Recently, I had the experience of thinking through how my relationships with others relate back to my relationship with God. As I began to think about it, I realized that by giving others my quality time, I show them I love and care about them and I show them God loves them, too. I also use quality time (because this is precious and an effort for me as an introvert) to care for others through listening, nurturing, and staying present with them. In fact, if I carry this a step further I give my quality time to God when I choose to study his word, pray, and make worship a priority.
As I reflected on that, I thought about how often we show others love the way we want to receive it. I don’t believe we do this out of being selfish but, instead, because we are treating others the way we would like to be treated or loved. This made me question: Do we often show our love to God through how we feel the most loved? If so, do people display this differently? If that is the case, it may explain why different people “serve” him in various ways. While this may sound sort of strange, please, before you completely dismiss it, read through the entire post.
There is a great book called the The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman. The book focuses on five main ways people give and receive love. In this book, one can learn their main love language as well as the love languages of those they care about. Often times, when people don’t feel loved it is because they are being given love in a way that simply doesn’t register on their “love scale.” In his book, Dr. Chapman outlines that the five main ways people feel loved are: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch (intimacy).
So how does this relate back directly to how we demonstrate our love for God?
This article is simply meant to scratch the surface on this topic. I am hoping it will help us become more aware of how we show our love for God. Also, I hope it helps us make sure that we aren’t only showing God love “our way,” while neglecting what he says about how we are to love him. Further in Chapman’s book, his focus is romantic and family focused love. However, I firmly believe because we are human we often default to what feels like love to us unless we make a conscious effort not to do so. I would like to outline some ways I believe the five love languages are often used by people to show their love for God, and then focus on some Scriptures that tell us how God wants us to love him.
Gifts is the first way that some people show love. This can be things that are made, focusing in on what someone has said they would want, finding something that you think the person would enjoy, or that would benefit them. It’s interesting because I recall hearing at one point that a gift and a present were not the same thing. Ever thought about a present as being something that the giver picked out because it was what that they wanted the person to have, while a gift was something that the person who was receiving the gift wanted? If you did, would it change how you decided to use “gifts” as a way to show your love for God or others?
The second way people show love is through quality time. Quality time has to do with making a real connection on a deep level with someone and is done through spending concentrated time with someone that is cared about. This may be done in conjunction with an activity, but the person who uses quality time is focused on the experience of the time spent together rather than the activity that is done. They are interested in a quality interaction that allows them to give and receive ideas and express their feelings or learn more about themselves or others.
The third way is words of affirmation. This is done through making positive statements, being there for emotional support, and speaking what is felt such as saying I love you or expressing your thoughts and feelings through words. Some people are very good about communicating their feelings through words such as sending cards, emails, or making regular phone calls to leave positive thoughts for others.
The fourth way people show love is through acts of service. I can think of many people who do this through doing things for others. This may be running errands, picking up dinner, offering a ride to someone, or simply doing a task that they know the recipient will benefit from having done for them.
The fifth and final one is physical touch/intimacy. This is those who feel most loved from hugs, kisses, cuddling, or some type of physical contact. While sex is part of romantic relationships, those whose primarily love language is physical touch display their love and caring to others through handshakes, hugs, and other physical forms of affection.
Now that I’ve outlined the basics of each love language, I will discuss some of the ways I see people use their love language to serve God. Gifts can include monetary as well as using one’s talents as a way to serve God. I wonder if we were to take the idea of the gift versus present that I outlined above and use that as a measure to what we are giving to God. Would we change anything about how we serve him? Would we begin to focus more on giving gifts or presents? Is it our heart attitude that determines whether our giving is a gift or present?
In thinking about quality time, does it mean that those who have this as their primary love language are more focused on how God “serves” them through quality time or how they serve God? I mention this because sometimes we may spend our quality time with God in prayer or serving others, but do we remember to also spend quality time with God in his word? This is where he gets a chance to speak to us directly. If we choose not to do so, are we having a one sided relationship or short-changing God from impacting our lives in the fullest sense that he can?
When thinking of words of affirmation, I think of people who spend a lot of time in prayer. They may also use their talents to encourage others who are struggling. I think of those who are involved in card ministries, who call the sick and the shut ins and use their words to encourage and build others up. In thinking about this, do we use our words to build others up? Do we praise God with our lips or do we spend our time complaining about how we are going through trial after trial and feel like life isn’t fair?
Thinking about acts of service, are we involved in offering to help those who are moving, teach bible classes, do yard work at the building, maintenance, help with Lord supper, cooking a meal, decorating for church events, or serving others as needs come up?
With physical touch, I think of those at church who are enthusiastic greeters. They give hugs, hearty handshakes, they are willing to hold your hand or put a hand on your shoulder when they see you are upset. While physical touch isn’t my primary means of feeling loved, I will say that when someone reaches out and gives you a hug or shows you physical affection it can be very comforting.
Now that I have outlined the basics of how I see each gift can be used by Christians in general, I would like to focus on how God “feels loved.” When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matthew 22:36-39). In thinking about this, I believe it is important that we recognize how we primarily show God our love and work to love him with all of our hearts. This includes stepping out of our primary love language so that we are able to serve all types of people as well as fully serve God.
I challenge you today to think about how you love and serve God and others, and to find more ways to serve them in the ways that they feel loved. I believe the five love languages is wonderful because it allows us to recognize that we should be tuned into how we love others and strive to love others in a way that they will feel the most loved.
As always thank you for reading my post. I would love to get your input about how you use your love language to serve God and others.
Rachael Heib is an LPC (licensed professional counselor) and is working on a certification in Play Therapy. She obtained her Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of LaVerne, California and her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Argosy University, Atlanta, Georgia. Rachael’s mission in life is to enrich the lives of children and adults through resolving conflicts, applying biblical concepts, and encouraging people to use their natural abilities and talents to better their lives and the lives of those around them. Rachael is married to her high school sweetheart Philipp. They have three bio children and are raising three more. They have fostered a total of five children. To learn more about Rachael, visit her website: https://musingsfromatherapist.wordpress.com/about-rachael/. You can follow Rachael at @theracuppy.