I Corinthians 13:4 says that “love is patient and kind” (NIV). Another translation says, “Love suffers long and is kind.” I love this about God. I’m not so sure about me. Suffering is bad enough, but to do it for a long time and to be kind in the midst of it, that’s asking a lot. But that’s what love does. Love has the capacity to endure.
I am always amazed when I meet nice, friendly people and later on discover they are dealing with a situation that would have put me on the “victim’s alert list.” But not those who have learned how to suffer long and be kind. What a gift to have, and what a gift it is to those around them.
Verse 4 continues, “Love does not envy.”
Imagine a world where your gain is my joy. I’ve noticed a strange thing among humanity, both the churched and the unchurched. When someone is hurting and found to be in great need, people drop what they’re doing to run and help. It is a glorious thing, and I always love to see it. But when something wonderful happens to those around us—a new job or raise, a new car or a new love—people rarely ring a bell and shout “Yahoo!” from the rooftops.
That’s because most people desperately want those things for themselves. And envy, with its mighty talons, grips hard upon the heart, releasing pangs of jealousy and comparison that run deep. We often run to help others in their weakness so that we can feel strong and appear whole. But when someone around us is being blessed, sometimes envy kicks in.
Envy is ugly. It can destroy even the closest of relationships.
Love, on the other hand, is free from comparison and can rejoice even when those around us are enjoying liberal blessings even when it appears that nothing is coming our way. I said appears because we often miss God’s goodness when we have a preordained idea of how we should be blessed. When His blessings come to us another way, we don’t see it as His love.
I heard a story a while back that made me both think and laugh. A group of people who were all going through personal hardships shared their stories with each other. As each one shared, he or she threw into the middle of the group an object that was symbolic to that situation. After hearing about all the heartache and pain that all the others were hearing, they each had a chance to pick up whichever object they desired, symbolizing that they were taking someone else’s pain and hardship, believing it to be a lesser heartache than their own. To the surprise of everyone, in the end each person chose his or her own burden. When asked why, they all had a similar answer. “I don’t like what I’m going through, but at least I have grace for my situation. I can’t imagine having to carry what so-and-so has to carry.”
God’s grace is there for every situation we go through.