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Lesson 3: Is Love a Feeling?

WHAT IS LOVE?

Love is probably one of the most studied, debated, and published topics in philosophy, science, and religion. Why do we want love? Why do we need love? Why is it easier to find love in some areas of our lives but not in all areas? Why do we continue to seek out love in relationship when we are constantly left heart broken and disillusioned? Will anyone ever meet our expectations for love?

Most of us would initially think of love in a positive way, but attached to love are many negative effects that play an equal role in our lives. While love can be confusing and subjective to define, we all have experienced the effects of love in our lives: joy, loneliness, sorrow, devotion, guilt, happiness, pain, excitement, grief, disappointment, surprise, freedom, sacrifice…and the list goes on and on.

Love is a learned behavior. We learn about love—what it is, how it is given, and how to get it—through experience: our family of origin, relationship, movies, music, social media, and more. It is an essential part of the human experience.

I can’t remember a time when I felt so unloved. My husband wanted to sell our home and move to another town, to take a job making less money. We would be leaving our families, friends, and church community. We would be leaving the only life I had ever known. We were at an impasse in this decision. We were out for dinner one night and my husband’s friend showed up. I thought it was a coincidence, but I was so wrong. My husband had invited his friend to dinner to coerce me into moving. I took the car keys and left the restaurant. I’ve never felt so angry, bullied, and betrayed.

Feeling frustrated and confused, I went to talk with my parents. They often provided a sound, godly perspective to life’s problems. My mom wasn’t home, but my dad was there to lend a listening ear. For the next hour, I ranted about my husband, his manipulative tactics, his self-centeredness, and his obvious lack of love for me. My dad just listened.

When I finally stopped ranting, my dad asked, “Who are the people in your life who love you?” I quickly named my parents, all my siblings and other family members, and many close friends. Then my dad asked, “How do you know they love you?” These seemed like trick questions. I quickly mentioned some simple things that expressed love and even described very specific instances where I KNEW I was loved. This conversation lifted my spirits and brought a smile to my face. I’ll never forget this: with an expression of peace and confidence, my dad smiled and said, “Then, how much more could the One who created love, love you?”

Audrey

If we want to gain a full understanding of love, we have to learn from “the One who created love.” We will never find satisfaction in a flawed, imperfect, self-centered, and sinful version of love. We have to go to the source.
Probably the most well-known verse among the churched and unchurched alike is John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Understanding God’s love for us comes from knowing the heart of God. Nothing illustrates God’s love for us more than the story of Hosea and the parable of the prodigal son.

The Lord told the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, a promiscuous woman. Although they were married and had kids, Gomer was having affairs with other men. Despite this, the Lord instructs Hosea to go after her, to buy her back, and love her again. Israel had been unfaithful and worshiped false gods, but God still loved them. This was an example of God’s relentless love for Israel.

“Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”
HOSEA 3:1 NLT

Another great example of God’s love is described in the parable of the prodigal son. When a rebellious son demands his inheritance, his father gives it to him. This was extremely hurtful behavior, since an inheritance was given after a father’s death, not while a father was still living. The son squandered his wealth and decided to return to his father, even though he had sinned against his father and behaved badly. Without question or need for explanation, the father lovingly, unconditionally, and shamelessly welcomed back his son.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
JOHN 3:16-18

The commandments…are summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.
ROMANS 13:9-10 GNT

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.
1 JOHN 4:18-19

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.
SONG OF SONGS 8:6-7

Understanding God’s love for us comes from knowing the heart of God. Nothing illustrates God’s love for us more than the story of Hosea and the parable of the prodigal son.

The Lord told the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, a promiscuous woman. Although they were married and had kids, Gomer was having affairs with other men. Despite this, the Lord instructs Hosea to go after her, to buy her back, and love her again. Israel had been unfaithful and worshiped false gods, but God still loved them. This was an example of God’s relentless love for Israel.

“Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”
HOSEA 3:1 NLT

Another great example of God’s love is described in the parable of the prodigal son. When a rebellious son demands his inheritance, his father gives it to him. This was extremely hurtful behavior, since an inheritance was given after a father’s death, not while a father was still living. The son squandered his wealth and decided to return to his father, even though he had sinned against his father and behaved badly. Without question or need for explanation, the father lovingly, unconditionally, and shamelessly welcomed back his son.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
LUKE 15:22-24

God’s love for us is extravagant. God gave His only Son—God so loved the world—so that we could have a relationship with Him through Jesus.

Although Audrey felt unloved by her husband, she experienced the love of God through her parents, siblings, and friends. Others in our life may have tainted our perspective of God’s love for us, but understanding God’s outrageous love for us is paramount.

Love is more than a feeling. It is an action, decision, and choice we make. It is a mindset that infiltrates all our relationships. It shapes our worldview. It is only through God’s perfect love and relationship with Him that we will ever find true and lasting love.

MY STORY

Why are we here in this group? We all have a story. For many of us, our story includes a foundation of love: a form of love that has impacted and shaped our perspective, influencing how and why we seek out love in relationship.

Truthfully telling our story, out loud, in a safe environment heals us.53 At some point in our past, we suffered a deficiency in the way we formed attachments and bonded to others. This process helps us strengthen our ability to trust and bond with others in a healthy way.

In the space provided, write out your personal story. Why are you here? What life. events and experiences contribute to your compulsive and addictive behaviors?

Your story can begin and end at any stage of your life: childhood, college, marriage. It could include a snapshot of your life—a time when a profound experience changed your perspective or the way you engage in relationship. What you write can be as broad or as narrow as you want. Feel free to leave out graphic details and specific names of others involved. Your story should take about three minutes to read out loud during your next group meeting.

Facing the truth about our past and unpacking our addiction story can feel overwhelming. Some of us may need to take this assignment in stages, writing out a few sentences or a paragraph at a time. Others may want to just get it over with, writing it all out in one sitting. Whatever method we use, be intentional and thorough. It may not seem like it matters now, but this is an important step on our path toward lifelong health.

Looking Ahead

Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting

Assignments