“Love suffers long…” -1 Corinthians 13:4
Many translations change this verse to say “love is patient,” but I prefer leave in the bit about suffering. When we think about the word patience, we often think of not exploding at someone who annoys us, or keeping a cool temper when someone speaks harshly towards us. It is true that those things are important in loving others, but there is much more to patience than that.
Suffering happens in marriage. Although I am not married, I cannot think of one marriage I have encountered that has not gone through a trial; whether it is recovering from adultery, facing a crippling disease, or living with an unbelieving spouse. It is much easier to throw in the towel and walk away than it is to put up with long-term suffering. Our limited logic tells us that love should be easy, and if it isn’t – if any form of suffering is involved – we should bail.
Praise God that His love is not like that! How our Lord suffers in the name the love! How much does He suffer when you fail to acknowledge who He is? How much does He suffer while you forget Him and chase your idols? How much does He suffer when you bitterly accuse and reject Him? The cross was not the only place Jesus endured suffering. He suffered at the hands of Pharisees, He suffered at the hand of mockers, and He suffers when we reject the love He offers to us. Our Lord knows what it’s like to suffer long more than anyone who has ever lived. And being that He existed before time began, He also has suffered the longest of any of us.
Love is not failing to establish boundaries to protect ourselves, nor is it enabling someone so that they never face the consequences of their actions. But this world is utterly broken, and therefore, earthly love involves suffering. The test is loving in spite of suffering. Although we are not called to torture ourselves, we are called to love those who treat us badly (Luke 6:27-36). Sometimes that’s from a distance, sometimes that’s right where we’re standing. We must pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), forgive those who have hurt us (Colossians 3:13), and serving our spouses despite their selfishness because it pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). Love suffers long, but the Lord gives us strength. All we have to do is ask for it – He knows exactly how much strength we need and will provide it to us to love others just as He has loved us.