Nobody needed to teach my son that a demonstration of affection can benefit the demonstrator as much as the object. In fact, this seems to be exactly how society views love today - it’s all about getting your desires met and your dreams fulfilled, and as soon as that’s not the case it’s time to move on. Your personal pleasure comes first, in a world where ‘happily ever after’ is the goal. As Christians, we deplore this idea in principle; we know that biblical love is self-sacrificing and covenant-keeping, and always seeks the best for the other person. In practice, however, I think we women especially are susceptible to what I’d call ‘sitcom syndrome.’
Most successful television shows (and, unfortunately, I’ve watched my fair share) revolve around a central couple who are usually in a “will they/won’t they end up together?” scenario. This is because love, and inevitably sex, sell. That heady mix of chemistry, romance, loss, danger and ultimately belonging together draws you in, has you rooting for the characters (despite their obvious immorality) and leaves you craving a bit more drama in your own life. If you’re already married your relationship can start to seem a bit humdrum and if you’re single you can feel incomplete. Timothy Keller, in his devotional ‘A Seal On The Heart’, theorises why:
“At one time we expected marriage…to provide love, support and security. But for meaning in life...and self-identity we looked to God...Today...We look to sex and romance to give us what we used to get from faith in God.”
These TV programmes are written by lost men and women, so it should be no surprise they believe we, as humans, can fill a void that, in reality, only God can fill. But as a Christian I should know better. We are all sinners and the idea, that two very imperfect people could somehow be perfect for each other, or that I can find unending satisfaction in another human being as flawed and changeable as I am, is illogical. Even if you were compatible to begin with, Keller argues, the passage of time, arrival of children and other pressures will mean that neither of you will stay the same; the honeymoon doesn’t last forever.
Thankfully, the Bible is full of examples of a very different kind of love to the unrealistic one we see in the media. Throughout the Old Testament, it is referred to as ‘steadfast love’, and nowhere more so than in the Psalms. Despite the psalmist’s own colourful love life, his poetry makes it clear the most satisfying love he knew was that of His God, whom he describes as:
“he who fashions the hearts of them all...[his] eye...is on those...who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:15,18 ESV).
If you’re single and looking for ‘the one’, then don’t look to the screen for inspiration, look to the Scriptures. See the One who loved you, a wretched sinner, unto death, and find your hope in His steadfast love. If you’re married, don’t look to your spouse to complete you, look to your Saviour, the One who fashioned your heart and made it with a longing only He can satisfy.
May we seek Him first, love Him foremost and find, as David did:
“our heart is glad in him...Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:21,22 ESV).