Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4-8
It’s Valentine’s Day, so red and pink hearts are abounding. Stores are filled with reminders of love with flower bouquets, sentimental cards and heart boxes of chocolates. Many of us may be sending text messages and notes of love to significant others, family, and friends. We could be helping our children and our students address valentines to classmates and honor this concept of love.
As we grow older, our thoughts of Valentine’s Day turn to one of intimate love. We desire to be in a relationship with someone who seeks to know and love us. We seek love. We seek acceptance. To love is to risk our hearts. Love is never safe or free of risk, but love is always worth the risk. Our hearts desire to love and to give it freely. Every time we risk loving someone, we risk not only the joy of being loved by them but the pain of losing that person.
What happens if you’ve closed your heart off from pain and love at the same time? When this holiday only awakens feelings of hurt and pain from a love lost? What if your heart has undergone so much hurt that the thought of celebrating this day only brings you more pain?
Over twenty years ago, I had the privilege of praying at Franciscan University on one of their prayer teams. As a student of Franciscan, I had prayed with multiple people over the years in this way. At our monthly Festival of Praise, people would come forward for prayer and we would share scripture, prophetic images, or words with those we prayed with.
I will never forget one particular gentleman who approached my prayer team rather reluctantly. He was tall, and I immediately asked him to take a seat as he towered over my 5’2” frame. He grumbled about taking a seat, and it became clear that he was frustrated.
“I didn’t want to come here today but I promised my children I would.”
“Oh. Ok,” I said and turned to my teammates to shrug my shoulders. We would just offer him prayer and let God do the rest.
As I closed my eyes and began to pray over this man, I saw an image of this man’s heart. It was surrounded by so many chains and locks. Ugh. How was I going to share this image with this man who clearly needed good news, Lord? I kept asking the Lord for clarity. The Lord reminded me that my job was not to worry about the message but to deliver what He was asking of me.
I leaned forward. “I’m seeing an image of your heart. It is clearly surrounded by so many chains and locks. The Lord wants you to know that you have been so hurt that you have chosen to lock up your heart to prevent people from ever hurting you again. However, in locking up your heart, you have also prevented yourself from receiving love as well.”
I opened my eyes to the guttural sounds of pain and the overwhelming sound of deep sobbing.
“Come Holy Spirit,” I prayed.
No more words were exchanged as we continued to pray for the Lord’s healing in his life.
He soon calmed down and walked away.
Unaware of his back story, I watched him walk away, praying that the Lord would continue His work within him.
The following month, the same gentleman appeared in our line for prayer. When he approached, clearly more pleasant than the previous month, he asked, “Do you remember me?”
“Of course!” I said. “How are you? How can we pray for today?”
“I’m not here for prayer. I just wanted to find you and thank you. You see….I lost my wife a few years ago. She was the love of my life. It hurt so much. I just didn’t want to feel that pain. I shut my children out and then my grandchildren as well. I couldn’t see them. They just reminded me so much of her.
Well, last month I promised my children that I would join some people from my church and attend this prayer session here at this university. I was angry at my children for sending me here and I was angry at God for taking my wife.
As you shared that image with me of my heart, I realized that the Lord was speaking right to me. He knew my pain. I felt His love for me. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. It was like the Lord started unlocking those chains. I felt such freedom.
The Lord wanted me to love again.
I went home a different man.
I started spending more time with my children. I allowed myself to love those around me.
People could see the change in me.
I went home and shared what happened to me with anyone who would listen. I wanted this freedom for everyone. So today, I brought a busload of people from my church here for prayer.”
He hugged me and walked away.
This time it was my team that was in tears.
On that day, we were able to experience the never-ending love of God. We saw firsthand the God who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one lost sheep.
God’s love is perfect. God’s love never fails. He loves us and wants our hearts to be whole. He wants our hearts to be free to love.
Is He calling you into freedom? Have you created chains or walls around your heart to protect yourself? Maybe this Valentine’s Day, He desires to restore you. His perfect love will cast out all pain, all hurt, all fear, and all sorrow.
“Perfect love casts out all fear.”1 John 4:18
This Valentine’s day let Him, who is perfect love, restore you.