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Will I Ever Really Be Loved? Recognizing Real vs. Distorted Love

  • Cindi McMenamin Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 4 Apr
Will I Ever Really Be Loved? Recognizing Real vs. Distorted Love

Having faced rejection from an abusive father, abandonment from an abusive husband, and then betrayal by a boyfriend she thought was the "real deal," Becky asked "What's wrong with me?"

But Becky, as many of us do, was asking the wrong question. The question is sometimes not "What is wrong with me?" but "What is wrong with this representation of 'love'?"

At the root of our hurts, as women, is what I call "distorted love." We thought it was real, but then we were burned. We trusted it as love, but discovered it was manipulation. Sadly it can take several years, multiple relationships, and countless scars to finally realize that true and perfect love exists only in the One who is truly perfect: Jesus Christ.

So how did we get this way? If we know in our heads that God's love is perfect, how do we fall for the imposters? It is ingrained in us, as women, to long for love and the happily-ever-after we’ve heard about since we were little girls. We learn from a young age that “love” is something that is wonderful to feel. And so we long for it. As we grow older, we interpret “love” when someone notices us, is kind to us, or desires us, physically. And for a moment what we perceive as love may feel wonderful. Yet the moment that professed love is withheld, withdrawn completely, or used to manipulate us, it becomes the most painful thing we’ve ever experienced.

We all have a story of careless, imperfect or distorted love. For some it was a critical or emotionally distant mother. Others have experienced distorted love through an absent or abusive father. Maybe yours was the rejection by someone who said they loved you, or a betrayal by someone you trusted.

Unfortunately in this world, in order to understand perfect, selfless love, we sometimes have to see (or worse yet, experience) its opposite. But hindsight offers us a valuable perspective. When we experience something far from God's intended idea of love, we can readily see the contrast, especially when held up against the perfect track record of a loving God.

God created the marriage relationship to illustrate to us the kind of love and intimacy He wants to share with His people. God told His people in Isaiah 54:5 "For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name….” God has been a perfect husband to us, providing for us, nurturing us, protecting us and faithfully loving and forgiving us time after time.

God wants to experience from us the response of a faithful wife – a trust, singularity of commitment, and faithfulness that lasts for eternity. God, throughout the Old Testament, accused His people of adultery when they pursued and worshipped false, foreign gods. And in the New Testament, He calls those who are trusting His Son for their forgiveness and eternal life His “bride” and He will one day share with us a wedding feast (Revelation 19:9). The examples are all over Scripture. God has pursued us like a bridegroom pursues his beloved bride. And He has demonstrated to us what unconditional, sacrificial love looks like that marriages here on earth should be expressing and experiencing. God even prepared a “happily-ever-after” for us to experience with Him someday (John 14:3). But the problem is that, in our humanity, in our longing for something temporal that feels good, we tend to look for love in all the wrong places. During my early adulthood, I looked unsuccessfully to a boyfriend, and eventually to my husband, to fill me completely, to show me perfect, unconditional godly love, and to bind up my hurts and heal my insecurities. My rude awakening came after I married a man studying for the ministry. How could he not be the perfect husband? How could he not love me perfectly? Well, he is a good man. He is full of integrity. He loves the Lord. And he sure does try to love me as I need to be loved. But he’s not perfect. He’s not sinless. He’s not Jesus.

As long as we’re drawing what we need from another person, we are drawing from a well that will never satisfy, and we will keep coming up thirsty and longing for more. We will find ourselves empty, dry, parched. Only when we surrender that hole in our heart to Jesus, will it finally be filled.

A Perfect Picture of Love 

If you’ve been wounded by what you thought was love, it’s time we get a definition out there of what love really is.

The Bible's most detailed description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It is read at weddings, quoted in cards, and held up as God’s ideal instruction for us in how to love each other: 

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never give up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Love will last forever…” (NLT). 
Although that passage serves as instruction and a goal for us in how to love others, it is interesting that it describes perfectly God’s love toward us. So think about it. We are to love others as we are loved by God. None of us can get it absolutely right, though. So how can we expect another human being to get it right all the time toward us? If we were to focus on how God loves us, we would recognize the imposters when they arrive. We would have more realistic expectations of others and, I believe, we would guard our hearts a little more closely.

If you are looking for love right now, don't settle for less any longer. Set your standard higher by placing any claim of love next to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Lay a description of that man or parent or friend against the Bible's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Then ask God to show you His idea of love and protect you from anything that falls short of it.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of several books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 110,000 copies sold), Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, and When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, on which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry or for free articles to strengthen your soul or your marriage, see www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Publication date:
April 4, 2013

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