Written by Andrea Chan, Singapore
We all know the unexplainable joy and completeness that comes from loving someone and being loved in return. But love can sometimes also cause us deep pain. Although we normally associate these feelings with romantic love, it is just as applicable in our friendships.
Recently, I realized how painful it is to love wholeheartedly.
Having just completed my studies in Canada and returning home to Singapore, I spent a lot of time catching up with friends from church, university, and childhood. Interestingly, all the conversations started with them telling me that they had been reading my blog posts and asking about what led me to leave the community back then. As I shared my story with them, they opened up to me about the struggles they were facing.
I tend to be drawn to people who are hurting; I like to befriend them, walk with them, and encourage them as they go through tough times. But I’ve never seen so many friends struggling at one go—I was overwhelmed by the hurt they felt.
The struggles they faced included suicidal thoughts, depression, self-doubt, eating disorders, and self-harm. And they were usually due to one of these reasons: peer pressure, stress or relationships. It broke my heart to hear how much they were suffering. I could see the hurt in their eyes, and yet I could not find the right words to say. As much as I wished I could take away their suffering, all I could really do was to listen to their stories, offer to pray for them, hug them, or simply be a listening ear.
I felt helpless. There were times that I wanted to give up loving and caring, because I felt tired of trying to care for them and inadequate in trying to help them. I became wary of how deeply I allowed myself to love someone, because I knew how painful it was to love with every fiber of my being.
But God reminded me through His word of the goodness and beauty of love. Regardless of how we feel, we should still love fearlessly and faithfully. Because love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Of late, I’ve been prompted to break down my image of having everything under control, and to be more open about my struggles with my friends—to remind them that they are not alone.
In my own small ways, I try to do what I can to brighten up someone else’s day, be it a friend or a stranger. I’m also trying to make time to catch up with my friends over meals and be a support and encouragement to people around me as much as I can. I have started to reach out to a young girl from my church and I try to talk to individuals who seem lonely. Once, I even hugged a stranger after overhearing her phone conversation about her bad day.
Through my own flawed version of love, I’m given a glimpse of God’s love. It pains God greatly to see us suffer and feel hopeless, just as it hurts us when we see a loved one suffering—but God’s love far surpasses ours. His love is unconditional, all-forgiving, and everlasting. It was love for us that led Him to die on the cross for our sins to save us from the ultimate pain and suffering: eternal death and separation from God.
And He has given us this commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34). We are to love the people around us—the lovable and the unlovable. I remember that the feeling of being loved and knowing that there were people looking out for me. Love was the driving force that kept me going when I was struggling. I know that loving is not easy… it is an emotional investment and a long-term commitment. But a little love goes a long way. Just like the people who chose to love me, I want to pay it forward by being that source of love for my friends, and I hope this article encourages you to do so too.
Let us choose to love as an outflow of Christ’s love for us. May we love so greatly, so vulnerably, and so fiercely just as how Christ loves us.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)