A few weeks ago, we started looking at God’s love for us and noted that if God loves us, we are allowed to love ourselves. In fact, we noted from Matthew 22:39, that God didn’t command us to do this, He simply expected it.
The problem, of course, is we have been so warned against self-centeredness that hearing this shocks us a bit. We aren’t allowed to love ourselves, we think, because that is narcissism. That would be selfish. Besides, II Timothy 3:2 warns that the sinners of this age will be lovers of self. Clearly, there is a way in which we are allowed to love ourselves and a way in which we aren’t. I think the best explanation of how to love ourselves biblically can be found in I Corinthians 13:4-7. If we pursue God’s definition of love for others, and are supposed to love them as we do ourselves, then this will help us love ourselves properly.
Love Is Patient
The first thing Paul said is, “Love is patient.”
Be patient with yourself. If you’re like me, you are a mess. You don’t want anyone else to know it and you do your best to put on a great face so no one else will ever know it, but you know exactly what a mess you are. You know every flaw, every mistake, every failure, every sin. In fact, you know the little bitty things that no one else would recognize as bad, but you know for you it is.
With every mistake, you can begin to beat yourself up, shame yourself, throw your hands in the air and claim there just isn’t any reason to keep going on. “Why bother,” you tell yourself, “I’m never going to make it.”
But love is patient. Be patient with yourself. God is patient with you. II Peter 3:9 says the Lord is not slow about His promises, He is simply patient, not wishing any of us to perish. A few verses later, he says we should count this patience as our salvation (II Peter 3:15). God is waiting on us.
However, there is an even better reason to be patient with yourself than simply God is patient with you.
God is Working On You
Not only is God waiting on us, God is working on us. Philippians 2:12-13 encourages us to keep working on ourselves, not because we are doing such a great job, not because we are perfect, not because we make no mistakes. We should keep working on ourselves because God is working on us and in us.
Romans 8:28-30 explains that God is going to bring us to conformity with Jesus. He is working on us and He will get us there. When we mess up, there is no need to throw our hands up and quit. Rather, be patient. God is working on us. We just need to keep working.
Let’s face it, we are all like toddlers struggling to walk in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ. As we start to pull up on the furniture, we are going to fall. We may even fall a lot. However, eventually, just as sure as little children eventually learn how to walk, we will to. Not because we’re such great walkers, but because we aren’t alone. God is holding our hand.
Even after we’ve been walking for a while, we may have a big fall. In fact, just this morning, I fell down the stairs (again). However, God is still working on us. He still loves us and is patient with us. We can be patient with ourselves as well.
Patient, not Permissive
Now, please don’t misunderstand. Romans 6:1-2 says, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Being patient with ourselves when we sin, doesn’t mean we are granted permission to sin. God’s patience with us is not a license to sin. Neither should our own patience be.
The point is simply that since we are growing and are not perfect yet (Philippians 3:12), we will stumble and fall. When we do, patience doesn’t tell us not to care and just stay on the ground wallowing in the mud. Patience says to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, pick up our cross and keep walking. Or rather, it tells us to let God pick us up, clean us off, give us our cross, and keep walking with Him.
I don’t know what has been happening in your life. I don’t know what struggles you have or what failures you’ve made. All I know is this, if you love God, He is working on you. Be patient with Him. Be patient with yourself. Love is patient. Why not love yourself today, cut yourself some slack. Be patient. You’ll make it. God has promised you will.
Come back next week, we’ll learn about being kind to ourselves.