Why I have a problem with the phrase I love you

As a young kid my family said they loved me all the time, at the end of conversations, saying goodbye, even just leaving the room. Even now my mum and dad says it to me on the phone at the end of our conversation. So do my friends. But once I became a christian the phrase took on a different meaning. However before we even go there, lets look at what ‘I love you’ even mean? 

If I asked my friends each person would say different things. Some would say it is a feeling or an emotion, some would say its a decision someone makes regarding another person. But what is the actual dictionary definition? ‘To have strong feelings of affections or a great interest and pleasure in something’. 

But isn’t love more than just feelings? Because feelings change everyday. Isn’t it just more than a selfish state of a heart? Because there will be times where I don’t take pleasure in being with a friend because relationships are hard. Does that mean I no longer love them? 

Well you could say actions have to be involved as well. Because quite often people will say the words but don’t have the actions to back it up. Which does make sense. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations were I love you has been followed by betrayal or manipulation. That isn’t love is it? 

So what even is it? 

Well true love, biblical love is sacrificial. Now you can also argue that you don’t have to be a christian to show this type of love. And that is true to some extent, individuals in the army die to save another life, however this type of love is still based on condition. It’s still based on the condition that you would do the same for them too. But true sacrificial love involves giving to people when you get nothing out of it. For this to happen, it involves knowing the only true and perfect love that has ever existed. Not only do you need to know about it but you need to truly know it.

When Jesus died for us on the cross, he got nothing out of it. He did it purely so we could have a relationship with him, but he didn’t need us, he doesn’t need us. 

True love gives to others when you get nothing out of it. For me that means persevering even when I often don’t want to. For others it is continuing to show love to others when they feel no emotion, for others still it is clearing your calendar so you can be there for another going through suffering.

It isn’t that I have a problem with the words ‘I love you’, I have a problem with societies view on what it exactly is. 

Let’s Start At The Beginning: AKA My Testimony

Even though I grew up in a non-Christian family, we did go to church every Sunday as nominal Christians. Christianity to me was a religion that I didn’t care about. It was a Sunday morning task that allowed me to see my friends (the few I did have). Although as I experienced bullying and I didn’t have many friends, I never had a true sense of purpose or belonging.

These factors contributed to me developing depression about 8 years ago. I started to question the purpose of my life and I wondered how I could make friends when my personality wasn’t one the world particularly liked.

When I was 15 I got invited to a friends youth group. There I heard for the first time that I could have a relationship with God, however, I didn’t understand how to get this. I had no understanding of the gospel. As I was still struggling massively with depression, I felt like I could never be happy again. This loving God didn’t add up to the pain I felt.

When I was 18 I started my first year at uni, I prayed at the beginning of the year that I wanted to get closer to God (As I did believe I was a Christian). And what happened next was the most painful 18 months of my life so far but I wouldn’t change them for the world.

During Christmas of 2017, the anxiety I had became crippling and debilitating and the depression was getting worse. As I was stuck in bed, the only thing near me was a bible.

Therefore in 3 weeks, I read the entire new testament. And in the confusion, pain, heartache and tears (and sometimes no tears depending on how depressed I was), I found a love that was unlike anything I had never known before.

During that 18 months, I met people who showed me unfailing love, kindness and help. These people directed me to the gospel, and I found a truth that became fundamental in my life. Jesus died for me, he put all of my sin, pain, depression, anxiety and bullying all upon his own shoulders, he died a sinners death so I didn’t have to.

In some ways, this made things harder, for the first time I only had the option to live a life glorifying to him. I am starting to learn how to live and not just survive.

I want to share this in the hope that it may help someone see that even if it feels hopeless, the God of hope is on your side.