Welcome to February—the month we traditionally celebrate love and relationships. It’s a beautiful sentiment to refocus on love and commitment. For many though it can be a painful time. Loneliness, lost love, and strained relationships can be accentuated with every Hallmark commercial.
This year may be particularly tough as many deal with unprecedented division—in families, among friends and throughout our very strained culture.
So how do we bridge these gaps and reclaim love in no matter what circumstances we find ourselves and our relationships?
I think the answer lies in decision. Love truly is a decision—one you likely made at some point when you got married or had children. Of course, emotions usually ignite such decisions…but emotions may not be enough to carry them through. Other emotions may flare and then on some level, (often unspoken), new decisions are made.
What do I mean by that? Most people don’t realize it, but our minds and inner thoughts play a powerful role in all that we do, and that includes in how we respond to our emotions. When we decide to love, to hold another’s best interests front and center, to be willing to sacrifice for the good of the other, those decisions are a powerful force for good and can actually guide our emotions.
But what happens when hurts occur? When that blush of romance fades and real life takes over? That’s when new emotions happen and we may, unconsciously, make new decisions. For example, a man who feels disrespected by his wife may withhold his love and affection in the hopes of showing her his displeasure. Or a wife, feeling unloved and unappreciated may behave disrespectfully toward her husband to show him her displeasure. It’s not effective of course and only causes division between them. What happened to their original decision to love no matter what? It gets supplanted by these new decisions that are made. Only by keeping a constant focus on the original decision to love, come what may, can we keep from falling into these common traps. That decision can carry couples or families through significant trials—but it must be kept front and center at all times.
On a broader scale today, we are seeing families and friends becoming divided in surprising and unprecedented ways. And it’s not by accident. The media and powers that be that are pulling the strings are fomenting division in whatever ways they can: by race, by religion, by gender, by morality, by vaccine status, by mask wearing. It’s been mind boggling to see it unfold. Families that were once close have stopped speaking, have stopped sharing holidays. They’re allowing animosity between them to build and most are unaware they’ve been played and manipulated into doing just that.
Wherever you stand on the issues, you need to realize there is a bigger agenda out there and it can be summed up in one word: Division. A house divided against itself cannot stand and the enemy of our souls knows this and is taking full advantage.
So, what’s the answer to this diabolical division? It’s simple: Decision.
If we’re going to survive as a nation, as families, as couples, we need to make an irrevocable decision to do so. We have to consciously reorder our priorities and recognize that having a difference of opinion, or making different decisions regarding our health care, does not make us enemies. We can have strong feelings on these issues. But our commitment to love our families, our neighbors, our fellow Americans has to be stronger.
Does that mean you fold on what you believe to keep peace? Not at all. It may mean for a time you need to agree to disagree. It may mean for a time you won’t get together. When someone comes at you full throttle because they disagree with your opinions or your behaviors, you need to make the decision not to take offense. If you’re rejected or shunned, you can make the decision to bow out gracefully.
Think about that expression: to “take offense.” You may feel offended at times…but it’s up to you whether you take offense or not. That’s an action—and therefore, a decision. Of course, if the other party is trying to provoke division, they are offering the offense in the hopes you will take it. You don’t have to. You decide. You frustrate the plans of the enemy when you rise above it.
As we navigate this divided world, keep focused on Jesus. Keep invoking the Holy Spirit. Decide each day who you will be and how you will respond when the slings and arrows are hurled in your direction. Be like Joseph in the Old Testament, who realized that although those who persecuted him meant it for evil, God meant it for good. Mastering our responses in the face of powerful emotions can be tough. But love isn’t for wimps. Jesus proved that on the cross.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (13) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (14) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, (15) and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (16) In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Eph. 6: 10-16)
It all starts with decision.
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