I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another; we fall hopelessly for a man or woman who does not share the same feelings for us. We lose time day-dreaming about them and imagining a life together, making all sorts of plans for the future, while they live their lives without us in it.
Or perhaps we are the recipients of such love; we enjoy the attention, the chase, flirting with the idea of commitment but never actually willing to enter into it. Maybe we enjoy the ‘perks’ of the pursuit but run as soon as something is required of us in return.
To love someone demands something of us; the giving of ourselves for the benefit of the other person. It can be a wonderful thing to enter into with another person and share that respect, that care, that sacrifice with one another. That is why unrequited love is all the more painful, for we enter into it alone, never sure of any reciprocation.
And yet that is what we are called to do.
In 1 John 4:7-12, we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
God is only too familiar with unrequited love. From the very beginning, He has loved every one of us; He has dreamt of a future with us; given of Himself to save us, protect us, and care for us. He loves us, dotes on us, reaches out to us, and pursues us… and still we often show little interest in response.
We may appreciate His love when we reap the benefits, but we run away if He requires something of us or if something of the world seems more attractive to us. Perhaps we enjoy the gifts He gives us when they meet our own desires, but reject His good gifts of discipline, or sacrifice, or abstinence that benefit us the most.
God knows and understands the ache of unrequited love. He experiences it every single day as He lovingly pursues humanity and we respond selectively, selfishly, only when it suits us. Perhaps we lead Him on and enjoy the thrill of a new relationship, but flee as soon as things get difficult.
The Bible tells us that the Lord God is a jealous God. He longs for us to renounce the idols we allow to come between Him and us; gods of comfort, and comparison, and marital status. He desires for us to resist the expectations the world places on us and to commit fully to Him.
The early-20th Century evangelist, Oswald Chambers, said, “Get into the habit of saying, “Speak, Lord,” and life will become a romance.” We all know that the foundation of any good relationship is communication, so rather than viewing our relationship with God as anything different, we can begin by inviting His presence into our lives and quietening our spirit enough to listen to the words of encouragement, and worth, and purpose that He delights in speaking over us.
When we truly know the love of God, we are free to love others, regardless of their response, because we are secure in the love of the Father. The love of Jesus is the most fulfilling, the most rewarding, the most steadfast love that we can receive and share with others. When we are consumed by His love, it overflows into the hearts of everyone around us and there is no room for the ache of unrequited love, for we are safe in the love of our Saviour.
So, no matter what our current relationship status is, let’s first sort out our relationship with The One who has loved us and pursued us and cherished us for millennia. Let’s not shrug off His advances or resist commitment, but give of ourselves to Him who gave us everything when He sent His Son to die on a wooden cross to save us from eternal death and separation from Him. He loves us so much, and the ache in His heart for us is real.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)