Same intro, different chapter. I have decided to read a devotional starting at the end of July and beginning of August. Elizabeth George’s God’s Garden of Grace is one that I’ve worked through before, but as I have recently renewed my faith, I wanted to go through it again. In fact I have a friend who is reading this book at the same time I am. I hope she pops in once or twice to share her thoughts! The chapters are short, so you may find me blogging every day or every few days. And, as always, these blogs may be interrupted if life throws me a curve ball.
My intention is to give a brief overview of the chapter and then to answer the questions provided in the study guide.
This second chapter deals with the frut of love, as referenced in Galatians 5:22. At first glance, it seems like an easy task, but what makes me stumble is when Jesus says in John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”. It’s not so much the love one another commandment, but the part about loving as Christ loved us. Jesus loved the unloveable, the ones that everyone rejected. When he was being beaten by the soldiers before being nailed to the cross, he said nothing where he could have let loose some curse words and fought back.
My biggest struggles are bitterness and holding grudges. I not only hate those who hurt me, but I also have difficulties forgiving someone even after he apologizes to me.
George explains love is a choice, it requires action, it requires loving those who don’t deserve to be loved, love requires God’s help, and love holds no expectations. She further explains that love is self-sacrifice. Finally, she recognizes or admits that we need the Holy Spirit to help us to love and to ignore what our flesh tells us so that we are able to love. We may need to ask the Holy Spirit multiple times to help us to love, and that’s okay. The Holy Spirit’s job is to be our guide and our helper.
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Which aspect of love is most difficult for you to live out? Because fruit-bearing involves some effort on your part, what step will you take this week toward overcoming this difficulty?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up”.
I definitely struggle with boasting – see, I did love that person, but I’m not sure about envying love. Yesterday, a member of my church came to my house and buit a beautiful wheelchair ramp so now no one has to struggle to get me in and out of the house. It was a surprise gift to me, and I envy his ability to serve. I want to pass it forward, but seeking ways to do so is very difficult. I’m not sure if that fits the definition of envying love. Perhaps Paul is refering to the 10 commandments where God talks about not coveting? I need to accept my limitations and realize that while I’m unable to serve in ways I would want to, I can still serve others.
As I mentioned before one of my faults is holding grudges. Hurt me once, shame on you, hurt me twice, it will be very difficult to forgive you. But, that goes against Paul’s words. He says, and George explains, love is a self-sacrifice. It’s forcing your will and not necessary your feelings to continue to love someone. I really like George’s explanation. Our feelings do get hurt – it’s a human experience – still, we must still love. The Holy Spirit is our helper to love. And then when we are alone, we can cry out to God and let him know how much we hurt. It’s just like a kid running home to his dad to tell him he skinned his knee. He might hide the pain from his schoolmates, but he knows his dad will be there to hug him and clean the wound.
No one has truly offended me; though I do find my husband and me constantly yelling – him getting frustrated and me banging things on the couch when when I’m frustrated. I need to be more patient with him. I know this frustration with communication won’t last forever, but I will be more patient and more grateful for the way he cares for me.
- According to 1 John 4:7-8, who is the source of love? What do verses 20 and 21 of that chapter say about how we can know if someone loves God?
1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God”. 1 John 4:20-21 says, “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
I believe there are two parts to loving. First, loving others is one Christ’s commandment to us, thereby showing others we are children of God. Second, we are not to hate ourselves. This second part is another struggle for me. Being sick and having the experience that I will deteriorate further when I have another complex partial seizure is scary; and the fact that I require so much assistance and can’t communicate the way I would like to is very frustrating. So, it’s very easy for me to hate myself. I hate who I’ve become. So, many times I feel helpless and have no hope of improving. My meds are helping and my once a month counseling, I hope will help the depression.
- What does Romans 5:5 teach about love?
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us”.
Again, Paul is talking about the fact that we can love because not only did we receive the ability to love, but also because we can constantly rely on the Holy Spirit to continue to help us to love.
- When do you find it hardest to love? As you answer this question, look at yourself as well as other people.When it comes to others, I tend to be passive aggressive. It’s usually not until the 5th or 6th time that I will start yelling at them, but while that anger is building up, I am also developing a grudge that is really difficult to dissolve even after I’m able to talk to the person, and we are able to work things out.
When it comes to myself, it is always hard to love myself. Before I became disabled, I had other health issues, and I hated myself for them. Funny thing is, you’d think I would blame God for my compounding health issues, but I don’t: I continue to blame myself as if I somehow deserved them.
- What message did God have for you in the study of Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law Naomi?
What’s interesting for me is that I have been Naomi and Ruth. When my dad was still alive, he was bitter and sad. He constantly needed mine and my sister’s help. We felt like slaves.
Now I’m the one who is bitter, sad, and angry. Our lives, understably, are different as my father’s body was deteriorating, so I blamed him for becoming an alcoholic. There are times now when I wonder if my husband and friends blame me for now being a burden on them.
Plan of Action
Consider when you love the way Jesus tells you to love, what can you ultimately expect? Read Philippians 4:4, what is to be the source of a believer’s constant joy? Consider what area of sin might be interfering with your joy in the Lord? Take a few minutes to search your heart, confess your sin, and receive God’s forgiveness.
As a final note, all scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible. I invite everyone to continue with me as I go through the next eleven chapters.