The Agony Of Love :: by Grant Phillips

I recall hearing a mother say something like, “When children are young they step on your toes. When they are grown they step on your heart.” I was acquainted with her family problems, and thought to myself, “If they hadn’t been born, she wouldn’t be suffering a broken heart.”

Would a normal parent wish their children had never been born if it would mean they could avoid the agony of their love for them? No way.

Many of our soldiers have died on foreign soil because of war. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of the parents.

Diseases, illnesses, car wrecks, war, drugs, and a host of other killers take those from us each day we love so much. One of the worse tragedies is for a child to die before his/her parents. Every parent would say, “I should die before my child.”

Genuine love for another is the peak of happiness, but it can also be a nightmarish torture. There are those in our lives who we would willingly die for and not even hesitate. The thought of them never existing in order that we might have a peaceful life has no chance of germinating in our minds. We thank God they are in our lives.When a loved one is in trouble or suffering or even dies, our heart is crushed. That is real, genuine love.

This brings me to the following verses:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NIV)

“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:46 NIV)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)

“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10 NIV)

I see a love in these verses (and others) that is beyond our understanding. The closest we can come is our love for our spouse, or our children or another family member we hold dear.

It is easy for us to love our family, but what about those outside the family? I’ll be the first to admit, my love for family exceeds any love for others. I’m convinced God understands that, but He wants us to be aware of just how great His love is for all of us, and He wants us to love fellow Christians as He loves us.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

“Now wait a minute” someone says. “How can God love all of us when He sends people you say He loves to hell?”

If a child runs out into the road, not knowing a truck is barreling down upon them, we’ll do everything within our power to save them, including throwing our self in their path and dying to save them. God has done no less. He has warned us all. He has provided a way of escape. He sacrificed His only begotten Son. What else can He do, if we refuse His one and only remedy for Romans 6:23?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV)

Is there anywhere in the Scriptures where God helps us understand the depth of His love for us? One that comes to mind is Abraham and Isaac.

Now God had no intention of letting Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac, so why did He tell him to do so in the first place? God wants us to know what it meant to Him to give His Son to die for us. As humans, in our human relationships with family, He knows we can understand the agony of Abraham’s circumstances.

Abraham knew in his heart that God could raise Isaac from the dead, but he didn’t know he wouldn’t have to follow through with the actual sacrifice. Only at the last second did God stay his hand. What agony Abraham must have suffered.

There is another circumstance that comes to mind and it concerns the Passover lamb. Jack Kinsella wrote a wonderful article on this and I want to give him full credit for what it said. Following is part of his article:

“Washed In the Blood of the Lamb?

There is a traditional Christian hymn whose chorus goes like this: “Are you washed in the blood, / In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? / Are your garments spotless? / Are they white as snow? / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

We’ve not discussed what that really means in some time now, and there is no better time to discuss it than at Passover. Everything about our understanding of our salvation has its roots in the Jewish sacrificial lamb.

During the days of Temple worship, a family would offer a Passover lamb for sacrifice at the Temple as covering for the sins of that family. That ritual teaches us much about the love of our Heavenly Father and what the sacrifice of the Lamb of God really means.

Some weeks before Passover, the head of the household would cull out the most perfect lamb in his flock. To be acceptable, the lamb could not be purchased. It had to be raised by the family.

The lamb would be brought into the household as a pet. The kids would play with it, wash and groom it, grow attached to it, and even name it, making it a part of the family. It was a necessary element of the sacrifice that the family had to grow to love that particular lamb.

At the Temple, the head of the household would certify the lamb met all the conditions before accepting it as a sacrifice. The lamb would have a placard put around its neck identifying the sinner for whom it was about to die.

Here’s where this gets hard. The head of the household, (to whom the lamb was a beloved pet) didn’t get to just leave the lamb there and go home, like a person dropping off a sick pet at the vets to be euthanized. (Or even one who comforts the pet while the vet does it.)

It’s YOUR sin. It’s YOUR sacrifice. So YOU must do the deed.

The priest would carefully instruct you in the most humane way to conduct the sacrifice, but you had to do it. You would be taught how to gently squeeze off the lamb’s jugular with thumb and forefinger until the lamb would pass out.

Open your mind! SEE this picture!

The lamb falls asleep against the sinner’s breast like the beloved pet that it has become. Once the lamb was unconscious, the penitent, still holding the lamb’s throat, would be instructed on how to insert the knife, nick the jugular and hold the lamb over the laver to catch its blood for the sacrifice.

As the blood flowed, it would flow OVER the penitent’s hands and arms, staining him with the sacrificial blood.

The lamb’s innocent little heart would continue to pump out the blood, which would continue to stain the head of the household until it had pumped its last and the little lamb was dead.

The priest would hold up the now-dead lamb before the Lord, read the name of the family as it appeared on the placard around its neck, and declare the lamb’s ‘sins’ before the Lord.

“This lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the Kinsella family,” the priest might intone.

The family’s beloved pet lamb was dead, its blood was sprinkled over the mercy seat of the Ark, and the sins of the family were covered for another year.

The lamb bore the placard naming the family of sinners. The sinners bore the stains of the blood of the lamb.”

Please follow this link to his article entitled, “The Passover Lamb” to read it in its entirety,

After having read this article, how could anyone not be touched by the depth of God’s love? Surely our understanding of the agony of love is clarified. The love of God reaches down into our souls where no one else can go.

I love my family with all my heart and I know you do too, but as much as we love them, doesn’t God’s love for us go beyond even that? Someone might still say, “No, God couldn’t love anyone as much as I love my family.” Open your heart, because He does. He loves you, more than you love your own family. Think about that.

He died for you. He was buried for you, and on the third day He rose from the grave for you. He can be your Savior, or He will be your judge.

It is my personal conviction that when our Lord judges the wicked and casts them into the lake of fire, He will experience again the agony of His love for us. Why? He doesn’t want that for you. He wants you to live with Him in Heaven for eternity, not suffer in hell, then the Lake of Fire for eternity. Even though these closing words were written to Israel, they are meant for all of us.

“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11 NIV)

Grant Phillips