How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The month of love, flowers, candy, chocolates, and trinkets. This month seems to capture our minds with the preoccupation of how we are going to show love to that special someone.
But how often are we preoccupied with how we are going to show love to God?
How often do we ask ourselves the question: How Do I Love Thee, Lord?
The Pharisees were not asking the question, but Jesus gave them the answer to it anyway.
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Simply put, Jesus says we don’t have to count the ways, because there are only four ways to love the Lord.
1. I love Thee Lord with all my heart
It is relatively easy to show someone you love them through your actions, giving of chocolate, flowers, even time away together. Demonstrating your love for God is pretty simple too.
If you love Me, you will keep my commands. John 14:15
God says if we love Him, then we will show Him by being obedient to His Word. Loving the Lord with all our heart is simple though not always what we want to do. Sometimes we would rather spend our time, money, or energy on ourselves rather than on God.
Nevertheless, loving God with our heart is the first way to love God.
2. I love Thee Lord with all my soul
Loving God with our soul goes deeper than just our obedience. It is allowing our most inner self to be vulnerable before God in prayer and our very act of worship. Loving God with our soul involves letting Him into every area of our lives including our deepest joys, hurts, feelings, and emotions.
Loving the Lord with all our soul is only an option if the Holy Spirit lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit inside of us that testifies together with our spirit that we genuinely are His children and have a right to access Him in this way.
The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16
Without the Holy Spirit, we are unable to love God with our soul. As we allow the Holy Spirit to fill more of our heart, then our soul can share with God in His love and move us into the area of loving Him with all our mind.
3. I love Thee Lord with all my mind
What would it look like if we gave our loved one chocolate, let them share their deepest darkest secrets and then walk away from them and never return? They wouldn’t be our loved one for very long, and it wouldn’t demonstrate real love.
God wants us to continue to walk in a love relationship with Him through the renewing of our minds, never forgetting His love for us as well as our love for Him.
Just as the Holy Spirit testifies and allows us to love God with all our soul, the Holy Spirit enables us to love God with all our mind. The ability to love the Lord with all our mind begins when we start thinking more about the things of the spirit and not of the flesh.
For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
To love the Lord with our mind takes time and thoughtfulness and active participation on our part. Whether it be taking thoughts and lies captive and replacing them with the truth or renewing our mind through hiding God’s Word in our heart, loving the Lord with all our mind takes initiative.
Not only does it take initiative but it takes strength to do it. The last way to count how we love the Lord is found in the gospel of Luke.
He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
4. I love Thee Lord with all my strength
Sometimes we don’t have the strength to love God let alone others. The only way to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, is to depend on God for the strength to do it. Out of this dependence on God flows the strength to love Him in return. In addition, it gives us the strength to love others.
But those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Loving someone requires a lot of energy.
We cannot love God with all our strength apart from Him giving us the strength to do so. And when we rely on His strength to love, then loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength becomes a sweet blessing and privilege.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
While it is often quoted by lovers, poets, and literary gurus, Elizabeth Browning’s expression of love towards her husband stirs inside us the emotion of deep love for someone close to us.
As you are bombarded this month with expressions of love from a worldly perspective, take some time to consider the question by Browning in regards to the Lord our God.