Are you getting all twisted into knots about something coming up or about seeing someone? Maybe you’re worrying about how things are going to go with the family over the holidays. Perhaps you’re in a leadership or ministry role, and you’re uptight about how your program is going to come off.
Over the past couple of months, I keep finding myself in the same sort of anxious place. On one hand, I’m excited about whatever is coming up. On the other, some worry or frustration starts to choke off my joy. I start gasping for emotional air.
Do you know the feeling?
Well, there’s hope. Apart from all the things you already know to do, let me suggest one very different approach in such situations. When you’re feeling uptight about working or being with others, try this: simply love them.
Here are two examples from my own experience.
Loving Those You Serve
It was Wednesday morning, in the middle of the Pastors Leadership Training Conference in Rwanda, a few weeks ago. When I asked God for a word for the day, I was surprised and pleased to hear, “Love the pastors.”
How refreshing. How freeing, I thought. I had already done all my preparation work. This was the missing piece!
However, I soon realized that my preoccupation with what I wanted from the week was turning the event into something for me—and my ability to love was vanishing.
When we were walking the labyrinth as part of the day’s activities, I began to pray for God to put love in my heart once again. I realized that asking for help was the only hope I had.
Nothing happened at first, but as the day went on, I began to notice that I was thinking and acting differently toward the pastors. At one point, in the middle of a question and answer session, I suddenly realized that I was being more patient, kind, and understanding. I heard a voice in my head say, “Hey, you’re loving them!”
I almost laughed aloud. I couldn’t believe it happened again. I was chuckling with delight, because God had created in me what I could not do for myself. The Holy Spirit had delivered me from myself and answered my prayer.
Loving Your Family
A month later I got a similar message from God. This time, I was heading out to visit some family members for the weekend. Now, I love my family very much, and enjoy being with them. Yet, there are many pitfalls and ways I can go wrong in my attempts to relate well to them.
In the morning, before I caught my flight, I prayed my normal daily prayer, “Lord, please help me to live fully, to love deeply, and to give freely so that others may know and experience you through me.” As soon as the words left my lips, I sensed that God was telling me to relax and stop worrying. The most important thing for me to remember as I went into this family time was to “simply love them.”
I didn’t love them perfectly over the course of the weekend, yet the more I remembered to love them from my heart and in my actions, the smoother everything went. I wasn’t afraid to disagree or offer alternative points of view, but I reined in my reactions and kept trying to choose what I thought was good for everyone, not just me. The voice in my head kept reminding me: “love them.”
I never make a point of telling others that I am trying to “simply love them”. I don’t think that would go over very well. I expect that my efforts are going to be my little secret with God, and I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring something good out of whatever love I am able to offer.
So, I was quite surprised at the end of the Rwandan conference, when the pastors’ spokesperson stood up to offer the customary words of appreciation. Instead of just commenting on the course material, he turned to look directly at me and said, “Because you have loved us, we have come to love you.”
And when I was about to board the plane to return home from visiting my family, I was surprised when my brother called and asked me if I would be willing to talk on the phone to my ten year old nephew. They had just dropped me off, but apparently he wanted to say goodbye again. Between words, I heard him sobbing. He didn’t want me to leave.
Funny, in both cases, I don’t remember doing much of anything to bring about these kinds of reactions. All I did was try to love them.
When you think about the people in your life and ministry this Christmas, what would happen if you simply loved them?
Above all, love each other deeply…. (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)
The Point: Relax. Stop worrying so much about what’s in it for you or how others are going to respond to you. Instead, think about them first, and pray for the grace to simply love them. No matter what your hopes and fears may be, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you deeper and deeper into experiences of God’s love—both God’s love for you, and God’s love working through you.
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me long before I ever thought of loving you. Please help me to experience more of your love, and to be more and more free to see others as you see them, and to simply love them as they are.”