world.” (John 2:!6).
Oh, many of us love to lust or being lusted over but this needs to change if we seek Eternal Life.
There is so much confusion as to what is correct, pure behavior with our spouses and their bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit) and I speak about God’s plan for purity and salvation through marriage more full in the article “What is God’s Plan for Family and Friends.”
But if we want to love our spouse or anyone like Christ loves us, we need to seek to do the greatest good for their salvation with every cross (blessing) we are given.
Do we know what it is to lay down our life? Do we really know what that means? Most will say that means to die for someone…well it can mean that but that really isn’t what John is speaking about. Yes, Jesus did give literally His life for us, but He did it much more than dye for us…He gave His EVERYTHING–every thought, word and deed–to seek the salvation of our souls by perfectly obeying His Father. That is what “laying down one’s life” really is. Surrendering our wants and desires to serve God by giving our everything–our every thought, word and deed–to seek the salvation of souls just like Jesus did for us.
God gave us our lives to love Him. That is our entire purpose for our existence: to love and be loved by God for an eternity in Heaven. How did Jesus teach us how to love the Father, but by giving His entire life to serve God. However, since the world is so inviting, we have fallen out of love with God and in love with the world and ourselves. Our hearts don’t burn for God, desire to loose our will, serve Him and embrace the cross, but we are distracted with bounds of worldly desires and pleasures that come about pulling us away from God and the perfect love He has waiting for those who truly love Him–who are willing to love like He has loved.
Until we receive much of God’s grace and begin to be filled with His truth (knowledge of the Way to Eternal Life), we won’t even realize how little we actually love like Christ loved us. We won’t know what it is or how to do it ourselves nor be able to guide others to do it correctly either. We will think we know, but the devil actually cons us into guiding others right into self-love not true love of God.
Sadly, we will see someone giving and helping another but when they grow weary in their charity–because they aren’t receiving God’s peace from their works since they aren’t loving–doing good–for the right reasons. Sadly, we, from our misguided love, mistakenly guide them away from the truth and deeper into darkness. To console them, we will find ourselves saying, “oh, you have given so much of your life to others, now is the time to take care of yourself.” We have let the evil one darken us away from understanding the entire purpose of our life…which is to love like Christ has loved…not to live a comfy self serving life, but to love. But since we don’t know what love is, we think we are only supposed to give a certain amount of our life to loving and serving others and then the rest to ourselves. But Christ certainly didn’t do that.
We think, “If I don’t take care of myself, nobody will.” I promise you, if we “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you” (Matthew 6:33). Truly, any need we have God will provide the time and ability for us to attend to it when we give our life to serving others, and if God doesn’t provide it, it isn’t what we need. It is only what we think we need. We need to learn how to let go of our will–what we think we need–and trust in God by embracing God’s will–what He allows to happen. That is truly good and the way to Life.
Sadly, many of the times we or others perform some work of charity out of some sense of obligation or because we like how it feels to help others, not to serve God and love Him through loving our neighbor. Since our driving intentions for what we do isn’t true, we miss receiving the joy that never fades, that lasts and lasts, even when we are taken advantage of and suffer from our giving, etc. because we are giving for the wrong reasons.
We will even tell ourselves we are helping someone out of love of God, but if we look we will see how we prove we are living deceived. The proof we aren’t truly serving out of love for God is when our selfish attitude of complaining comes in. When we have to help someone when we don’t want to (inconvenient), or what we are doing goes greatly wrong (problems), or when our work becomes hard or not fun any more, then we complain and just want to stop. We don’t want to pick up the cross God gives us but want to complain it away and look for every excuse to stop. Perhaps, we will begin to feel tired of helping because we feel we have done more than our fair share and have worked far too long or more than others. Yes, we prove very easily how we aren’t truly loving God in our works, when the works we are doing begins to change our attitude from joy in helping another into bitter sour complaints as we seek to run from our cross (problems and challenges). That is the proof we weren’t truly helping for the right reasons. Proof is always clearly before us if we want to see.
When we are loving how Christ loves, our joy increases in the cross. Sure we try to avoid problems and do the best we can at everything, but when God allows the cross, we “rejoice in our suffering” ( ), calling upon God to teach us His blessed ways as we trust in Him knowing everything is perfect according to His will and wonderful good will come out of all. When someone doesn’t appreciate our efforts, or someone we are helping becomes a thorn in our side causing us many problems, those who are truly loving how Christ loves, let go of our will and become more happy when our works are riddled with problems. This is the truth. Sure we want our work done and want to be loved, but if that isn’t God’s will, we want God’s will more than ours and relent our will for the cross because we know that is the way to Christ’s Sacred Side. We don’t wish to reject the cross, complain about the problems and seek to find someone else to do the work so we can rest. We happily pick up our cross, and do the best we can, never complaining about the outcome, knowing the magnitude of grace the cross sends, focusing on living for God’s will and how we can love…not being concerned about our challenges but how we can truly love how Christ loved, with all joy in the cross. Those serving for true reasons of love, LOVE the CROSS.
Sadly, most seek to run from the cross and only do what we like. Many avoid conflict at all costs. If there is a problem, people will do all they can to avoid speaking with someone to avoid confrontation. Clearly, the real reason behind our works, for most of us…is to do something we like, have success, or for some personal benefit, even though we will tell ourselves it is for another. Sure some of what we do might be with the partial intention to benefit another–to love God–but if our driving force–the main reason–was truly to love God, we would most certainly embrace the cross since carrying the cross is the way we love God. The devil just tricks us into not knowing what love really is and taints our good works with much self-love. But love is carrying the cross.
We reject the cross much of the time by habit since we don’t know what love is and desire pleasure instead. Then after the weight of the cross dissipates, we feel happy to serve again and will do it. Or we will only carry a cross so big, and will reject it after we feel we have bore enough. Or we will only carry crosses of those who are grateful for our service–who can still satisfy our desire for praise in our works. Truly, that isn’t what Jesus did and isn’t what we are called to do either. Christ loved and joyfully carried His crosses for everyone one. We will do anything for our best friend, but how about the rude ungrateful neighbor? Most will only talk badly about them and never serve them like we do our loving family. Jesus even when He didn’t want to bear the burden as He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me” still sought not His will, but His Father’s will saying, “still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He showed us how to love and pray and accept what God allows as wonderfully good. Truly, Christ, who wanting to be loved and cared for, saw God the Father’s will and happily served and picked up His cross for the salvation of souls—all souls, even the most unkind ungrateful people. He gave us the perfect example; we need to emulate Jesus too. Sadly, from our lack of contemplating on Christ’s life and passion, most don’t know how to love like Christ loved, nor understand our need to “do as I have done” (John 13:15). So many times we are Christians by word alone, since the devil has deceived us to what true love–the real faith–really is.
Love One Another
Obey the Father’s Will
When we have a saving faith, “the soul desires to praise our Lord God and longs to sacrifice itself and die a thousand deaths for Him. It feels an unconquerable desire for great crosses and would like to perform the most severe penances; it sighs for solitude and would have all men know God, while it is bitterly grieved at seeing them offend Him ” (St. Theresa of Avila). This is the faith we must long for…the love we need for God. If we don’t have God in this life, we won’t have Him in the next.
more coming soon