She was a young woman in her thirties who had been married for years when, without warning, her husband upped and left her. Without any explanation and no hope of reconciliation she was suddenly left alone.
Understandably, she went into a deep state of depression to the verge of despair. Above all, she was ready to finish with God, whom she blamed for her plight. Like Job, she was about to curse God and die, when a friend begged her to give God a last chance to prove what Paul says: All things work for good for those who love God.
The friend suggested she take the bible and open it up to whatever page it happened to fall on—mind you, I myself wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach! When she did summon the will to do it the bible opened up to the 54th chapter of the prophet Isaiah where this woman saw the following words:
Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget, the reproach of our widowhood no longer remember. For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth. The LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, A wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back… [F]or a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer (Is. 54:4-8).
Well, you can imagine this turning-point in the woman’s life. For the first time, she heard God say how much he loved her—how God saw her—and what kind of relationship God would have with her. She understood God would not abandon her as her husband had, but wanted instead to love her as a husband would. As a result, this woman today is a model of health and well-being.
Now I know few might imagine God in light of the most intimate human relationship. It might even unnerve or embarrass us. But I’m trusting this image holds appeal for you, one that speaks of a kind of love whose first quality is “passion”. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been in love, but if you have, it isn’t something you forget. People in love are drawn to each other irresistibly. They want to be with their beloved all the time. They think of each other constantly. Time passes quickly when they’re with each other, and more slowly when they’re apart. People in love are more alive than ever. Such love draws you out of yourself, to engage the depths of another human being.
This kind of love is also “vulnerable”—a word from the Latin for “wound”. When you love someone you risk being hurt for the sake of love, yet you take the risk. Being vulnerable also means lovers hide nothing from each other, for secrets threaten their love. And it means lovers must accept the whole truth about the one they love: their beauty and their defects, their assets and their liabilities, their strengths and their weaknesses. For love, Paul says, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
And finally, this kind of love is “faithful” and “fruitful”. It is faithful in that it demands a commitment each partner can rely on for life. And such love is fruitful in that it extends its reach as far as possible; drawing as many as it can into its circle, so others can be nourished by its life. Its lovers are not so wrapped up in each other that they become locked in their own embrace but rather they are reminded of their responsibility to the world and neighbors. When love becomes fertile in the birth of a child, or a commitment to service, or new openness to others, then such love finds fulfillment.
Just for a moment reflect on the love Jesus offers. In the best of times and the worst of times his love prevails.