Our study of the biblical definition of love over the past few days has reminded us of the high calling laid upon us when God calls us to love others. Far from being merely a sentimental feeling, love actively avoids the temptation to boast or envy. It is not selfish, and it does not rejoice in evil; rather, love rejoices in the truth as it hopes and believes all things (1 Cor. 13:1–7). True love, then, must be a supernatural gift, because in our fallen state we would by no means love others in this way.
Today’s passage confirms the supernatural character of Christian love when it tells us love bears and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7; see also Gal. 6:2). The apostle Peter tells us we are called to endure suffering (1 Peter 2:20–21), and we will by no means do this apart from the love for God that has been poured into the hearts of all who believe in Christ (Rom. 5:5).
The suffering we face in this life, be it sickness or persecution, has a tendency to diminish our love for God and our faith in Him. In the midst of some horrible tragedy or disease we can be tempted to question God’s love for us. However, as Christians, we have hope. We know we will dwell in the new heavens and the new earth, at which point all suffering will end (Rev. 21:1–4). We can therefore endure suffering because we know it will not last forever.
Moreover, our suffering evidences God’s love for us and provides us with opportunities to display the love of God to other people. When faithful Christians endure periods of suffering, it is proof God lovingly trusts His own grace in us to bear hardship for the sake of His glory and our sanctification (James 1:2–4). Our care for those who suffer, and our willingness to be present with them, can also give us the chance to love other people for the sake of Christ.
Moreover, love never ends (1 Cor. 13:8a). God’s other graces and gifts are not usually described with so certain a guarantee (vv. 8b–10). But nothing can replace or destroy love; thus, we can be confident that if we truly love God now, we will most certainly love Him forever.
The suffering God allows us to go through can bring us many opportunities to grow in our effectiveness when ministering to others. Our time spent living with an illness or tragedy can make us better able to share Christ with someone going through the same. Have you viewed your suffering as training for ministry? Ask the Lord to bring people into your life with whom you can identify and to whom you can minister because you have suffered as they have.