To Love with All My Heart

As I was jotting notes of what God was laying on my heart this week, I was reminded that we are to love one another. We cannot say we love God Whom we have not seen if we are unable to love people whom we have seen. Love is of God, and those who are born of Him love others. Our display to a watching world is to be one of love. And we are to love others from a pure heart, fervently.* But much can happen in the course of a week to cause our hearts to want to be unloving. We can be cut off in traffic, encounter a grouchy cashier, sit beside a coarse coworker, not be attended to by an attendant, be disrespected by a child, be neglected by a friend, be disregarded by a spouse, and be badmouthed by a neighbor, just to name a few encounters. Every realm of our relationships, both public and private, is an arena for negative interactions, an opportunity for unforgiveness to begin. The level of severity in the circumstance frequently impacts how quickly our negative response arises, but an accumulation of offenses can finally bring us to a breaking point, too.

Two years ago, I shared about circumstances such as these. I am reposting the article today because it is just as applicable now as it was then, and God’s Word never changes. We are called to be like Jesus—and He gave His all in love, even for those who gave Him nothing but trouble, heartache, discouragement, disrespect, unkindness, rejection, and death. He is our example, and He is our strength to do the impossible. He can help us to love and to do it with all our hearts.

With All My Heart

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

Recently, someone deeply wounded me emotionally. I then got to the point where I cycled through a host of negative emotions that seemed to keep coming around to anger. The offense ate at me for days. My brain was imagining the next conversation I would have with this person and what I would say. I was going to give this person a piece of my mind. But then, God stepped in and reminded me I was not behaving appropriately. Vengeance is His, not mine. He sees every tear I cry. He knows my pain. He endured the deepest pain of all—separation from His Son because of the sin of humankind being placed upon Him at the cross—and yet He loved with all His heart. So, I agreed with God and changed my thoughts. But then later on in the course of the day, my anger and hurt resurfaced. I battled back and forth, day after day, not being able to release the hurt. I was losing peace, productivity, and even sleep. And then one day, I cried out with all my heart and said, “God, what do I do about this? Please, help me.” God subsequently spoke to my heart and said, “Love this person well.” I agreed. I needed to love this person well. I needed to do what God wanted me to do. I needed to do the right thing regardless of what the other person had done. So, I began to think and speak different thoughts. “I will love you. I forgive you.” But I had to go a step further, I had to move this from a matter of the mind and tongue to a matter of the heart. I had to allow God to help me love this person with all my heart.

And then came the face-to-face meeting with this person, our first encounter since the painful situation had unfolded. I held my tongue and showed love and kindness. Victory! God had brought healing to my heart! And because my heart was right with God, healing entered this particular relationship, whereas the opening of my mouth with my previous thought pattern would have utterly destroyed it.

I am trying to live as God would have me to live. He is love, and He offers forgiveness. I have asked Him to teach me His ways and unite my heart to reverence Him.2 When I go off and start living for myself, caught up in my ways and my sins, my heart is divided. And, I cannot serve two masters. I am either serving God, or I am serving myself. Thus, when I recently allowed these negative thoughts and emotions to take over my life, I was not following God; I was following myself. I was not exhibiting love, and I was not exhibiting forgiveness. I was not loving God with my whole heart; yet, this is something I always need to be doing. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this was His response: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”Jesus also spoke about forgiving others, and at one point He answered a question to say that it should be done 490 times—for the same person!4

So, onward and forward I go, seeking to love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. And when I am wholeheartedly doing this, I will be able to love my neighbor as myself. 

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.

All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.

For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.5


* These reminders can be found in John 13:35, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 4:7–16, 20–21.

1 Psalm 86:12

2 See Psalm 86:11.

3 Taken from Matthew 22:37–40.

4 See Matthew 18:22.

Psalm 86:5–12

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, February 4, 2023. “With All My Heart” article originally posted April 18, 2021.

Bitterness on Fire

Smoky Sunset posted on Facebook Aug 27, 2018

He’s at it again. There she goes again. They’ve added more infractions to their already tall stacks. On, and on, and on they go, hurting me repeatedly. And while their lists of wrongdoings grow longer, my root goes deeper–my root of bitterness.

Every time pain is inflicted, I add another layer to my root. It is somewhat like the rings inside a tree trunk, growing more with an abundance of water. In this case, it is my root of bitterness, growing more with each drop of someone else’s behavior that I let seep into my heart. While their stacks of offenses mount, my root digs deeper. I am building something, just as they are, but instead of stacking things upward as they do, I am spiraling down, digging a deep, dark hole in the soil of my heart. And as I do this, I am going against God’s building plan. We are to be rooted and built up in Him, not torn down by our death grip on sin. We are to grow up into Him in all things, not let ourselves or others send us into a downward spin.*

God designed the soil of our hearts to be seeded with good things. It is to be plowed up and ready to hold things that will nurture us and nourish the lives with which we share the harvest. The rocks and the old roots, and any other debris, need to be removed for the best and most fertile conditions.

What will be pulled from the soil of our hearts at harvest time? Ugly, twisted roots that we neglected to tend to or beautiful grain and luscious fruit? What will the harvest of our souls provide to the souls of others?

Don’t do unto others the awful things they’ve done unto you; instead, do unto others as Jesus has done. Give lovingly, sacrificially, with a beautiful heart and a grand purpose. Follow His example. If anyone ever had a right to be bitter, it would be Him. But instead of allowing bitterness to consume Him, He served the world around Him, bringing hope, joy, peace, and healing. He replaced ugly debris in the world around Him with the beautiful gift of His love and salvation. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

We are to abide in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are not to abide in ourselves, trying to be the vine, making bitterness our root and using our branches to hit back at others. Jesus is the Master Gardener, and His forgiveness quenches every sin. He is the source of strength to help us defeat this obstinate and seemingly unconquerable problem of bitterness. He can miraculously uproot things from our hearts that ought not be there, if we will allow Him to tend the soil of our hearts. We can grow upward into beautiful trees of righteousness, plantings of the Lord, that He might be glorified.**

Let the root of bitterness be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.  And when the smoke clears, the beauty of grace will remain.

*See Colossians 2:6-7
**See what God can do for His people John 15:1-17, Isaiah 61:3, 10-11


©Text and photos, Francee Strain, October 26, 2019