What does it look like to practice love in action? Is loving others or being “the hands and feet of Jesus” just a nice term we throw around in Christianity? I’ve been challenged recently to learn about how to put God’s love in action, and I encourage you to take some time to think about it as well.
In today’s conversation with my friend Somer Colbert, we talk about what it can mean to practice love in action in everyday life. We also discuss how we get in our own way, as well as what God is really requiring of us, when it comes to loving well.
Somer is a leader of an online ministry called Ahavah in Our Hearts. She has an amazing Facebook community, she is on Instagram, and she also has a podcast called Love Where You Are. This conversation really encouraged and inspired me, and I can’t wait to share it with you!
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT PRACTICING LOVE IN ACTION IN THIS EPISODE:
- [1:42] Somer’s online ministry, Ahavah in Our Hearts
- [4:14] Practicing love in action and loving tangibly, so that the gospel can be spread
- [6:33] Obstacles to putting love in action and to loving the way we are called to do
- [9:41] The mindset that underlies the ability to love
- [11:29] What God is asking of us regarding our time and energy
- [15:02] The process of being aware of, and learning to obey, prompting from the Lord
- [18:07] Giving yourself grace during difficult seasons – you are making a difference
- [25:12] Continuing to love through times of overwhelm and low energy
- [28:08] Setting boundaries: receiving God’s love before giving it to others
- [35:57] Putting love in action for the people closest to you
[1:42] Somer’s online ministry, Ahavah in Our Hearts
The Lord had taken Somer and her husband on a five-year adoption journey and they had not seen that come to fruition. They were in a weary place, but the Lord led Somer and told her that this child was actually going to be in ministry.
Somer’s husband stumbled upon the word “Ahavah” while listening to a podcast, and they started to dive deep into its meaning. It is a Hebrew word for ‘love’, and the root word “ahav” means “to give”. It redefines the idea of love – instead of just warm, fuzzy feelings, it’s more of an action word. It speaks to the intentionality of what showing love looks like. The heart of the ministry is showing God's love in a big way, even through simple acts of service.
[4:14] Practicing love in action and loving tangibly, so that the gospel can be spread
Somer often tells her community that if we are breathing and we love Jesus, we have a ministry. Somer encourages women to see what their ministry is in their current season of life. It will change over time, but often we underestimate the impact we have and overcomplicate what we think ministry is.
We often see ministry as someone else’s job or something that requires a theology degree. Yet the vast majority of us don’t operate in that space. The way we interact with others – the way that we serve, the way that we respond, and the way that we communicate – are powerful opportunities to put love in action. We are the mouthpieces of the gospel here to show others that it doesn’t always take this big, grand gesture. Sometimes it is the simplest thing that can reach someone’s heart.
[6:33] Obstacles to putting love in action and to loving the way we are called to do
You can often boil it down to two things that hinder us: our hurts and our hang ups. We all have them because we’re human and we live in a broken world. We limit ourselves when it comes to things we struggle with. That renders us completely ineffective and makes us feel unworthy.
Somer encourages us to realize that, first of all, nobody relates to “perfect”. The only perfect one is Jesus. It is in our brokenness, our hangups, and our struggles that actually cause us to be able to relate to others and their struggles. Relating to others in these ways allows us to step in and share the gospel in that way.
In Somer’s podcast series, she has been talking about the things that hinder us from loving. She tackles topics like anxiety, assumptions, and feeling hurt. Being busy is also a huge hindrance to being able to love well. We miss so much, even with our children and our spouses, because we are so busy and we feel pressured to fill every time slot in our days. This lack of rest leads to weariness, and then ultimately to a lack of joy. All of these things can hinder us from loving well, but if we can identify them and see them as a means to be able to relate to others and share the gospel, then we are on the right track.
[9:41] The mindset that underlies the ability to love
Many of us feel so wounded that we believe we aren’t of any worth to God. Yet if we don’t think we have anything to offer then how can we love others or ourselves well?
We need to fight against these ideas and remember that Christ loves us and died for us. That is where our value lies. He can use you because there is somebody else out there who feels the same way you do and has walked a similar path. You can speak to that in a way that somebody who hasn’t experienced it cannot.
[11:29] What God is asking of us regarding our time and energy
Time can seem like such a finite resource, especially in busy seasons of life. Somer urges us to be really aware of what we’re doing in our days and consider the true time commitment that would be required to show love to others. We believe “love in action” is time-consuming, but I’m not convinced it’s a huge time commitment. I believe it's availability and willingness in the moment.
If we overcomplicate things, love in action can seem overwhelming. Keep it simple. Love God, love others, share Christ. We miss out on so much by filling our days. Somer says, “If I have to rush to get to church so I can make choir practice, but I blow past someone who really needs me, then I’m missing the point. It is important for us to remember that availability is the most important thing.”
We don’t have to manufacture anything. We just make ourselves available, attune our hearts to God, and give him our “yes” each and every day. The rest is up to Him, because we are being obedient vessels.
[15:02] The process of being aware of, and learning to obey, prompting from the Lord
Somer shares that she learned about how to practice love in action through not obeying God and feeling that she was missing something in her faith. She shares that love in action can be even something as simple as driving through the coffee line and paying for the person behind us.
Sometimes we’re held back from doing these simple acts of service because we think it would be weird. Yet Somer points out that this perspective is still a focus on self and how others perceive us instead of giving freely.
Somer says we have to just be okay with an uncomfortable situation in the name of sharing about God’s love. In the times that the Lord has prompted Somer to reach out, she shares, she has never had a negative response.
Somer shares that sometimes when she and her family go out to eat at a restaurant they will ask the server how they can pray for him or her as they are about to bless their meal. Nine times out of ten, the server thanks them and shares something personal. “People are willing to share their stories when you are accessible and willing to listen,” Somer says.
While Somer and her family have had a couple instances where the servers have said, “no thank you,” it has never been a dramatic, humiliating display. This is why Somer says it is so important that we push past the fear and be obedient to the prompting we are receiving from the Lord.
Somer shares: “A gesture that is seemingly simple is like planting a seed, and that is where we become effective for the gospel. It doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate ministry. We are called to be the ‘hands and feet of Jesus,’ and that means doing the dirty grunt work day in and day out. People see that you will meet them where they are, show them you care, and you see them because that’s what Jesus did. And that’s what He wants us to do.”
[18:07] Giving yourself grace during difficult seasons – you are making a difference
There are definitely seasons where it can feel like we are not making a difference at all. We may be driving our kids around, taking care of toddlers all day, or doing another load of laundry for the hundredth time. It’s tempting to feel like we are trying to love every day, but we aren’t perfectly loving others. We can feel like we’re doing our best, but we’re wondering “is this really love in action”?
It’s important to recognize how we see things in the short term, because we think menial tasks don’t make a difference. We have to look at the long-term and say, “Am I bringing my children up in the fear and the admonition of the Lord?” Ultimately, ministry is about pointing others to Christ. It’s not always going to be quick, nor is it always going to be one impactful moment.
It’s likely going to be the little things that our kids will remember, Somer points out. Our kids will remember things like: “My mom showed up for me every day. My mom met my basic needs. My mom was patient with me when I messed up. My mom was there when I was struggling. My mom was wise counsel to me as I was growing and learning and making my own mistakes. She made a safe environment for me.”
“So, yes, tired Mama, what you’re doing is making an impact – even when you’re changing diapers, sweeping Cheerios, and dealing with tantrums,” Somer says.
For those who are frustrated by this advice, Somer totally understands and empathizes. “Give yourself permission to know that what you are doing is enough,” she says. “What you are doing is good, because that is what God has surrounded you with right now.”
[25:12] Continuing to love through times of overwhelm and low energy
When we are in survival mode, we have to adjust our expectations and give our imperfect best.
It is important to set boundaries regarding what we allow into our minds, and to guard against unrealistic expectations during times of overwhelm and low energy. Somer offers this encouragement: “God wants to meet us and walk with us right where we are. He wants to hold our hand, and it’s okay if we need to collapse into Him every single day. He will carry us through those hard times.”
[28:08] Setting boundaries: receiving God’s love before giving it to others
We first need to receive God’s love inside of us, and give it to ourselves through self-care. To practice love in action doesn’t mean that we have to constantly give without ever stopping to refuel. We have to be filled up in order to give out.
As women, we need to learn how to communicate our needs. We often take that passive aggressive approach and martyr ourselves, making us intolerable to live with. We have to remember and go back to Jesus’s example. The needs were constant and they were never all completely satisfied, but He still was very purposeful to withdraw and take that time to rest.
We need to be able to love well by drawing boundaries and letting people know what we need. Doing so models it for others, and sets the tone in our homes for others to communicate in a healthy way too. Communication is a big part of loving well.
There are going to be times where we can give more, and there are going to be times when we have to pull back and give ourselves permission to do so. There is a huge Boss Babe Culture making it seem like we have to be out there killing it all the time. That just isn’t right. If we are not operating from a place of overflow that has to come from our time of rest and sitting in the presence of the Holy Father. Then we aren’t being effective, anyway.
Somer shares that she prays to the Lord, ‘if these are not your words, don’t let me speak them’. The same could be said for actions: ‘If these are not your actions, don’t let me participate’. Being able to step back and evaluate where your cup is, where the water is, and what your margin is, is crucial.
Regarding love, 1 Corinthians 13 says, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
“If I serve and I don’t love, it’s worth nothing,” Somer adds. “Love is the highest thing that we operate from – everything has to be done through the lens of love. If we aren’t able to serve in an attitude of true love of Jesus, then it’s a “resounding gong”, as it says in 1 Corinthians.”
[35:57] Putting love in action for the people closest to you
God determined our value long before we ever lifted a finger or accomplished a thing. We need rest, and that is okay. From there, we need to look at our season and look at the people that God has placed around us and ask Him, Lord, who do you want me to serve right now?
If God has given us a husband and children, those are people that we need to love day in and day out. Then we can ask God, “Lord, is there somebody outside of that you want me to love in an extraordinary way? I give you my yes today.” It doesn’t have to look a certain way because we never know how we’re going to touch someone’s heart or how that will plant a seed that will ultimately point them to Christ or form a relationship where we can share Christ.
Somer encourages us to not limit what we’re doing. She says we need to just pray and ask God to give us fresh eyes and ask Him, “who do you want me to love today, God?”. He will direct our path.
Other Episodes If You Struggle with Loving Yourself + Others Well:
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