“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!” -Psalm 36:7
When the Old Testament talks about the love of God, it uses a particular word.
I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but I know enough to know we don’t have a perfect English translation for the word. The ESV, and other translations say, “steadfast love”, the NIV and NLT say, “unfailing love”. You get the idea.
The Bible describes God’s love as a staying kind of love.
So often in our culture love is, frankly, selfish and cheap.
It’s selfish because we use the word “love” to describe our feelings towards people who make us happy. Of greater concern, when those same people cease to make us happy, we cease to love them. It’s as reasonable as it is concerning.
It’s cheap because I love In n’ Out (sure I’m a recent convert to vegetarianism, it doesn’t mean I have amnesia). I make a concerted effort to be very selective in my use of the word “love”, but everyone so often I will slip. I will say I love the UCLA Bruins, or my Vitamix blender, or Yosemite National Park, or a small handful of television shows.
After all, those things do make me happy.
Culture has sold us a self-centered, temporary perspective on love, one that says, “We love those things that serve our interests.” This perspective makes love fleeting. It is not a love worth fighting for. It is a “love” that is released when things get hard.
And this is not the perspective of God. This is not the love of God, nor is it the love God calls us to have.
God’s love is staying. God’s love is enduring. God’s love is, “I see your flaws, I just heard you raise your voice, I just watched you break some dishes, I’ve just seen you at your worst, and it is ugly…
It’s a totally different perspective on love.
And it’s a game-changer when we bring that perspective into our marriages and relationships. If I can love my wife with a staying kind of love, it doesn’t really matter if she is making me happy in a given moment. It doesn’t matter if we disagree or argue or frustrate one another. Those instances don’t cause me to reevaluate the value of our marriage. Having a staying kind of love means I’m all-in, whether she’s making me happy, or frustrating me to no end.
The great irony is having a staying kind of love, at least in my experience, makes the troubling times much less troubling, and makes the joyful times much more joyful. We are able to enjoy one another because the love we share is not entirely dependent on our feelings in the moment. Little by little, my love for my wife is becoming less selfish. I’ll be the first to admit I still have a lot of work to do.
That’s how I want to love my wife, and my family, and my friends, and my church. With steadfast, giving, and patient love, not a selfish and temporary “love”.
And it is so wonderfully refreshing to know God loves me (and you) perfectly with that kind of love. His love does not waver with our performance.
When I am berating myself because I think a sermon I gave stunk, God loves me with staying love. When I am feeling spiritually dry, God loves me with a staying love. When I am experiencing a deep, and intimate connection with him, God loves me with a staying kind of love. When I love others, when I am harsh, when I can hardly fathom my own foolishness and when I am impressed by my own accomplishments God loves me with a staying kind of love.
Search wherever you would like, you will not find anything more freeing than that.
And because God loves us in that way, we can begin to love others.
We can trade in temporary, preference-based, cheap, selfish love for a staying kind of love.