Yes, love hurts – and is costly:
Things are too busy and too hectic right now for me to pen a proper article. Funeral arrangements for my wife and related matters must take priority. But perhaps I can share just a few brief thoughts with you here. In the past, whenever I wanted to get some correct information and details about something, I would usually just defer to my wife. But she is no longer here, so I will try to do my best.
It was either last November or December that our beloved Daisy dog passed away. She was 16 ½ – a good old age for a Border Collie cross. All the joy we had with her for so long turned to sadness in her last year or two of life. In the end she could barely stand or walk – and she was almost blind and deaf.
So in the end we had to take her to the vet and have her put down. She used to like being in the back seat of our car, so we took her to the vet, and she was allowed to stay in that car while the vet came out and administered that final dose. It was sad. It always is.
But I want to make a well-known point. To love someone or something is to risk hurt, pain, disappointment and grief. They go together. You cannot have love without the possibility of real hurt. And my wife was in a similar situation. Years of joy with her turned to years of sadness. She too in the end could not stand or walk.
No, she was not “put down”. But toward the end we did pray to the Lord that her time of suffering would not go on for too long. She died when she was meant to die. “Our time on earth is brief; the number of our days is already decided by you” (Job 14:5).
And when I did get impatient with God, even angry, that her days seemed to be dragging on with all her pain, each day I would discover that there was a good reason for it. Either she and I had a short chat which was special, or a few other folks got to see her, etc. So God knew what he was doing and his timing was perfect – as always.
But I am aware that some people will never fall in love with another person – or even have a pet – because they cannot stand the thought of possibly getting hurt, or of having to endure the suffering of the beloved. But again, this is a package deal in a fallen world. They go together of necessity.
As is often heard, “Better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.” We can try to live a life without pain by trying to live a life without love, but what sort of life will that be? Many have written about these matters. Here is one piece I did on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/02/16/inseparable-nature-love-pain/
But as is often the case, perhaps no one has captured all this better than C. S. Lewis. In his superlative 1960 book The Four Loves he said this:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
If we want the joys of having a pet dog, we must be prepared for the sorrow that may accompany things when the animal ages and dies, or perhaps is prematurely taken from us. All the more so with human loves. In addition to maybe dying young, our beloved may turn on us or reject us or run out on us. Even before a relationship becomes established, there is the problem of unrequited love.
Love always hurts. And the one who knows about this more than anyone else is God. Because God loves, he hurts. He loves us and wanted to have relationship with us. But we all have turned our backs on him and rejected him. We read about how God was even grieved at creating us (Genesis 6:6).
But thankfully – and unlike so many of us – his hurt and grief did not cause him to write us off. He continues to woo us and to seek to win us back to himself. But many will forever refuse. Many will continue to shake their fists at God. Talk about unrequited love.
And so many people have a false understanding of what real, biblical love actually is. Once again Lewis comes to our aid. In The Problem of Pain he writes:
By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that, God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.
I might, indeed, have learned, even from the poets, that Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness: that even the love between the sexes is, as in Dante, ‘a lord of terrible aspect’. There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness (in the sense given above) is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. (Hebrews 12:8) It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.
As to love and suffering, I mentioned that God is love, and that he suffers for us and with us. He has left us a pattern – a template. The cross fully illustrates this. We are called to follow in that suffering love. Whether it is love for a spouse, or even love for the loveless, that is what we are called to do.
It will hurt. It will cost. Real love is costly love. Christ loved us to the end by suffering for us to the end. One day all the suffering will be no more.
But the love will continue. That is good news indeed.