Love Suffers Long
I ran my first marathon at 23. The first half was a breeze. By mile 18, I felt sore. At mile 23, a young man ran up beside me and asked: “Sooo… what are you gonna do after the race?” If he was asking me out, I totally missed it. “I’m gonna cry” was all I could say.
I suffered long to run that race. Training included giant blood blisters, a 20-mile run including 90-degree weather, and many long hours of preparation. I suffered long because the joy of finishing a marathon was more valuable to me (at the time) than the comfort of avoiding pain.
Love is like a long-distance race. And Jesus is its ultra Athlete. This Iron Man of love was pierced with iron spikes. He didn’t just sweat; He sweated drops of blood. He cried with agony at the sense of separation He felt from His Father (Matthew 27:46). Jesus suffered long because He had the most noble goal and the most healthy, loving heart of anyone in the universe: “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV).
Every opportunity to love well, no matter how difficult, has the potential to transform you into what C.S. Lewis calls “a creature of splendid glory.”
What was the “joy” that motivated Jesus? It was you. It was His desire to reverse the damaging effects of the fall in your life, and to restore you to the connection and joy you were designed for. Christ’s love motivated Him to “go the extra mile” until there were no more miles left to go.
You can be an athlete of love, too. How? By tenaciously, stubbornly, and unconditionally reflecting Christ’s love to those around you, even when it’s difficult: “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NKJV). Thankfully, this type of suffering has a flip side. According to Paul, the suffering required to love others is actually something to celebrate: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”
Every opportunity to love well, no matter how difficult, has the potential to transform you into what C.S. Lewis calls “a creature of splendid glory.” The more you lean into this process, the more you will become like Jesus. And as you become more like Him, your capacity for joy will increase. Yes, love suffers long, but it always leads to joy.
Elise studies theology at Andrews University. A registered nurse, her background is in health ministry and resource development. She is the coauthor of Goodbye Diabetes, Diabetes Undone and graduated from ARISE in 2007.