Friday, April 1, 2011

The Heart of her husband trusts in her -- commitment and feelings

Our society produces a very feelings driven, consumer driven mindset. Since this mindset appeals to our natural selves -- to our senses -- we all have to choose to walk in love and not in selfishness.

The positive feelings of love add incredible happiness to life. They are the spice and the color of marriage, of parenting and of great friendships. They are the zip and the zest, the fire and the warmth, the fun and the joy. There are different types of love that we experience at least partly in our emotions. The Greeks expressed them this way: eros, or romantic, sexual love between a husband and wife; storge, which is family love or natural affection; and phileos, which is brotherly love or friendship or affection. We also, if we are devoted to the Lord, experience awe and wonder and an indescribable, joy-filled love for Him.

We also see from reading the Bible that God has a range of emotions toward us, including a tender love for His own and a searching love for the lost. It is because we are created in His image that we can experience a wide range of emotions. God's emotions are holy and perfect, just as He is holy and perfect. He is the standard of love, and his righteous wrath is totally compatible with his perfect love. In the cross, we see his love and his justice meet. His emotions are not fickle, as ours can be.

Since we struggle with sin, our emotions can become mixed with selfishness. Our anger, for example, is seldom righteous, as His is. Man's type of anger cannot bring about the righteousness that God desires. Sometimes, since we know that our emotions can veer into sin, we fear our emotions, especially negative ones. Yet, God gave us emotions for a reason, and we should be grateful for the capacity to feel. Even painful feelings can be a part of love, for who is not stirred to help when a friend is being drawn into evil or grieved when a child suffers. Instead of fearing feelings, we need to bring them into the light, surrender them to God, and let Him teach us how to express godly emotions. He can change our hearts and purify our emotions so that we can love more purely.

As wonderful as the happy feelings of love are, they are not always consistent. Some mornings, we crave time with the Lord. Other mornings, we wake up with morning sickness and we must focus harder in our prayers. Some moments, we experience the heights of romantic and affectionate feelings for our husbands; other days, we fight being irritable with our beloved. Some moments, we are in raptures over our beautiful children; other moments, we are on our knees praying for the wisdom to help our children through tough times. Some days, we are full of happy energy and can't wait to play with our children at the park; other days, we have to push through exhaustion in order to meet their needs. Sometimes, we deeply feel the bond we have with close friends; at other times, we are hurt by something a friend said and are tempted -- wrongly -- to pull back our hearts.

Frequently, the ebb and flow of positive, loving feelings are just due to the dailiness of life. If married couples spent every moment in the blissful state of first love, for example, they wouldn't be able to get anything done. That's where the old saying comes in that a lifetime of love doesn't consist of gazing at each other's faces at every moment, but, instead, of looking together in the same direction. Those blissful feelings of first love should not die away; in fact, they should grow stronger with the years. However, it's unrealistic to expect that we will be on cloud nine every day of our lives together.

Sometimes, our feelings are affected by 1) the thoughts we've been dwelling on and 2) the state of our health. If we are feeling irritable with loved ones for no good reason, we need to ask ourselves what is going on in our mind and in our body. Are we feeding ourselves positive thoughts or are we dwelling on the negative? It's one thing to recognize and pray about problems and to talk about them, when appropriate. It's another to feed ourselves a diet of worry, unforgiveness, prideful thoughts, gloomy thoughts, and the like. Phil. 4:4-8 is for everyone, but I find it to be especially good medicine for the keeper at home. It helps us not only to cultivate peace, but love, as well.

If we find that our thoughts are centered on God and on good things and we still struggle with negative feelings, we may find that some physical ailment is tripping us up. We may be tired, hungry, experiencing a hormonally induced malaise, or otherwise suffering. At such times, we need to take ourselves in hand. We must do what we can for the health of our bodies. Yet, if we are experiencing bodily suffering over which we have no control, God can give us the grace to choose love over complaining. Instead of giving way to the peevishness (don't you love that old-fashioned word?) that comes from not feeling well, we can choose kindness, patience, and hope. Some of the most loving, compassionate people in the world are those who have fought to have love and faith in the midst of suffering. If we depend on God, He will comfort us so that we can comfort others.

See part II -- Agape Love.

Happy Home Keeping!

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