It’s Only Real Love When It’s Hard

I possess a doctoral degree in Strategic Leadership, but sometimes I feel like I’m still in Kindergarten when it comes to some areas of life.

One such course of needed study and growth is the biblical quality of love.

Next week my wife, Shirley, and I celebrate forty years of marriage. I would have liked to have taken her on a cruise, a romantic getaway, or even to a nearby Bed ‘n Breakfast.

But yesterday, Shirley had major female surgery (a seven hour procedure), and for the next 6-8 weeks she will be convalescing and I will be her main caregiver at home.

But that’s okay. I know I have a lot to learn about the greatest subject in the world–love.

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

I know I could be writing about a lot of world events today. As I punch the keyboard, Hurricane Matthew is bearing down with ferocity on the US east coast. Two nights ago, Mike Pence proved his worthiness of Donald Trump’s VP pick by easily upping Tim Kaine in the vice presidential debate.

In about thirty days one of the most important presidential elections of our lifetime will take place between Donald Trump–weak on character and good on policies–and Hillary Clinton–who is corrupt in character and disastrous on policies. She would lead the American nation off of a progressive cliff.

But today, I’m thinking about none of those issues because love calls.  My wife is resting comfortably at home while still hooked up to some technology. Her seven hour surgery two days ago was longer than the four surgeries that I have experienced before combined.

While I waited anxiously for her in the waiting room, two hours beyond the scheduled time, I thought about our lifetime of love and countless expressions of it. I pondered the privilege of having six great children–ironically the cause of her female surgery. I also had some tearful moments wondering why it was taking so long while pushing the thought from my mind that maybe something was wrong.

I knew she wasn’t having life threatening surgery, but this was the first time in six decades she’d been under anesthetic–and at our age, anything can happen. I was actually a little surprised at how emotional I was throughout the day. Tears came to my eyes when I saw her smiling face a few hours later.

Our love goes deep, and it’s only real love when it’s hard.

What do I mean by that?

Jesus told us that it’s easy to love people when things are familiar and good: “ If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46,47).

What’s hard about love is when you are not friends and things are not going well. That applies to two primary situations–loving your enemies and loving sacrificially when times are difficult. Let me focus on the second scenario.

For many years, I’ve defined love this way: Love is doing what’s best for another person from God’s point of view. In difficult circumstances or situations love oftentimes demands great sacrifice and continual death to self to really benefit another. The other person needs you, sometimes desperately. You need to change your schedule, your commitments, your likes and dislikes, and many other self-oriented things.

Right now, that’s what love demands of me in caring for Shirley. For the next week or so I need to carry her through a difficult time–loss of sleep, caring for wounds, dealing with the unpleasantness of restoring bowel movements and cleaning up messes.

For weeks after, I will cook some of the meals, do the grocery shopping, handle the laundry, and care for Shirley’s shut-in parents. For quite a while I need to do all the lifting–even a gallon of milk. Classes must be canceled, appointments postponed.

In the past when I’ve had surgeries or accidents, Shirley was my gracious caregiver and performed it beautifully.

Now it’s my turn to learn true servant-oriented love.

When she came home from the hospital yesterday I needed to make her some dinner. Since moving to a new home three years ago, I’ve never cooked a meal and don’t even known where many of the kitchen utensils reside. I even had trouble turning on the gas stove! Then, I made the only thing that I’m really able to cook–scrambled eggs.

It’ll be a miracle if Shirley nutritionally survives the next month. But I’ve got to rise to it.

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

While I was waiting for Shirley’s surgery to be completed, I read the current number one  bestseller in America–Bill O’Reilly’s Killing the Rising Sun. I strongly recommend it. It shares the horrific story of World War II in the Pacific Theater where the United States defeated the militant Japanese Empire. Twenty-four million people died because of Japanese aggression and savagery.

The book is dedicated to all those who served in the military to defeat Japan. It tells numerous stories of heroism and bravery of those who laid their lives down to free the world from tyranny. They did it because they loved liberty and their own nation more than themselves.

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

While I was waiting in surgery, I needed someone to deliver something to me at the hospital. I called a nearby family friend who had just gotten up. He didn’t seem too interested in helping me and kept trying to find a way out of the errand. Eventually, I did it myself.

His response instructed me. You don’t love if your heart isn’t willing to sacrifice. It’s easy to “love” when it costs you nothing. But that’s not true love–just doing what’s convenient.

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

I’ve seen real love demonstrated by my parents. For a number of years, my mother took care of my aging father as he faced various medical problems. Occasionally the roles were reversed. There were numerous ambulance trips to the hospital and the anxious prayers that accompanied them. There were weeks and months of exhausting care.

They both needed to look past the beauty of youth and deal with sagging skin, no privacy, clipping aged toenails, and cleaning up errant bed-pans. This sacrifice usually fell to my mom and she did a superb job of serving my dad until he drew his last breath. I learned much by watching them.

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

I also know that I haven’t come near to experiencing what some people have faced in the “exam” of real love, such as:

  • Caring for a dying child who passed away at a young age.
  • Dealing with a handicapped relative over a lifetime–putting another’s greater needs ahead of your own.
  • Serving in a war zone or caring for the destitute after some terrible natural disaster.
  • Enduring sex slavery, being abducted to fight as a child soldier, being raped and abused by evil aggressors–and having the opportunity to help. 

Many people in our world daily face terror and difficulty that can only be eased or erased by those who reach out with true love.

Jesus is, of course, our greatest example of true self-sacrificing love. He left the comforts of heaven to walk the dusty streets of earth. He healed the sick and raised the dead, and most didn’t respond favorably to his compassion and concern.

He ultimately laid his life down on a barbaric cross to make atonement for the entire world–and this after they’d spit on him, whipped him and yelled “Crucify him!”

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

It’s only real love when it’s hard.

Our 40th anniversary arrives on Monday. Between now and then I will be at home, caring for Shirley and trying to nurse her back to health. When our special day arrives, the only thing on the calendar is a trip to the doctor to have some technology removed. Then we will return home to keep healing, loving, remembering that we made a pledge four decades ago to stand by one another “in sickness and in health.”

It might be easy to feel sorry for ourselves. Wouldn’t our love be greater if accompanied by the blessings of health and excitement or luxury and travel?

No. Absolutely not.

This year we get the privilege of experiencing the true heart of love which is intimate sacrificial caring for another. The fluff will be gone, the dross burned away, and the real deal left to sparkle and shine. This is going to be the most loving anniversary we’ve ever known or experienced.

It’s only true love when it’s hard.

And… very precious to God.



  1. Gayle on October 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Will be praying for fast healing for Shirley, grace for you, and an outpouring of God's love on and in you both! Especially on your anniversary. Thanks for sharing with your extended family in Christ… hugs.

    Gayle Thacker

  2. Gerry on October 7, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Hi Ron,
    How tender and wonderful was your blog. I believe that God allows all of His 'kids" to walk through tough times of one sort or another in our lifetime. You already know that Larry had his difficult times with his late wife, Jeri. I too went through this with two husbands who ultimately died of cancer. It's never easy; but when you love someone and most especially love Jesus with your entire heart, these times though difficult are not impossible. Instead they give us what God is wanting us to learn and experience to hone us in our walk with Him. I have often been told that I am weird as I share that I am beyond blessed because in my lifetime, I was able to have my mother, my father, and two husbands leave this life to be with Jesus while living in my home and in their bed where they all professed to want to be when they passed on. Some think this is morbid. I think I was blessed.
    Please know that my thoughts, my prayers, and my love reach out to you and Shirley always, but now in these more difficult times during the healing of her body. I honestly believe this anniversary will be one of your best and one of your most memorable. You are blessed!!!!
    Love you both,

  3. Ron Boehme on October 7, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Ron…thank you so much for sharing this. Although I've known/been around you more than Shirley, Judi and I still connect you with Mike and Lynnie, and the times you were in the Caribe and DC. And of course, you and I have been doing some communication over the years. I always read all of the stuff we get from you.

    This "It's only true love when it's hard" gets down to the nitty-gritty of life. Judi and I will be praying for both, you and Shirley…that the healing will be totally successful, and that you will be up to the task of "demonstrating love when it is hard."

    However, when it is our mate, and the relationship has grown with the 'spiritual thread' binding it together, the "hard" part is seeing our mate being deprived, for a season, of normal living, but the decisions re doing what you can to help her to suffer the least, and to care for her, are easy. There is absolutely no way you will less than the needful.

    Be assured of our continuing prayers. Keep us posted on progress….and thanks a jillion for the part you've had in Mike and Lynnies life…because we know in some of that, 'love was hard.'

    Bob Waymire

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