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When Love Hurts

Have you ever experienced love for another person so powerful that it's painful? Have you ever been so concerned with someone else's welfare that you become oblivious to yourself?

I remember one time very vividly, when my wife was deeply wounded by a close friend. I'll never forget this moment. As I walked through the struggle with her and saw her pain, there was a special moment when her pain became my pain. I found myself consumed with a desire for her to be whole and happy and I broke down weeping with compassion for her. She probably thought I was a weirdo, bawling my eyes out when she was the one who had been hurt! Compassion means to suffer with.

It's a fruit of agape love, which desires only and always the best for another person. This kind of compassion is what arises when you both deeply want what is best for someone else and you are at the same time completely present with them in their suffering. (For more on presence, see How to Be Here) I've had a few moments like this in my life, and each time it's like a glimpse of the divine love that is the bass note of the universe. It's as though something bigger than me is breaking through into the moment and taking over. It's like, there is the specific situation that's causing the tears, but there's also something much, much bigger going on. Like a groan from somewhere in the soul that longs for wholeness and union between people. A deep, eternal ache for all things to be made right. This kind of compassion is what we are called to have for all people, because it elevates a person's value as an image bearer. This kind of compassion sees all people (and I mean all - even the nastiest ones) as bearing the divine image and carrying intrinsic worth as a result. All people matter to God. All people have a story - some suffering that explains why they are the way they are. All people have both hurt and been hurt. They are all just like you.

Recognize this and your capacity for compassion will explode. Those moments of deep compassion welling up from inside me are one of the reasons I believe in the unrelenting, unconditional, and often unrecognized love of God for humanity.


I see it in me and pouring out of me sometimes, like a wind that suddenly blows through or a piece of music that swells up from out of nowhere.

Pay attention to these moments. Let the music swell. God is in it.