The old man’s heart was about to break. In what should have been his golden years he felt like he was in a dark dungeon. The light had gone out of his life. And it was all because of her. When she was just a wee thing whom no one else wanted, he took her to his house in the mountains. He raised her. She was with him when he did his work, when he played, when he hunted and fished. He taught her about life and how to live. She loved him like a father and he loved her like a daughter. Then she grew up. The young man who stole her heart didn’t know what he did to the old man. She didn’t seem to know either. She transferred her love and left the mountain home for her new life. She seldom if ever looked back. So the old man was alone, except for the hurt in his heart. It was his constant companion. If he had not loved her, it would have been fine for her to leave. It may have been a relief. But he never stopped loving her. And now loving hurt.
I neither remember the author nor the title of that short story I read long ago, but I do remember the sadness I felt when I read it. It opened my eyes to the very real possibility of a love that hurts. Since then I’ve realized that a lot of people know what that means. Jim Cymbala says that the people close to you are the ones who break your heart. Strangers don’t break your heart. But family and close friends can. As I remember, the old man in the story went to his grave with hurting love wrenching his heart.
Where is God in such a time? Does He even know what it feels like to be abandoned by someone you love? He is love, so how can He identify with those who have lost someone they really loved? There is an answer to these questions in the earthly life of Jesus.
Jesus called His disciples to follow Him. They did, leaving their other earthly pursuits and joining His small wandering band. He walked with them. Talked with them. Ate with them. Taught them. And He loved them. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9).
If we read that verse casually we may miss what the last little phrase, “continue ye in my love,” may imply. It seems like a teaching directive given by the master teacher to be added to the other wisdom that He purveyed. But there may be some pathos in that little tag. He wanted them to know how much He loved them; He loved them like the Father loved Him. That’s a lot of love. He didn’t want to lose that. He wanted them to stay in that. Loving them meant that He longed for their continuing love in return.
It is reasonable to assume that Jesus had known of people who knew hurting love; a man who had left a wife with a broken heart, a son who had abandoned his mother, a friend who no longer spoke to his comrade, sisters torn apart by anger, brothers hurting brothers. The world is full of them. Maybe the time would come when some of His own followers would no longer love Him. That would hurt.
Jesus was not the one who abandoned people. When the rich young ruler came to Him, Jesus received him. It was the young man who went away sorrowful. And the Bible tells us that Jesus looked on him and loved him. There had to be some hurt in that love.
The disciples were His band of brothers. They were with each other for almost three years. They faced difficulties, encountered dangers, interacted with hostile enemies. They did it together. The bonds they developed were strong. Jesus was at the center, and He loved them despite their weak faith, their misunderstandings, their quarrels. He didn’t stop loving them. In fact, when His remaining days with them were few, “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). He never quit loving, even when it hurt. And it did hurt.
When Jesus was arrested, they all forsook Him and fled. That had to hurt. In His moment of need, abandoned by the law, they ran away. But He still loved them. It would only add to the ache of heart He had already suffered when Judas betrayed Him. That kiss of treason was painful.
He still loved them all, even while it hurt Him. Hurting love, from the cross, from which Peter was absent having cursed and sworn in denial. Hurting love, when He saw His mother at the foot of the cross and commissioned John to fill in as her son. Hurting love, expressed in those awesome words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus experienced more hurt, though, then we can even imagine. He was betrayed by His own familiar friend who lifted up his heel against Him. He was abandoned by the laws of the land that should have protected Him. He was denied by His closest disciple. But more, He was left alone by the One who had loved Him from eternity. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:31b). He loved His Father with perfect love, yet Jesus felt the hurt of being left alone.
No wonder the prophet called Him “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3b).
Yes, Jesus knows about hurting love. So He admonished, “Continue ye in my love.” It continues to be a needed word. There were those even in the early days of the New Testament church who did not continue. Demas loved the present world and departed. Some people in the church of Ephesus left their first love. John wrote of those who “went out from us.” It is not the church these and others since then have abandoned. They walked away from Christ and His love.
Got hurting love? Go with Jesus to His cross, to His grave. It may be that in your love and in your hurt you are somehow experiencing it with Jesus. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13). And believe in the resurrection! Sometimes it is in this life. Peter came back to Jesus, repentant. Many wanderers have come home. Sometimes it is in the end, when “the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth” (Lk. 3:5) when He shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.
Our God who raises the dead can heal your hurting love. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden? Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus. Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden? Tell it to Jesus alone.
Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow? Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus. Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow? Tell it to Jesus alone.
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.
Edmund S. Lorenz
Perhaps you read this and are aware that you are the one who has walked away, leaving hurting love behind. You could go back and answer ten thousand prayers.
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 37b).