How to love without burning out

Mark Lee // August 1, 2018, 3:12 pm

Love selflessly

Recently I had a conversation with a cell member about what the limits to love are.

We hear and learn time and time again, that God’s love is unconditional, sacrificial, intentional and many other wonderful attributes. His love has no limits. In contrast, we humans struggle to love others the same way. We struggle to do it for even one person — let alone a whole group.

Loving others can truly be an exercise in tenacity and dying to the self. It often feels exhausting.

Yet Jesus somehow managed to do it.

Not for just one person, or a single group. But many, many, many … for God so loved the world.

Without limits or any expectations, with none left behind or forgotten, God loved and loves everyone like that. Could we truly love everyone? The way God did? Could we love like Jesus even if it’s loving a person you’ve only just met and will never meet again? Even if the person hates you or makes your life a living hell?

The human soul is designed for eternity, and the eternal is never fed by the limited.

In my conversation with that cell member, I said that we can love everyone. But upon deeper reflection, I actually think the answer is no.

I can’t love like that. Not everyone. And sometimes not even just one person. I have a great hope that God working in me and through me will expand my capacity to love more. Not just in terms of numbers, but to make my love look more like His love.

I believe God can grow me to love more, but I do not think I will reach that point where I’m able to say that I love as God loves. To do so would be hubris, and invite nothing but complacency or pride upon my life. But neither should that mean that we resign ourselves to cynicism and apathy, because after all, the Bible clearly says we should love one another.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

So, at best, we can grow to love like God. When we receive and give love, it must be with that understanding. Otherwise we place the heaviest expectations on others and ourselves to fill the hole in our hearts, forgetting that the only solution to the void can be found in what God’s own son did on the cross more than 2000 years ago.

So indeed, only in spending time with God and knowing Him can true love be received and then reflected and refracted in our lives.

If you’re feeling burnt out, tired, exhausted, striving, unanchored, always chasing after this that … I’d take a confident guess that it’s because like me, you’ve realised that are limits to love and it’s leaving you unsatisfied.

At least there are limits to the love that you and I have known, received and given. Any time there are limits to love, it’s not enough. The human soul is designed for eternity, and the eternal is never fed by the limited.

But we’ve got to be okay with other people and ourselves giving us that kind of limited love, scary as that might be. Just say it out: “The love I’ve known, both in receiving and giving, is simply not enough.” But don’t stop there. Accept the reality but pursue the ideal: “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.” (1 John 3:16)

What will you do now? Will you continue just getting through life, drifting about, waiting for that spark of “love” to come along — knowing all too well that this one too will burn out before your soul is satiated? Or will you go to the source, be fed, satiated beyond belief?

Make a choice about that, and then bring a little bit of eternity to the starved hearts around you.

This article was first published on Mark’s blog, and is republished with permission.