We don’t usually wake up thinking about our jobs, homes, cars, or the meals we’ll consume. It isn’t that we’re ungrateful, they have become so routine we often take them for granted. This habit can have significant consequences, often unintended, especially in our relationships. Ecclesiastes 7:10 (MSG) reminds us:
“On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.”
Cambridge Dictionary states when we “take something or someone for granted, we do not realize or show that we are grateful for how much we get from them.” As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’ll carve out time to buy chocolates or roses, and plan a special dinner or quick getaway. But are these the things we really want or are looking for? No, we want to feel respected, cared for, and protected. We need to feel appreciated and not taken for granted, but most importantly we need to feel loved. Valentine’s Day is just one day in the year, but it reminds us of the opportunity to build our relationship with each other, and with God, every day. How? The Bible tells us: (1 John 4: 7-8, VOICE):
“My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
It shouldn’t surprise you that love is the basis by which we deepen our relationships with others and with God. Wesley Baines (BeliefNet.com) states:
“What God wants, when it comes to you, is simple. He just wants you. He wants a loving relationship with His earthly children, and He wants us to take that vertical love and make it horizontal, taking His cue and treating our fellow human beings with love and respect.”
It seems easy enough, but a deep, loving relationship doesn’t happen by accident. It requires investing time, energy, and planning. In short, a deep, loving relationship with God or others requires preparing your heart. Jesus states, above all others, the two greatest commandments, consist of love (Mark 30-31, GW):
“So love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
A characteristic these commandments share is commitment. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines commitment as an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled (urged by a strong moral pressure) to a cause. A relationship with God requires committing to at least 5 steps:
- Loving God with all your heart. The Spurgeon Study Bible states “With all your heart means intensely. With all your soul means sincerely, most lovingly. And with all your strength means with all your energy, with every faculty, with every possibility of nature (cited by Jennifer Heeren, com, 2019).
- Loving the people around you. The commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves is literally the call for humility and service, making the needs of others equally as important as our own. Romans 12:10 (MSG) states:
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”
- Getting to know God. The best source to know God is studying the Bible (God’s Word); but it isn’t the only way. He will use any means so look for Him in the things you read, the music you listen to, the people you meet, and of course through prayer. God wants to have a relationship with us, so much so that it is guaranteed (Matthew 7:7-8, CEB).
- Changing your environment. “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” a form of depression, affects us during a change in seasons, and can cause physical and psychological harm. Its treatment is often through changes in the environment causing the onset of the disorder (Mayo Clinic).
Whether it’s church, friendship, family or other social gatherings the environment where we surround ourselves impacts our behaviors. Seek or build environments that will support the changes you want. Inform and include friends and family in your changes and ask for their help. Remember, Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, but expecting a different outcome.”
- Believing and Trusting. Psychology Today states: “the sense that we can depend on another person lays the groundwork for social exchanges yielding benefits like affection, a sense of security, and achievements that would be impossible alone.” Our relationship with God is anchored in our belief and trust in His word (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV):
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.”
Challenge: Preparing our hearts will deepen both our understanding of and our relationship with God. Adapt the 5 steps outlined above to other relationships and roles (i.e. spouse, friend, leader, etc.) You might find that we can feel loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year. Wouldn’t that be great to wake up to every day?
The Heart of a Great Leader will help you prepare your heart to lead like Jesus.