When you think of a loving relationship, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the romantic love between a husband and a wife, the special bond between a parent and a child, or the comfortable companionship of a close friend. Most people think happiness in love depends heavily on getting what they need from the other person.
The truth is that giving, when it’s done with pure motives, is its own reward. This sense of satisfaction doesn’t depend on how others receive your gift of service. Some people will never be content with what you do for them. Others will never feel worthy; no matter how much you encourage them or attempt to include them in your life. In risking love, you are also risking the possibility of being rejected or turned away. A person may even reject you while saying he or she loves you!
The goal in loving is not to evoke the response you want from another person, but to do what you believe the Lord is pleased for you to do. Your willingness to love must never depend upon another person’s ability to give love back to you.
You must seek to give love in ways that others can accept your love. But if they cannot accept your love in spite of your best efforts, then you must ask yourself, Is God asking me to show love to this person? If so, then you can be sure He accepts your efforts and values them. He will reward you by sending someone who can receive your love, and who can return love to you in precisely the ways and in exactly the moments you need it most.
Also ask yourself, Can I accept the forms of love that others are showing to me? Be open to receiving the love of others.
Your challenge as a Christian is to love others even if they don’t love you back. So, you are never without someone to love. Reciprocity is not required for this kind of love. The only thing that is required is your willingness, your desire, and your commitment to open up and give others a piece of who you are and what you have.
If you don’t have someone who needs you today or who counts on your love, find somebody. You only need to open your eyes and look around. You’ll find dozens of people within immediate range who greatly need to know somebody cares for them.
Volunteer your time to an organization or group that needs an extra pair of hands or perhaps a particular skill that you have.
Join a group that shares your interests. Don’t do it with an eye toward what you can get from the group. Instead, join with the intent of giving something to the group. Your gift of love may be baking cookies for refreshment time, typing up the minutes of the group meeting, offering your living room for meetings, or picking up members who no longer drive so they can attend.
Get involved with a church group actively engaged in ministry to others. It may be a group of ushers who assist with church services. It may be a group that goes door-to-door to deliver information about the church. It may be a group that prepares boxes of clothing and bedding to send to missionaries.
You’ll find more opportunities to give than you ever dreamed possible. You’ll find more people in need of love and compassionate care than you ever anticipated.
When you know someone is counting on your help, when you know you’re making a difference in someone else’s life, when you can see that your gifts of time and talent are greatly valued, when your loving touches are accepted and returned, when your words of encouragement fall on appreciative ears, and when your acceptance of another person creates a friendship or establishes a good relationship, you automatically have a sense of purpose and meaning for your life. You have a desire to love more, to give more, to extend yourself further.
And in that, there is hope. You want tomorrow to dawn because there is still a lot of loving that you have to do tomorrow. You want next week to roll around because there’s still a lot of giving that you want to do next week.
On the other hand, if you isolate and turn inward—refusing to acknowledge the hands that are reaching out to you and refusing to believe the encouragement that others attempt to offer—you will become increasingly depressed. You also can expect to have a growing feeling that you are worth nothing and that life is over.
Loving others is the most hope-filled thing you can do.
Adapted from “The Reason for My Hope,” by Charles F. Stanley.