Love is the single greatest force the world has ever known. It has led to the rise and fall of empires, led many to give their very lives for others, and inspired countless poems, songs, books, plays, movies, articles, cards . . . it’s everywhere. Before the invention of the internet and long before the evolution of social media, people would literally send handwritten letters to newspapers all over America, seeking advice from one of the world’s experts on love and relationships—Ann Landers. Ann Landers was the pen name of Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer, the famous national columnist who, for almost fifty years, wrote the syndicated column, “Ask Ann Landers.”
She was not a psychologist or counselor. But her practical, commonsense, compassionate advice found a huge audience. And she understood love. She once said, “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. . . . If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.”
I love you. When someone speaks or texts or scribbles or shouts those words to us, everything changes. These words give us a sense of worth and an anchor against the rolling waves of life. When we are at our worst, when life seems to fall apart or when we’ve been deeply wounded, these words from a friend, partner, parent, or sibling can make all the difference. These three little words change it all, so why do we often resist believing that we are loved or even lovable? Millions of us have been told that we are loved, but we don’t believe it, we can’t receive it, and so we continue to work to feel loved.
While the “Ask Ann Landers” column is long gone, we still “write in” for help with love through social media. Social media has made the conversation about love much more complex and ever-present. In some ways, social media has made the human yearning for love much more acute for many because now we have 24/7 access to examples of people living lives we wish we had. We scroll through our feeds and we see, in vivid pixels, lives of love all around us. Pulsing humanity bursting with smiles, accessorized with food, immersed in beautiful places or just being a couple in a cozy restaurant. Having fun. Hanging with friends. Showing off the new baby. And we contemplate our lives and feel inadequate.
“Love is the single greatest force the world has ever known.”
At the same time, many of us rely on social media and the jolt of pleasure we get when someone “likes” a post of ours—to feel like we’re seen, like we matter. As we are finding out, however, the heavier our use of social media, the lonelier we are becoming. In other words, because we are settling for a cheap substitute for true love, we are finding ourselves feeling less love, like drinking sea water to quench our thirst; when we settle for counterfeit love, all it does is leave us gasping for more.
Some people really, really need to hear the actual words. For people whose primary love language is words of affirmation, unsolicited compliments or expressions of encouragement mean everything! Hearing the actual words “I love you” makes their day. Hearing the reasons behind that love sends our spirits skyward.
The problem: Words of affirmation are powerful, but for many of us, we just can’t get enough. Comments and likes in our social media feeds make us crave for more and more words of affirmation. The more we get, the more we want. Reagan, for example, is a words of affirmation woman. By her early thirties, Reagan had become a stay-at-home mother of two beautiful children. While she was living a life of love with her family, she began to compare herself to her peers. She often wondered if she was a good mom, if her little ones were having a good childhood, if her home life was one to be envied or if she was falling short. Reagan began to fill her days in between caring for her young children obsessing over her Instagram feed. Always striving for the cutest pictures that showed she was a good mom, that she had a good life, and, most of all, that she was loved. Her posts provided her with the words of affirmation that gave her instant gratification, but they were never enough—she hungered for more. Though Reagan was frequently told she was loved, she was not settled in that love. She spent more and more time watching the words of affirmation tumble and roll across her Instagram posts, but she did not feel loved.
Reagan’s struggle is common to us all. This struggle comes from the reality that we were created for God’s love. Reagan, as a words of affirmation person, was created by God uniquely to experience love primarily through words. The catch is that there just aren’t enough words in the world to help her feel that love in such a way to satisfy her soul. For those of us who experience love primarily through words, we desperately need to hear the words of God to us: “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).
God loves you. He has compassion for you. He sees you and is working to make peace with you. The words of affirmation that God gives us are so much more powerful than the temporary and often shallow words we get online. They are a true anchor for our soul.
Reread this single verse, placing your name into it. For Reagan, it would read, “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for Reagan will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on Reagan.”
God’s words are powerful because within His words there is a love we don’t have to work for or strive to maintain. God loves you. He says it, and you can experience that love on a daily basis. Particularly if you are a words of affirmation kind of man or woman, you can feel loved. You can live into God’s love by hearing God’s words. Through your mobile device, you can read God’s words to you and experience love and companionship in a way you may never have thought possible. Most people are not Bible readers, but studies have demonstrated the fact that regular Bible reading reduces stress, produces peace, and helps people live lives of love and appreciation. Why is that? Simply because there is a power in the words of God’s affirmation to us in the Bible that we cannot substitute with words from other people.
“God invites us to come to Him because He loves us with an everlasting love.”
Consider these words of affirmation from Jesus, who invites us to find our source of satisfaction in Him: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Nobody in our lives, not even our partner, parents, or spouse, could say something like this to us—it would sound like nonsense. Only Jesus can speak these words of affirmation to us in a way that makes sense and has an impact on our lives. Our deepest longings and hunger for love and companionship are found in a relationship with Jesus. God promises that we will never go hungry or thirsty if we come to Him. He invites us to come to Him because He loves us with an everlasting love.
Here’s the reality: You ARE seen, you are NOT invisible. God wants you to know that He sees you at your best and your worst and He chooses to love you regardless. So often, feeling loved is about being seen.
For words of affirmation people, we try desperately to make ourselves seen so that we can get the reward of being told we are seen and liked. We dread feeling invisible and work hard to receive the words of affirmation that help us feel confident that we are seen and loved. This is what is so incredible, for better and worse, about social media. We can make ourselves seen in a way that was never possible before. We make ourselves seen, like Reagan, by posting pictures of our lives, snapshots that tell the world we are here. However, have you ever posted something only to have almost nobody “like” your post? What’s even worse, perhaps, is that the only “like” you get on a post comes from your mom or grandmother. At the root of our strong desire to be seen is the yearning to feel loved.
Again, God sees you. In fact, God has been watching you and watching out for you since the very beginning. There is a poem in the Bible where the writer experiences God’s love through realizing how intimately God has been involved in his life during a very dark and difficult time. Here’s a portion of that poem—consider it for yourself:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. . . .
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. . . .
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonder fully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Now, you may be living a happy life, maybe even a life of love. You may be living a life where you are yearning for more. You may be in difficult times like the poet who expressed these words to God. Whatever your story, each of us was made for a deeper love, a love that can only be experienced in a “friendship that has caught fire,” where we are known, we are seen, and we are accepted with all our imperfections and weaknesses. This kind of love can only be experienced in a relationship with God.
 Ann Landers, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!: Advice, Wisdom, and Uncommon Good Sense (New York: Villard, 1996), 34.
by Gary Chapman and R. York Moore
In a world of varying beliefs and endless opportunities, determining how to spend our lives can seem impossible. And even more difficult than...
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