This summer I had a panic attack in Target. Now, for you to understand what that means, you should also know that Target is my happy place. All the bright colors, the esthetically pleasing displays of pretty products bring me calm. I don’t even need to buy anything for it to bring me a little soothing joy in the midst of my day.
But I had a panic attack right in the middle of Target. Nothing was happening. I was walking down the office supplies section (also a real red flag, since I love office supplies almost as much as I love Target). Shortness of breath, heart racing, nausea, blurred vision, I had the works. I had to turn my cart around and leave as quickly as my wobbly legs could take me.
And things only got worse from there. But I tell you that little story to set the stage for what this article is really about. And it will probably not seem at all related, but just bear with me. This article is about love.1
This summer might go down in my life history as one of the hardest, most difficult for me. But it taught me about love. And since my struggles are not unique or special, I hope my lessons will not be unique and special to me either. This summer taught me about love, specifically:
The love of the body of Christ for one another. The love of Christ for His people. The love of Christ for the World.
The Love of the Body of Christ
Jesus said that “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 2 I definitely know that verse well. I mean, most of us do. But taking some time to think about what that means in today’s context made it meaningful in a new way.
As I said above, this summer was hard, and to be very clear: I was not at my best. As an extrovert who usually does well in social situations, I found myself overwhelmed. I was irritable. I took offense easily. It was taking every bit of my power to care for my kids. And by that I mean, feed them cereal and snacks multiple times a day. Yet the body of Christ did not take offense at my offenses. Instead, they sent me texts saying they were praying (texts I didn’t have the strength to respond to, but they didn’t mind). Instead, they brought me meals even though my pride had insisted we didn’t need help. Instead, they handed out grace after grace to myself and my family.
Now, many of you reading this have been part of the family of Christ for a long time, like myself, so none of that surprises you. But, this summer also gave me little glimpses of what those words of Jesus really meant.
The world does not treat its own in such a way. Offenses are counted up, offenses are held tight: I was at my father-in-law’s funeral visitation and I was on the verge of another panic attack. So I’d taken myself outside of the viewing room and plopped down in a chair in the corner out of sight. I watched as a couple I didn’t know came in and headed towards the visitation room. They stopped in front of the sign that our family had placed outside the doors. It said, “In respect of the family, please wear a mask. If you need one we have them available.”
The couple turned in disgust. “Nevermind!!!” they said as they hurled insults about masks around as they left in a huff.
My father-in-law passed away from COVID19. He was healthy, he was active. The family was understandably raw and hurting. But this couple could not see past their own offense.
Let us be known by how we love.
The Love of Christ for His People
This brings me to the next lesson on love that I learned from this hard summer. The Lord loves His children in a personal way. I saw that Love in my own life. He allowed me to experience my brokenness and thus my great need for His salvation in deeper ways. I was overcome by Jesus’ love even in the midst of trials. I watched as my sweet mother-in-law in the midst of the horrible grief of losing her husband was upheld. Even as a writer, words fail me, as I try to describe what it looked like. Even at that same visitation I talked about above, I saw my mother-in-law surrounded by the peace and presence of God. So much so, that I watched in awe as she calmly and graciously received and talked to people for hours, showing others tremendous kindness even in her own suffering. It can only be described as supernatural.
I think she’d be the first to tell you that the Love of Christ surrounds us in the midst of grief and trials in a way that is almost indescribable. So as we face the trials of this year, may we rejoice and draw close to the One who brings the gift of Grace with each difficulty. 3 We do not have to fear what tomorrow may bring, because He is the one who holds all our tomorrows.
The Love Christ Has for the World
While my own season of hardship was marked by love, I know that we as believers do not have a monopoly on grief. Far from it! In fact, if we look around at the world, we do not have to look far before we see suffering and hardship. Yet, the marked difference is those around us often do not have the Hope that we have in Jesus!
I was reminded of the verse, “Praise be to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 4
I had the opportunity recently to take food to a family who’d lost a family member, the family was shocked. They’d never heard of a stranger sending food at the loss of a loved one! In fact, no one had ever brought food, period! It was my turn to be shocked. What we take for granted as a believer is foreign to the world. As it should be. If our actions as we face pandemic, as we face political uncertainty, world wide tragedy, or even our own personal battles looks too similar to the world’s then we must take pause.
If you remember, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the two who passed up the hurt man on the road were a priest and a religious person. How tempting it is to pass up the hurting and the needy because of our own agenda! We saw it in Jesus’ day and we see it now. But let us instead bring the Light and Hope of Jesus to a world that is hurting. A world that is in need of Love. For we love because He first loved us. 5