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  • Writer's pictureJen Stone-Sexton

The Gift of Love

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

What is the type of love you have experienced in your life? Have you ever truly thought about this question? There is a beautiful depth to this question of how you have experienced love. I encourage you to learn more about the Gift of Love in today's devotional blog.

My friend asks me as we are talking, “How can I surrender control of my life to God and trust His love for me when so many people who trusted God [in Scripture] suffered? I mean, I know that God is good. But I don’t trust that He will be good to me if I surrender control. Things are good right now. What will happen if I’m not in control?” I can relate to this question because it is one I have wrestled with myself.

Several years ago, I sat in a Christian counselor’s office. An emotional dam had burst inside of me. I was in so much pain that I finally admitted to myself and a close friend that I needed help. In my attempts to feel safe, to self-protect and be in control, I’d blocked love and had made a mess of my relationships and life. Everything around me felt broken and nothing was working. I was battling depression. I felt frightened and alone. I didn’t even think the counselor could help me in all my brokenness, but I called for an appointment and went anyway.

I was wrong.

The sessions were a catalyst of healing and transformation in my life. I was not alone. The brokenness inside was not beyond repair. My life was not beyond redemption. You know how you remember moments of your life like a snapshot? I remember one of our sessions clearly, like looking at photographs. My counselor had asked me what love looked like to me. As I answered with words like, “Respect. Acceptance. Kind. Trusting. Tender. Gentle. Faithful. Generous. Patient. Belief in my best. Protected. Affectionate.” a list was made on one side of a dry-erase board.

Then my counselor said, “That’s what you want love to be for you. But what I am asking is what have you actually experienced as “love” in your life?” It took a moment before I understood the question. Then my eyes filled with tears as the meaning registered. In a broken voice, I slowly answered, "Pain. Rejection. Abuse. Punishment. Abandonment. False accusations. Performance. Striving. Inadequacy. Comparison. Fear.” Another list was written beside the first one.

For the first time in my life, I could articulate how I experienced “love” and see a visual of that versus what love actually is. Please don't misunderstand. I have also experienced love as Respect. Acceptance. Kind. Trusting. Tender. Gentle. Faithful. Generous. Patient. Belief in my best. Protected. Affectionate. However, when we experience trauma, especially as a child, we tend to replay or re-create that pain in our own life until we resolve it and/or heal from it. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul gives us the definition of love. In Greek, this type of love is defined as agape (unconditional love) which is how God loves us – and how He calls us to love. (Mark 12:28-31)

Love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins but takes delight in the truth. Love always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never ends. … But for now, three things last – faith, hope and love.

And the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13

There is no English word that truly conveys the love God has for us. The closest word we have is “Lovingkindness.” The English word lovingkindness is translated from the Hebrew word, Hesed, which means a completely undeserved kindness and generosity. Steadfast. Faithful. Unfailing love. A love that ties, binds, or holds fast. The picture is of God tying Himself to you. Never letting you go.

For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you. - Isaiah 54:10 (NASB)

This is a very different picture of love than what I was allowing into my life. Our beliefs drive our behavior. My beliefs (the seeds) about love, based on experiences, were dictating my behavior and therefore the results (the crops) which my behavior was producing in my life. What I knew about love and wanted for my life intellectually was not congruent with deeply held and unexamined beliefs.

Don’t delude yourselves; no one makes a fool of God! A person reaps what he sows. Those who keep sowing to the field of their old nature, in order to meet its demands, will eventually reap ruin; but those who keep sowing in the field of the Spirit will reap from the Spirit everlasting life. - Galatians 6:7-8

In order to feel safe, I had decided I had to be in control. Of everything. The only problem with this belief is that it’s not based on the truth. It’s the proverbial house of cards that will come crashing down at some point in time. It’s also not loving – to myself or to others. And, as I discovered, it’s an exhausting and joyless way to live. In Matthew 10:39, Jesus said,

Whoever finds his own life will lose it,

but the person who loses his for my sake will find it.”

The only way out of this pain was through it. And the way of that road involved trusting God. For me, trust had been violated at an early age, so trust was the most difficult thing for me to do. Yet I knew that I could not surrender if I could not trust. I came to realize that trust was a choice. God is trustworthy. He promises to never abandon or forsake us.

So, one small step at a time, I began to truly trust God and relinquish control. I began to believe and trust His love for me and what His Word says about His love for me. Each day I became more willing to surrender my will and my life to Him. Over time, that trust grew as I came to experience the faithfulness and kindness of God in new ways and deeper levels. I took myself off the throne of my own life and experienced a freedom in surrender I had not previously known.

In this fallen and broken world, it is so easy to project our experiences with others onto God. In doing so, we limit who God is, we limit His love for us and how that love can literally transform our lives.

Do you struggle with believing and accepting – really believing in your heart and truly accepting in your soul – that God loves you? Not just loves you, but loves you without conditions? You don’t have to perform, earn, win, strive, or achieve for His love. And if He loves you that He wants good for you? (Matthew 7:7-11) If so, you are not alone. Friend, May I encourage you to open your heart to Him? To uncurl tightly clenched fists in order to open your hands and heart to receive the grace, goodness, mercy, healing and freedom He has for you?

Almighty God and King of the Universe loved us so much that He clothed himself in flesh and was born to be the Savior of the world. Immanuel, which means, God with us.

“The Word became a human being and lived with us,

and we saw His Sh’khinah.*

The Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” - John 1:14

As we celebrate this season of love and miracles, what would it look like to embrace the gift of love that’s waiting to embrace you? How would surrendering control and trusting God for your best, as a good and loving Father, impact your life in positive ways? Knowing and accepting we are fully loved, fully seen, and fully known can radically change our lives. We can exchange striving for grace, fear for peace, and attach ourselves to the One who has attached Himself to us - Hesed.

One of the many benefits of Christian Life Coaching is helping you discover your beliefs and working through the barriers to accepting God’s love as well as any other areas where you feel stuck. To learn more about how we can support you in this process, you can schedule HERE for a no-obligation Create a Life You Love Discovery Session.

Editor's Note:

This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.

Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022 Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching All Rights Reserved.

*Sh’khinah (Hebrew) means Divine Presence, the manifest glory of God present with men.

Photo Credits: Cover and Photo 1 by Cover: Photo by fa-Barboza on Unsplash | Photo 2 by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash | Photo 3 by William Farlow on Unsplash | Photo 4 by Morgan Howard

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