Loving When It’s Difficult

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love—Galatians 5:22

Although we hate to admit it, loving others can be a challenge. While love may seem relatively easy for some, for others it is gut-wrenchingly difficult. We try to love, focus on our feeble futile efforts, and give up in despair. Fractured relationships and broken homes provide ample evidence of the challenge to love.

How do we obey God’s command to love when it is difficult? Can we will ourselves to love? Desperate to make love happen, we put immense effort into trying to make ourselves lovable and loving. We perform loving actions, sometimes through gritted teeth, but that isn’t real and doesn’t last. In moments of anger we lash out with harsh or unkind words, and unloving actions follow. Trying to produce love in our own strength is futile. While we may be able to temporarily perform loving actions, we cannot motivate ourselves to love on a long-term basis.

Galatians 5:22 identifies love as a fruit of the Spirit and fruit grows best on a healthy tree. When I was a freshman in college my dad purchased a pathetic looking apple orchard. The grossly misshapen trees were overgrown and the apples so little and worm infested that the previous owner hadn’t even picked the crop. To my all-wise teen age eyes, my dad had made a foolish mistake. Why would he spend that much money on such an obviously sick orchard? Because he knew exactly what was needed to bring forth healthy fruit. He pruned ruthlessly, he sprayed regularly, he watered often, and he thinned to provide room for the apples to grow. To my surprise and his joy, those same trees produced an abundant and healthy crop the next year. My dad knew healthy trees quite naturally produce good fruit.

In John 15, Jesus likened Himself to a vine and promised His followers would bear much fruit if we remain in Him. Because love is a fruit of His Spirit, staying connected to Him is essential. As we draw intimately into His presence, He lovingly prunes us, removing that which drains our spiritual health and vitality. His refreshing living water nourishes our souls and then His love can flow in and through us to impact others.

Take time to draw into God’s presence. Jesus came to reveal a God who not only loves, but is the essence of love. As we bask in His presence and surrender to His Holy Spirit, the spiritual fruit of love will result. He alone can empower us to love with a pure heart.

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