In our day, we must not let our familiarity with 1 Corinthians 13 blind us to the reality that true love is possible only with supernatural assistance. Although our culture believes that love is a mere feeling, 1 Corinthians 13 boldly proclaims that love involves effort. Love is not sentimentality, but it refuses to rejoice in evil, endeavors to believe the best about others, cultivates contentment and not envy, and looks for the truth (vv. 1–7). These things are too hard—indeed, they are impossible—for us in ourselves because of the sin that remains in us. The love described in 1 Corinthians 13 can only be a supernatural gift to us from God, for in ourselves we are utterly incapable of showing the non-selfish love that the Lord requires of us.
Love must be a supernatural gift of God’s grace because love also bears and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7; see Gal. 6:2). In other words, one defining quality of love is that it perseveres. Love continues in the best of times and in the worst of times as well. The Apostle Peter exhorts us to endure suffering in its many forms, including the suffering that our enemies inflict on us (1 Peter 2:20–21). Yet, the pain of this suffering is real and intense. We cannot endure it and go on loving the Lord unless God pours love for Him and love for others into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
Under significant suffering, whether caused by illness, persecution, or our own poor choices, we can find our love for God weakening. We may quickly begin to question the Father’s love for His children and His goodness to us. Only the Holy Spirit can sustain our love and help us grow in generosity and in serving others as we suffer. One of the ways He does that is by reminding us of the sure hope we have that Christ will return to bring in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1–4). On that day, we will inherit the new creation, where all our tears will be wiped away and pain will be no more. The Spirit has revealed this sure end for believers in the Word of God, and returning to it again and again will strengthen us so that we can persevere in suffering while showing the love our Lord demands.
Finally, love endures all things, even suffering, because it understands that suffering is frequently used by God to discipline us, and such discipline proves His love for us (Heb. 12:7–11). In our tragedies, we look for how God is shaping us, for it is His loving intent to use all things for our good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28).