True Love is NOT About Feelings or Emotions – Anna Duggar Understands That
The Ashley Madison scandal rocked the country. It was particularly devastating for the hundreds of pastors and church leaders that had their names revealed as clients of the cheating website. One of the most public accounts was that of former Family Research Council associate and star of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, Josh Duggar.
Just days after the hack that revealed the names of men across the country that had signed up with Ashley Madison, Duggar publicly apologized. But not long after it was revealed that Duggar was addicted to pornography and had cheated on his wife Anna multiple times. This news prompted him to resign from The Family Research Council and seek professional help at a treatment facility.
The Duggar family issued a statement saying they were disappointed in Josh, but also reaffirmed their support for him and his wife Anna. Other than that statement the family has been mostly quiet about the incident. Recently however both Jessa Duggar (sister of Josh) and Anna (Josh’s wife) have shared how deeply the revelations of Josh’s unfaithfulness hurt their family.
Jessa made this comment:
“We were devastated…It seemed like it was just a bad dream, like how could this happen? How do you go from being in this wonderful marriage relationship to living sort of a double life and being unfaithful to your spouse?”
Anna recalled being bewildered and trying to figure out how such events could’ve happened while remaining strong in her faith:
“How could this happen in our marriage? Josh was my first love, he’s my one and only…But I knew that my only hope was to cling to my faith, because I know that if I went off of what I was feeling, I would turn a mess into a disaster. It is such a betrayal for a spouse to go through what we’re walking through, and it was hard.”
(Click here for a video interview with Anna Duggar)
What strikes me about her comment is her realization that her emotions were not trustworthy. Anna seems to recognize that true love is not about feelings but choices. In our current culture love is an emotion. It’s something people feel, and, therefore, can un-feel. So it’s no surprise that people fall into and out of love. But this show a misunderstanding of what true love is. The reality is that love is a verb. Love is the decisions we make each and every day.
Anna is right that what she is going through is a betrayal, and it’s hard. But she is also correct in that if she were to react according to her emotions she would surely make a “mess” into a “disaster.” So often people turn a mess, a fixable mess that could be overcome, into a disaster. Often that disaster is permanent and cannot be overcome. They do this by reacting emotionally rather than making choices consistent with a proper understanding of love.
Let’s use this example to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Josh and Anna got married. They stood before friends, family, a pastor and God and promised to love each other and be faithful to one another for their entire lives. They did something that was consistent with their confession of love for one another. And each and every day after that wedding they continued to prove that they loved one another by their actions. Then, from seemingly out of nowhere it was revealed that Josh had cheated on Anna several times. That action was not consistent with Josh’s confession of love for Anna. That action was not in any way loving towards her.
Now, at this point many people would abruptly file for divorce, move out of the house, and begin what is often a very nasty divorce proceeding that includes custody hearings. And forever the lives of these two people, and their families are changed. But just as the action of adultery is not loving; the action of filing for divorce and taking kids away from one of their parents is not loving either.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that when a spouse cheats the other does not have a right to file for divorce. But we’re not talking about rights, we’re talking about what constitutes love. Adultery tears a family apart and can leave lasting scars on others. But divorce is no different. I would even be so bold as to say more people have been scarred by divorce than by adultery. So this isn’t a question of rights but of what constitutes love.
Now, let’s suppose a man and woman are married and go through the same situation of adultery but instead of ending in a nasty divorce the offender repents, asks for forgiveness, and is forgiven. They work on their marriage and repair the damage done by the offender’s adultery. Instead of tearing kids away from one of their parents they talk about forgiveness and why it’s important. They explain that love is about making choices and not feelings. They talk about what it means to make a covenant with God. They build a strong marriage that lasts for 50 years. Which of these two scenarios shows more evidence of love?
It seems to me that Christians have been just as guilty in “redefining marriage” as anyone else. Christians have been quick to take advantage of “no-fault” divorce when it’s convenient. Christians’ belief on everything from co-habitation to the meaning of love and marriage and our acceptance of divorce has been just as harmful as anything our court system has done. We have not done a very good job of modeling to our lost friends and family the meaning of covenant marriage before God. But it’s because we have not come to understand that love is not a feeling but a choice.
Feelings are fleeting and fickle. Feelings change with the weather, our mood, and how our week is going. It becomes easy to blame our behavior on feelings. We justify our harsh or rash actions on our feelings as if that somehow excuses us and the world should get over it. But the Bible teaches us that love is an action.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16)
God didn’t write a poem or song, He didn’t gush ooey-gooey sentiments; God gave. God displayed His love with one of the greatest actions in history. Which is why Jesus taught us that the greatest commandments were to “love God” and “love people.” We do this by our actions.
We all know that talk is cheap. It’s the actions that accompany that talk that proves what we’re saying. I, for one, am hoping that Josh and Anna are able to continue to love one another as much as the day they were married. I hope their actions from this day forward signal to everyone around them that they have a deep, abiding love that doesn’t change with the weather. I’m sure it will take considerable work for them to overcome these circumstances. But biblical love has the ability to transcend circumstances because its foundation is in Christ rather than the sinful heart. So I know they can do it.
My prayer is that more Christian families will teach their kids what true love is all about. It’s not the sugary sweet Valentine’s Day sentiments expressed in cards and modern “love songs.” True love, biblical love, is the choices we make each and every day to do what is in the best interest of the people we say we love. It’s laying ourselves aside and putting the ones we love first. If Christians can begin to model true love and biblical marriage better, perhaps others will long for what we have. Then, and only then, can we explain the definition of marriage and why it is sacred.