NOT long ago I was struck by the number of popular songs devoted to love. It seemed that nearly every song dealt with someone's anxiety about losing or finding love. The popularity of the theme isn't unusual. All of us want to feel loved and to be able to express love. Yet sometimes it seems difficult to find love or to show the love we feel for others. Very often this is because of a misunderstanding of what love truly is.
Love that can be lost, or that is unfaithful or warped in some way, has as its basis the belief that man is essentially material. From this mistaken standpoint, we would need to snatch every fleeting moment of happiness because human life is short and nothing is permanent -- however much we may want it to be.
There is, however, a truer understanding of love that will change our lives for the better. It will also do much to eliminate our anxiety about finding or losing love. It is the understanding that, in its purest sense, love is spiritual. This point rests on the Bible's teaching that God is Love and that because man is the offspring of God, being loved and loving are naturally part of man's being.
Through prayer, we can learn to know God, divine Love, and to feel the love that God has for us. This sense of being loved gives us more confidence in expressing love toward others, and it relieves the fear that we ourselves are not lovable.
As we draw closer to God in our thoughts and lives, we begin to understand truly that we each are actually spiritual. Since love is a spiritual quality that comes to each of us from God, we are fully able to express and to know love. We can never lose God's love.
Such certainty of God's love was clearly a major facet of Christ Jesus' ministry. His teachings and actions were always motivated by a pure understanding of God's, Love's, presence. And the standard he set for loving God and man is the one by which we can measure all love.
Jesus' teachings illustrate the fact that true love can only be defined in terms of one's relationship to God. In the Bible, John states this point clearly when he writes in his first letter, ``Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.''
Knowing God is essential to developing a permanent understanding of love and to feeling genuinely loved, no matter where we are. Since God is infinite Love, we can never be cut off from Him or lose His love. Yet God's infinity doesn't make Him amorphous or remote. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this point. She writes, ``Paganism and agnosticism may define Deity as `the great unknowable;' but Christian Science brings God much nearer to man, and makes Him better known as the All-in-all, forever near.''
And because the nature of Love is to be lovable and approachable, we can turn to Love in prayer to meet our individual need to feel loved. This happens in two ways. First, we become more alert to see how we can be more loving toward others. And as we learn to accept -- even welcome -- Love's presence, we find ourselves quite naturally expressing love toward those around us. At the same time, each effort to love others helps us to draw closer to God, to Love. Our certainty of His presence grows stronger.
Knowing God and loving our fellow humans isn't just an intellectual activity. It opens the way for us to learn that His love is always with us and to bring this comforting certainty of God's care to others.