When you hear the word “love”, what do you think of? Some may think of roses and chocolates, maybe kisses and hugs, xs and os. It’s interesting, in the same conversation, I can say “I love you, darling” to my husband and then say “Oh my goodness I love Pizza Lucé!” Love takes on many meanings and wears many hats in our society.
One love hat that doesn’t get recognized often is that of tough love. When I think of tough love, I think of a swift kick in the pants for a good reason or a time-out for a child. The phrase “tough love” is often associated with discipline. For me, it’s easy to draw a thick line between the vision of poems-and-chocolates, fairy-tale love, and tough love. “Tough love” has negative connotations, and often the word “love” in that phrase is overshadowed and forgotten.
But what if the deepest form of love isn’t roses and Hallmark cards? What if the truest, deepest love is tough love? The “tough love” that I’m referring to might be different than what the phrase is traditionally known for. Take the following story as an example of this deep, tough love.
A father and his daughter went skiing one chilly, Minnesotan day. Only 6 years old, this young girl was pretty good at skiing. Her father would often go to the top of a hill with her, and let her start going down on her own as he watched and caught up to her before she reached the bottom. The father let his daughter go on her own like this often but always kept careful watch over his precious child.
During one such instance of this, he saw that her ski path was leading her straight toward a concrete, active fire pit. Of course, being small and only 6, the young girl couldn’t see over the people to know the danger she was headed for. But when the father saw this, he acted quickly. Flying down the hill as fast as he could, he reached his daughter and only had time to take her into his own arms and crash them into the snow together.
Naturally, the daughter sat up from this shocked, and she began to cry. Not sure what to think and unaware of the heroic act her father just performed, the daughter cried, “Daddy, why did you crash into me?” The father simply took her into his loving arms and held her safe and tight.
You see, tough love isn’t simply discipline. Dictionary.com defines tough in this way: “strong and durable; not easily broken or cut”, “capable of endurance; sturdy; hardy”. Tough love, in this case, isn’t just discipline, although, to the little girl in the story, it probably felt pretty hurtful. Tough love is the kind of love that endures and can’t be broken. Tough love might be painful at times! But it’s love, nonetheless.
Love isn’t just a fluffy, fairy tale concept. A true, rich love digs deeper than into the chocolate box. Through this tough love, the girl in the story was given an invaluable gift unable to be purchased in stores (like cards or roses can be). She was able to be wrapped in her father’s protective, loving arms. So often when we go through life’s struggles do we forget that we have this opportunity with our Heavenly Father! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that as Christ-followers we will have life easy. In fact, we see examples of quite the opposite in many places in scripture. However, we see countless promises of God’s ever-faithful love and commitment to us, His children.
Like the father in the story who saw the danger ahead for his daughter, our Heavenly Father sees our lives and knows what’s best for us, too. Sometimes life will feel like we’re being tackled into the snow! It’s in those times, though, that we can remember whose arms were stretched out by nails to take our pain. Jesus Christ saw danger ahead for us in the sin we wrapped ourselves in and expressed the ultimate tough love for us on the cross. His tough love is strong and durable; so strong that it stayed on the cross to accomplish our life eternal with Him. His love isn’t just a box of chocolates: it’s a tough love that wraps us into His protective, wonderful arms.
6 verses about God’s tough love
- “Be strong and courageous. Don’t tremble! Don’t be afraid of them! The Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
- “Don’t be afraid, because I am with you. Don’t be intimidated; I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1
- “Even though I walk into the middle of trouble, you guard my life against the anger of my enemies. You stretch out your hand, and your right-hand saves me.” Psalm 138:7
- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
- “My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from me. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than everyone else, and no one can tear them away from my Father.” John 10:27-29