Today, I'm writing as a tribute to a lady who truly suffered long. Through years of suffering and pain, she considered others and was truly a shining light. In the last weeks of her slow and agonising death, she wrote letters of encouragement and gratitude to many people.
And this is what I have just "gotten" recently - "...love suffers long and is kind..." (I Corinthians 13:4) It's not just the "suffering long", but the kindness at the same time. We live in a world that tends to make heroes of people just because they suffer. We call it courage when someone who is suffering goes on doing the things that they enjoy most. But that's not real courage, it's just common sense. It makes sense to spend lots of time with your family and friends when you're in agony - it will probably (although not for everyone, admittedly) get your mind off the pain.
Agape (remember that word for the love that God is?) is another whole level. It's being kind to people who don't necessarily make you feel good (while suffering). It's being kind to people who are contributing to your suffering (think of Jesus' crucifixion.. remember, God is love, so whatever Jesus did was love).
Agape suffers long and is kind. That means it's relentlessly kind, not just for a day or two, or even a year or two while the world is watching. Agape is kind for twenty years of pain and suffering. Which is what makes Agape so completely different from our human definition of love - it's impossible. And yet, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Yes, you and I will stumble in this life, but if we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the impossible - including being kind when we suffer... for a very long time.
Want to understand more about the Holy Spirit and how it can change your life? Try reading The Holy Spirit: God's Power at Work from the free Good News Magazine.