“When is the time in your marriage that you were the happiest?” This was a question that has never left my mind. As I pondered my answer, I realized that my happiest time was not when my spouse was doing everything right, but when I learned what it meant to love without conditions.
My failing marriage taught me how to love. As I went through a lot of personal growth, eight years before the breakup of my marriage, I began to re-evaluate things. There were a lot of difficulties in my marriage, and I had become frustrated. But as I grew spiritually, my bitterness became incompatible with the man I was becoming. I realized that I couldn’t control anyone but myself, and how I responded to challenges.
Previously, I had been blaming my unhappiness on my spouse’s lack of effort. But in a moment of clarity, I realized that it was wrong to place the burden of my happiness onto the shoulders of another person. If I can’t make myself happy, why would I expect someone else to do it for me? I changed my approach to marriage that day. I decided that I would not place expectations upon my wife, but I would look to the growing relationship I was having with the Lord.
There is a scripture that explains that the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts as a gift of God’s love. As I learned to accept God’s love for me, I found that my heart began to overflow with love for other people. One thing about love is that it only rests contently when it is given away.
As I sat in the marriage counselor’s office, I realized that the happiest time of my marriage began when I started giving instead of demanding. My circumstances didn’t change, but my perspective did. I stopped thinking of love as something I needed to receive, and started looking at it as something I needed to give. My bitterness died, and my contentment grew.
Even though my relationship was irreparably broken, it didn’t change my confidence in what I had learned. Two people trying to meet their needs by sapping life out of the other person cannot work. People can endure this type of relationship, but they can never thrive. God’s ways are the opposite of ours. We think we will be fulfilled if we get enough, but the truth is that love grows as we give more. The reason is that we are receivers of God’s unlimited supply, and the more it flows, the stronger it becomes.
Have you ever watched a dam breach occur? It often starts as a trickle, but the more the water flows, the more the water behind it rushes in to take its place. The more it flows, the bigger the breach becomes. Unless someone intentionally blocks that breach, the flow will become greater and greater.
In a dam, this can be catastrophic, but in love, it becomes life-giving. What I found is that even if my love wasn’t returned, my desire to love continued to grow. Outside of my family, my ministry took on new life. Judgmentalism died, and I found myself having compassion for those I would have once resented. I wanted to love those who were in need. In fact, nearly every sin that mankind commits is a cry for fulfillment, which comes from a deep hunger to experience love. The most self-centered person is actually trying to quench that hunger by demanding more. Unfortunately, taking from others cannot fulfill the longing of the heart.
Proverbs 11 says, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters, will also be watered himself.”
I have found this to be true. Someone who withholds love and tries to take more than is right will have an impoverished soul. The more a selfish person takes, the more needy they become. But the person who gives and waters others will become rich in heart, happy, and satisfied.
Such is the work of love. Human love gives to get, but agape love (which is a gift of God) flourishes in the heart of the giver. Even when love is rejected, there is still no regret, for the act of loving itself produces a healthy heart.
It took most of my life to come to this understanding, but the true joy of loving is not being loved, though we all have this need. It’s the joy of investing into the lives of others that motivates true love. When we are stuck in the selfish mindset of giving to receive, if we don’t receive, we feel cheated. Many needy relationships set people up for failure. The needy soul draws life out of the relationship, and when the resources run dry, the heart suffers, anger is born, and bitterness begins to emerge. This is why the most selfish among us believes they are being wronged. They cannot see the efforts of others because they are focused on their own needs. And the truth is, no one can satisfy the heart of another person. At least not for long.
Love takes pleasure in giving. Serving is the natural product of love. Even when human needs are not met, the flow of love supplies where human effort falls short. There is no happier person than the one who takes pleasure in expressing love to others. There are no conditions. There is no score keeping. The act of loving is pleasing to the soul because the Lord promises to water the generous soul. That promise doesn’t exist for the demanding soul.
Love needs to give. It was created to give. Love takes pleasure in the act of giving, but is the most fulfilled when it is received. Just think about the most popular verse in the Bible, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God so loved the entire world that He gave. The Bible says, “God is love,” and since this is true, His love must give. That’s what love does. God loves to give. Yet giving is incomplete without a receiver. Everyone in the world is loved by God, but not everyone will receive God’s love. When the receiver becomes a rejecter, the flow of love is stopped at that person. Love is still present, but it doesn’t complete its purpose until it is received and continues its circuit back to the Lord. God desires to give because He is love, but His greater purpose is to transform the life of the object of His love – which is you and I. God wants His love to produce life.
Because we are His children, we have that same love. I can love someone and take pleasure in showing love, but the greater joy is when the object of my love recognizes it and is willing to receive it. Unless the person being loved believes in that love, it doesn’t add life to their soul. This is true whether we are resisting the love of God, or pushing back the love of a person. Often times we reject love, not because we are rejecting the other person, but because we judge ourselves unworthy. The truth is that love isn’t based on worthiness. In fact, love is revealed in its purest form when the receiver isn’t worthy. That is when we know we are experiencing the power of love instead of earning it. Love cannot be earned.
Why do I love a person? I don’t know the answer to that. It is just the work of agape in the heart. The greatest forms of ministry come from the service of love. The strongest marriages will be built on agape love. The most solid friendships are founded upon agape. When agape is the foundation, failures become irrelevant. How much easier would it be to resolve problems and conflicts when agape is flowing strongly? When love has its proper place, the relationship will never be in danger. Since self is not the focus, the problem is removed from the emotions that create anger and frustration.
Even when agape is the focus, it does not guarantee a relationship will thrive. The giver of love will always thrive, but if the other side cannot or will not receive, you can do everything right and still watch human relationships crumble (not that I have done everything right).
I wish I had understood this as a young man. I’m not sure if it would have changed the final outcome or not, however, even with a failed marriage, I am even more convinced than ever that love is life-giving and outward focused. If anything, my failing marriage taught me how to love without condition. I found peace in the storm, and love has changed my heart in spite of the circumstances around me. It has kept bitterness at bay, and continues to restore what the world around me tries to rob.
According to 1 Corinthians 13, love creates patience, kindness, does not demand recognition, does not behave rudely, doesn’t envy others, doesn’t seek its own, doesn’t think evil, doesn’t rejoice in wrongs, and endures all things.
Of course, we all fall short in these areas, but the answer isn’t to try harder, but receive love, and allow love to do its work within us. Be loved from above, and then try to outgive God. It’s impossible to give love without watering your own soul. That takes all the burdens off a relationship so it can thrive as God has designed.
I found myself in an odd position. My heart ached from deeply hurting wounds, yet I had the burning desire to express love to those in need. How could I be in need of healing, and still have this care for those who are in need? I soon discovered that the leaking wounds were the flaws that revealed the power of Agape – which is the love of God.
What I learned during my struggles has only grown my determination to share what I’ve discovered with others.
For the most part, only those close to my family know that my marriage came to an end. Since the question comes up, I’ll say up front that, to my knowledge, there has never been infidelity in my marriage on either side. It was something I never thought would happen to me. The details of the death of my married life are not important, but out of the ashes emerged a deeper understanding of the power of God’s healing love.
I was caught off guard because I underestimated the problems beginning to pop up. At first, I was shell shocked and couldn’t seem to find my feet. For nearly a year, I struggled to have even cursory God-time. It was all I could do to sort out the thoughts running through my head. Yet one thing I have learned over the years is to forgive and that it isn’t my job to carry the burdens of life. I soon found my feet, but it would be a year before I would begin to experience the life I once felt in my soul.
True healing began when I started meditating on this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
And the comfort we have received IS the love God pours into our hearts. I like the way Ephesians 3:18-19 states:
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The problem is that you and I can’t fix ourselves, our circumstances, or others. When we look to others or ourselves, we can never find hope, but lack. A needy soul can only sap life from others; however, God is big enough to satisfy that need. You can’t sap the life out of Him. The problem I’ve seen is that people don’t truly believe in God’s love, for we put the same merit system on God that we find in human interactions. It’s too easy to believe that until I do something to become worthy, God can’t accept me, but this is far from true.
God is not concerned about what you’ve done, but where you are going. The real life of the Christian begins when we believe in the love He has for us, and allow the Lord to fill our lives. He first fills the empty heart to meet our need, and continues to fill – even though we leak. Yet the more we learn to trust Him, the more we are able to allow Him to fill us beyond our ability to contain it. That’s when the hurt washes away, and emotional and spiritual health emerge from the overflow of what He floods into us. His love is inexhaustible, thus making our flaws irrelevant. The beauty of life springs from the flaws that once ebbed life away.
In my life, what I found was that though the healing took time, the love of God was greater than my hurt. Instead of anger and bitterness, I began praying for those I felt hurt me. I had to break off many relationships because the burdens of their condemnation were too great to be added to the burdens I was already struggling to survive.
But once life emerged, anger died. Bitterness washed away. Hurt soothed. Once my heart was full, the love of God didn’t stop flowing, so it had to go somewhere. I found myself having no way to resist loving those I once held in offense, and I wanted to touch others who were hurting and struggling with rejection.
For some time I have been planning to have a grace conference this April. I wrestled over the questions of whether to go through with it now, and if it should be scheduled at all. Was I ready to step onto a platform? Is it hypocrisy to stand and speak about the Gospel of Grace when few people even know I’m divorced. Now April 23rd is only a few breaths away, and I never felt peace about cancelling. These last few months have been an amazing, but challenging journey. The Lord has flooded me with comfort, joy, and peace, which prepared me for many difficult circumstances. My time with the Lord over the last week altered my focus on the conference.
He has shown me that my journey is where my focus should be. People hurt in many ways. People struggle with addictions in their behavior, substance, and have suffered the loss of many things of value in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness within. Others have been wronged and struggle with bitterness. While some just found themselves stuck in the undertow of life.
The truth is, everyone is flawed. We may hide it under pride, pretense, religion, sin, or any other human construction. Many are ashamed of their flaws. We hide it from the world, and even from those we love. Some flaws are so painful, we hide it from ourselves. However, the grace of God changes everything. God doesn’t promise to take away our flaws, but to overcome them. His love makes us beautifully flawed. It’s only then that we learn to be honest with ourselves and others. Our flaws make us trophies of grace. His love makes us flawless!
Condemnation turns flaws into destruction, but the love of God first makes flaws irrelevant by becoming the strength for our weaknesses, and then makes flaws conduits of grace to others so that we can now comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him.
Rest in Him. He has made you flawless!
Eddie Snipes 2017
Through Saturday, 3/4/17, this book is free on the Kindle. Do you know someone who is struggling with the fear of condemnation?
Condemnation is the evidence that we don’t understand the love of God. The Bible assures our hope in Christ, but this is undermined by the misunderstanding of scriptures that have been used to create fear of the so-called unpardonable sin. This book examines these scriptures in context to understand what is being taught. According to the Bible, God’s love casts out all fear, and the hearing of the word produces faith. Any teaching that creates fear is not founded upon the truth of God.
It’s time to get out of fear, and discover the amazing teachings of scripture. These not only give us the assurance of salvation, but also disarms many doubts that create fear in the Christian life.
-Did you know that God swore an oath that under the New Covenant of grace, He will never again be angry at His people?
-Did you know that the Bible teaches that it’s God’s job to suppress sin in your life?
-Did you know your righteousness is a gift of God, and sin cannot destroy this work of Christ?
-Did you know that a blasphemous thought cannot overcome the righteousness of God which was given to you?
-Did you know that sin was put to death in Christ, and this was foretold through the coffin that sat at the center of all Old Testament worship?
Let’s leave condemnation in the grave, explore these scriptures together, and discover what the Bible calls the abundant life. This is when you’ll find rest for your soul in the finished work of Christ.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6
Have you noticed that the roads are filled with stupid drivers? Everyone thinks every other driver is stupid. But not us. It’s ‘those people’. What makes people stupid drivers in our eyes? They interfered with us on some level. The same holds true for the above statement in the humorous picture, “The hardest part of my job is being nice to stupid people.” Who are the stupid people? Those who interfere with us on some level. They may be new and don’t know their job well, or have skillsets that don’t match the roles they are put in.
This may seem like a petty rant, but consider the words of Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
The word corrupt means: poor quality, worthless, or rotten. When I call my co-worker a stupid person, am I speaking that which edifies, or that which gives an image of poor quality?
Here is why this is important. First of all, people naturally rise to the level of the expectation put on them. If you expect good and communicate a positive image, people will both knowingly and unknowingly rise to that image of good expectation. Second, the quality of our attitude is either building up morale, or tearing it down. I cannot expect good relationships when I am teaching one person to think poorly of another. My words build expectations. I’m building a good or bad expectation on the person I’m speaking of, and I’m building up or tearing down the expectations of others toward that person.
Shortly after my high school years, I worked in a warehouse. When someone was hired, our manager, Steve, would come back and say, “Paul is doing a good job, isn’t he.” Everyone would immediately think about what Paul might be doing right. Either directly or indirectly, Paul would get the message that he was a positive part of our team. How do you think Paul responded? He felt good about himself, and he rose to a higher level of work ethic to match that expectation.
Steve was promoted, and a new manager took over. We’ll call him, Jeff. Jeff was the opposite of Steve. His attitude was demanding and he was critical of everyone. He was worried that employees might be getting paid for doing less. He would come back and say, “Is Paul going to cut it? If he’s not pulling his weight, we need to get someone who can.”
Everyone would look at Paul with a critical eye to see if he was doing anything wrong. It wasn’t only Paul that was negatively affected. The team soon stopped being a team. Jeff’s critical attitude created critical perceptions and negative expectations. Production dropped, people quit, new hires struggled to find acceptance, and instead of rising up to a higher expectation, people started worrying about whether others were doing less, and one guy said, “Why bother doing anything extra? No one in management will notice anyway.”
It’s hard to be positive when you are already under the weight of failure. When someone expects you to be a failure, it’s hard to prove your worth. People don’t thrive under negative reinforcement.
The label of stupidity is often that weight of failure. How many people are really stupid? If someone is trying to learn, does inexperience mean they are stupid? Does calling people stupid create good peers and working relationships? In reality, the person who thinks others are stupid is putting demands of perfection on others that the demander also cannot achieve. It is a creation of negativity and has no real value.
Building up will cause people to grow, and eliminate many mistakes. Tearing down will not.
Another counter-productive label of stupidity is when we focus on someone’s weaknesses with a critical eye. Let me tell you the story of Mike. When I was working as a technician at an airline, we had a coworker, Mike. Mike was very slow at doing the things his job demanded. People called him incompetent and stupid. I got to know Mike, and he was a very intelligent guy. It was frustrating to wait on Mike, and he was a drain on our team. The problem wasn’t that Mike was stupid or incompetent. The problem was that the role Mike was given wasn’t compatible with his strengths. He was being forced to use his weaknesses to do the job.
Some people wanted him to be fired. Feeling the pressure, Mike started applying for other jobs in the company, and to my surprise, he landed a very good position. In one day, Mike went from incompetent to exceptional. His new job was a perfect fit for his skillset. The detail oriented personality he had was a poor fit for the fast paced environment of our team, but was an asset to his new role.
What we think is incompetence is often our expectation that someone think or act like us, or to expect someone’s weakness to be a strength. The truth is, if I had Mike’s new role, I would look incompetent. If you have to do something that is outside of your abilities, you will look stupid. What we often call stupidity is actually demanding a duck to run like a gazelle, and demanding a gazelle to climb like a monkey. No matter how much you demand the gazelle to climb better, he will still look like a fool trying to do something he was not designed to do. Contrary to the Wizard of Oz, there are no flying monkeys. And he will look very stupid running around the field, flapping his arms and trying to fly. A duck may roll his eyes and say, “Stupid monkey, flying is easy,” but reverse the roles, and the duck will be the one who looks stupid.
There are two conclusions I want you to take from this. First, don’t let anyone tell you that you are an idiot or label you as stupid because you are branching off to learn new skills, or because you are out of your element. The expert of today, was called incompetent and stupid yesterday. Yet how much quicker the newby will grow if watered with encouragement instead of scorn.
Second, shift your expectation from a critical eye, to a positive expectation. Failures of others is not stupidity. Failures and mistakes are the steps that everyone must brave in order to grow. The hardest part of your job is not being nice to stupid people. The hardest job is to maintain a positive attitude toward others when our expectations are not met. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you will be when you stop being critical of others. You’ll also eliminate frustration when, instead of wasting your energy on criticism, you make it your goal to impart your understanding to the person who lacks what you have learned through experience.
The greater stupidity is to complain about someone’s lack of ability and do nothing positive to help them grow, which will soon be a help to you.
Eddie Snipes 2017
Why did Jesus tell those under the law that they were slaves of sin, but under the New Covenant, we are slaves of righteousness? What does that mean and how does this give the Christian assurance?
This message discusses the Bible’s teaching on the mind at rest. Why are people bound by anxieties, low confidence, guilt, and other struggles? The Bible gives hope and the promise of rest and peace.
Chapter 4 of this teaching series based on my book, The Revelation of Grace. This study looks at the difference between forgiveness and redemption. What does the word ‘redemption’ mean? What does the Bible mean when it says that Christ gave us eternal redemption?