Remember as a young teenager that feeling of despair when your first boyfriend 'pulled the plug' on your infatuation? Those daily phone calls, love-notes, and stolen glances behind your teacher's back screeched to a sudden halt, leaving your heart wounded and seemingly beyond repair. The agony, the pain, and the fake-fever-headache-syndrome when Monday morning class rolled around were the telltale signs that you were indeed exhibiting symptoms of 'love sickness.'
We have all experienced this 'ailment of the heart' on some level in our lifetimes. However, for some of us, over time, we have actually become 'love sick' people.
A God of all-encompassing love created us with an inborn desire to be loved. Unfortunately, the perfect love that Adam and Eve shared with one another and with their Heavenly Father was cut short when these first lovebirds bit into a piece of forbidden fruit presented to them courtesy of the ultimate love stealer himself—Satan. Immediately following this taste of knowledge, our ancestors lost the perfect love connection in their own relationship and with their Creator. Although God continues to love us with a perfect, unceasing love, demonstrated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we persist in our struggle with distorted human versions of love.
We only have to turn on our televisions to see how a majority of our world views love. Promiscuity, adultery, perversion, lies, and betrayal run rampant through the relationships portrayed in soap operas, talk shows, and nighttime dramas. Sadly, the myth—real love hurts—has penetrated our society and slithered into many of our belief systems. Codependency and love addiction are now part of our world's everyday terminology, two terms coined to describe those of us who 'love too much' and who have become 'love sick.'
The Bible gives us the one true definition of love: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
As a former 'love addict,' my past relationships did not meet the above biblical criteria, and they always left me empty and searching for more of something—anything to fill my heart hunger. In my attempts to find the perfect level of love, I compromised my values, my dreams, my purity, and even my unborn child's life. Like an alcoholic needs a drink and a junkie looks for a fix, I was desperately seeking the right doses of approval, acceptance, and love from those around me—in particular my relationships with men. When I finally met my One True Knight in Shining Armor, Jesus Christ, I discovered I didn't have to earn love, approval, or acceptance. I gained those very things in my relationship with Him.
It is heartbreaking just how insidious and how prevalent 'love sickness' is among Christian women and men—both single and married. Thankfully, God offers perfect love and freedom through His Son, but learning to transfer our heart's longing to the one true source of contentment is challenging and takes time.
All through the Bible, God speaks of idolatry and makes it very clear that He wants our attention to be on Him first and foremost. When we spend every waking moment focusing on the object of our affection, we are practicing a form of worship; therefore, we're practicing idolatry! This misdirected worship must be refocused back to the only One truly worthy of our praise, Jesus Christ. The following process has worked successfully for many women and men.
Identify the problem. We must acknowledge or admit we're in the grip of a very serious problem/addiction/sin. Without recognizing the problem and seeking help, healing remains out of reach.
Tell someone. Confession starts with crying out to God. He loves us no matter what. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). When we repent and ask for help, the other steps become attainable.
Join an accountability or support group. This issue cannot be kept secret. The fact is that sexual sin and codependency issues are prevalent in our churches today. It is critical to find a group to meet and share our struggles, failures, and growth. We need someone to love and support us unconditionally with both God's truth and His grace.
Pray and worship. Pray daily. Replacing old negative thinking patterns with new, healthier thoughts is so important. Some ideas: Read God's Word and pray His truths out loud. Consider this while you drive—utilizing uplifting audiotapes/CDs of worship music, daily devotional books, and other Christian books on related topics. The goal is to keep our thoughts focused on God—the Source of our renewal. Becoming God-focused rather than self-focused is a commitment we make, understanding the process will be ongoing until the day we meet Jesus face to face.
Reach out and help someone. Eventually, we will have testimony of hope and healing to share. Knowing we are not alone in any of our struggles promotes spiritual growth. As others are encouraged by our victories, our own resolve is strengthened. It's a winning situation!
Never forget how deeply God loved the woman at the well. He loved her enough to purposefully stage a meeting that afternoon as she came to draw water. He knew she would be coming, and He wanted to show her a new way to live so she would never thirst again. Christ meets us where we are at any given moment. He loves us no less if we are rolling around in the pig pen like the prodigal son or if we are naked in the street accused of adultery and surrounded by raised fists poised to throw stones of hatred and judgment our way. There is no stone in His hand, only the scar-pierced flesh, evidence of His loving sacrifice for us. He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness and restore us to our former state of purity and integrity.
Go ahead; reach for Him. He is ready and able to love you right into His Kingdom.
As someone on the front lines in the battle to save lives, understanding what love sickness is and how God can set you free will equip you to better serve your clients. If you are suffering from a form of love sickness, seek help from your Christian peers or find a Christ-centered support/accountability group. Christ came to set you free—free indeed!
Carol Van Atta, is the Founder of Becoming a Princess Warrior for Christ... one step (and a prayer) at a time. She works for a Christian women's maternity home in Gresham, Oregon. For more information, visit www.carolvanatta.com.