How Can We Choose Love When Life is Hard?
Do you believe that love is a choice?
Love comes easy when we are attracted to another person because they are beautiful and they send our senses in a tail spin. Then we want to be with them, doing things together and finding out about each other. We laugh and talk together, and look forward to spending as much time as we can learning and growing.
Once marriage and family are in full swing, however, love is not so easy. Then we are dealing with the dirty socks in the hamper and the burnt toast, the long hours with sick babies, and stressful work schedules.
Do we simply "fall out of love" as popular culture would have us believe or is there something we can do on a regular basis to keep our love for one another strong? Given the current trends for divorce, single parenting and cohabitation, we look at marriage as an institution and wonder if it is really worth the effort required. We ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is love?
- Where does love come from?
- What makes love last?
- Can love be renewed?
Love is something you can't see or taste or hear or smell. But love is something you can feel, most anyone can tell.*
What is love?
When we speak of love, we speak of a feeling of high regard or esteem for another person. We have feelings of warmth and tenderness, wanting to be near them, spending time together and deepening our relationship.
Love leads us to make those commitments necessary to create a family. In doing so, we say that we are willing to care for and be with one another. We take on the responsibility of fatherhood and motherhood willingly, knowing that we can expand our joy by expanding our family circle.
Adding children to our family brings happiness and peace, but is also brings pain, difficulty, and sorrow. We expend massive amounts of time and energy caring for our little ones, making sure that their needs are met, providing for their health and well-being.
Family life allows us to experience things we never could or would in any other setting. Time brings with it the bumps and bruises of life, and our love tends to get lost in the shuffle. We may end up feeling lost, alone, unfulfilled, and even empty. We have given our all and then some.
It is at times like these that we have the most difficulty choosing love, because it does not come automatically. We fall easily into habits of criticism, fault-finding, and complaining. We are in need of love ourselves, but we are so parched in our own souls that we cannot give it to others.
Love is life's most precious gift that anyone can give. Our Heavenly Father gave his Son that you and I might live.
Where does love come from?
In our efforts to find love again, we have to ask ourselves where love comes from? When we were courting and looking at one another with romantic passion, love came from the depth of our souls, We didn't have to look for it.
Once we are into the throes of family life, however, things are different. We wake up in the middle of the night to sick or crying children, there are bills to pay and repairs to make. Jobs don't wait for us, we have to be there if we want to keep our employment. Love is no longer automatic. We don't find it when we look at one another with our unkempt hair, bad breath, and sagging eyelids!
There is a source of endless, unconditional love that we can access that will fill our empty cups and give us the ability to move forward, able to continue to give even after we have given all. That source is the love of God. As we turn to God's Word, we find strength beyond our own. We find love in the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He first loved us, therefore, we can love.
Once we tap into this source of infinite love, our natures change. We have the ability to love others unconditionally, even when things are not going well. We are able to look to the needs of our family members and give them the love that Christ would give if he were standing in our place.
This type of love is called "charity," or "the pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47**). It "endures forever," and allows us to meet the needs of our family members even when we don't have enough sleep, feel stressed, or have to do things that are difficult.
Just look around you here today, at friends and loved ones dear, and you will feel this precious gift of love, Yes...God is near.
What makes love last?
Tapping into God's love is one way to make our love last. As we feel God's love for us, it is easier for us to give love to others. There are also some concrete things that we can do on a regular basis.
The table below lists some ways that we can choose love for our family members. These things can be done with our spouse, children, and others who may be an integral part of our family circle. We may need to set aside our own difficult feelings, work stresses, and the endless list of things to do, but the rewards of peace and happiness are well worth the effort!
Ways to show love
Look for the good
Listen with empathy
Enjoy time together
How can love be renewed?
Love comes around full circle when we have tapped into God's love, and shared that love with others. At unexpected times during the day, we will find others in our family expressing their love for us. We may not readily recognize it, but if we look for the following, we will see it:
- Hearing our name spoken
- A soft touch
- Someone looking into our eyes
- A gift given
- Arms reaching out for an embrace
- A family member lingering in our presence
- Gratitude expressed
- Questions about our welfare
- Someone seeking our opinion or advice
- Hugs and kisses
Each time we acknowledge love shown by another for us, we give ourselves a shot in the arm of self-worth. We begin to realize how important we are in the lives of our family members, and we find more peace and happiness in spite of the pressures of everyday life.
Our feelings of self-worth are based on what we tell ourselves. It is necessary for us to look for and acknowledge positive messages in our environment in order to strengthen and preserve our feelings of self-worth.
When we acknowledge expressions of love from others and allow them to feed our souls, our feelings of self-worth are strong. We are much more likely to recognize and refute negative messages that come to us. We are able to keep distorted thought patterns to a minimum.
Family life is at its best when we give and receive love regularly. We are able to overlook each other's faults and weaknesses, and do those things that strengthen and uplift. Our homes become heaven on earth, and the forces of outside influences have less power over us.
*The poem "Love" was written by Denise W. Anderson
**The book of Moroni is found in The Book of Mormon, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
© 2015 Denise W Anderson