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Miranda Writes: Relationships, Part 6

by Omar Miranda

Is this the real thing? A look at true love versus lust

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from teenage girls is “Mr. Miranda, I think I really like this guy. Actually, I think I might love him! How do I know if it’s true love or something else?”

Well, Song of Solomon 8:6 says: “The passion of love bursting into flame is more powerful than death, stronger than the grave.”* Both love and lust are strong emotions. How can you tell the difference between them? The simple and short answer is time.

The one thing that I have learned in my life is that the devil usually has a cheap and worthless imitation of everything beautiful and worthwhile that God has. Lust is the devil’s cheap imitation of God’s beautiful love. Lust is passionate! Now, true love can be passionate at times as well, but true love calms down after a while and is characterized most notably by its staying power. Lust is short-lived, several months at best. The newness wears off, and then people get bored. Lust is ultimately a selfish emotion.

Upon first glance it may seem as if you’re all involved in another person, but a closer examination will clearly show that the person who is lusting after the other person really is focused more on how the other person makes them feel about themselves! When I ask those teens why they “love” the other person, they say things such as “Oh, he makes me feel special” or “He looks so good” or, my favorite, “He’s just a great guy!” There is no specificity or depth to their responses, and the responses show no true or intimate knowledge of the other person’s goals, dreams, strengths, or character. And this is because typically they don’t know the other person that well.

The bottom line is this: Research now shows that it takes a minimum of two years before you see the person’s real character come out in any type of relationship. People can put on an act for a long time—but they can’t keep it up forever. You might think it’s a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing. It is better for someone to know somebody as a friend or close friend for two years and find out the truth about somebody’s character than to get physically involved with them or, even worse, to get engaged or married to them and spend a lifetime of regret and heartache.

True love is like a flower, which takes a combination of the perfect seed, sunlight, water, and time to grow and blossom. A godly relationship is no different. Your parents are right: good things do come to those who wait.

What the Bible says

So does the Bible have anything to say about what true love is? Actually, it has a lot to say about it. According to the Bible, true love has many different specific components: “Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Wow! That’s pretty clear. It’s God’s checklist for true love!

Sometimes the best way to define what something is is to see what it is not. The story of Jacob and Rachel in the Bible is a beautiful story that shows very clearly what true love is. Let’s read it and see what we can learn from it. The story is found in Genesis 29:14-30:

“Laban said, ‘You are my nephew, and you are like one of my own family.’
“After Jacob had been there for a month, Laban said to him, ‘You shouldn’t have to work without pay, just because you are a relative of mine. What do you want me to give you?’

“Laban had two daughters. Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn’t sparkle, while Rachel was beautiful and had a good figure.

“Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he answered, ‘If you will let me marry Rachel, I’ll work seven years for you.’

“Laban replied, ‘It’s better for me to let you marry Rachel than for someone else to have her. So stay and work for me.’

“Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much. Jacob said to Laban, ‘The time is up, and I want to marry Rachel now!’

“So Laban gave a big feast and invited all their neighbors. But that evening he brought Leah to Jacob, who married her and spent the night with her. Laban also gave Zilpah to Leah as her servant woman.

“The next morning Jacob found out that he had married Leah, and he asked Laban, ‘Why did you do this to me? Didn’t I work to get Rachel? Why did you trick me?’

“Laban replied, ‘In our country the older daughter must get married first. After you spend this week with Leah, you may also marry Rachel. But you will have to work for me another seven years.’

“At the end of the week of celebration, Laban let Jacob marry Rachel, and he gave her his servant woman Bilhah. Jacob loved Rachel more than he did Leah, but he had to work another seven years for Laban.”

Wow! What a story! And remember—it’s all true. Let’s see what lessons we can learn and how they apply to distinguishing true love from lust.

1. Rachel had a nice figure and also good looks. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing and appreciating the obvious, but you must be careful and not focus on this as the only reason you’re going out with somebody or like them.

2. Jacob said that he would wait for seven years . . . yeah, right! A lot of people make promises, but do they always follow through? Jacob did. Remember what we said before: true love will continue growing and blossoming throughout a long period of time.

3. “Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much” (verse 20). If I had been speaking somewhere, this is usually when all the women would have said, “Aaawwwwww.” Some of them probably would have put their hands over their hearts and their hearts would have skipped a beat! OK, even I’ve got to admit that this is a pretty incredibly thoughtful, sweet, and ultimately unselfish thing to do.

4. Even after being cheated out of his rightful wife—Rachel—Jacob loved Rachel enough to sacrifice his time, energy, and resources and worked another seven years for her—for a grand total of 14 years. Again we see the selflessness and long-lasting nature of Jacob’s true love versus the typical short “attention span” of lust.

There are three life application lessons that can be learned from this story:

1. Talk is cheap! Don’t tell somebody you truly love them; show them.

2. Don’t settle for anything less than true love! Don’t lower your standards. You wait as long as it takes. God will honor your patience with a true love that you could never have imagined.

3. Time is the best—and only true—indicator of true love. True love is patient, and true love will grow only stronger, not weaker, with time.

I hope that learning what the Bible has to say about love versus lust has given you a lot to think about.

What to do when the red flags start waving

One last thing: When we get involved in lustful relationships, we usually begin to get warning signals from God’s Holy Spirit—many times in surprising and clear ways. We also may begin to get “red flags” from those people in our lives that know us best and are closest to us, people such as our friends, parents, teachers, and pastors. When that happens, we need to do three things:

1. Listen closely and calmly to whatever God and/or those closest to us are telling us. Don’t push them away just because you don’t like what they’re saying. Really listen to their concerns.

2. Consider honestly and carefully what they’re saying. Think about the kind of person you are and aren’t when you’re with that special someone. And take some time to look seriously and carefully at that person’s character. Remember: looks, money, and position will all fade away. The only thing you really have is the character of that person.

3. Act quickly and boldly once your decision has been made. Acting quickly and boldly on the new information that you’ve been given will ensure that you actually do it. Research on making and breaking habits tells us that if we learn new information but don’t act on it pretty quickly, we’ll just stay in the same situation we’re in. Remember: breaking up is never easy or fun, and it may be painful in the short term, but in the long term you’re going to be a lot happier, a lot healthier, and a lot holier because of that difficult but good decision.
Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site,; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor
Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

PS: Several years ago I met a smart and funny guy who also happens to be a psychologist. His name is Thomas Lickona, and he wrote something that would be really helpful for you to read. It’s a quick self-test called “Real Love Character Test.” It’ll take you three minutes to complete, and you’ll be glad you did. I suggest you print it out and keep it in a notebook under something plastic (to protect it), and the moment you think about getting into a romantic relationship with somebody, pull it out, copy it, and start checking stuff off. In no time at all you’ll have an honest assessment of how much this person really loves you. If you really want to get honest, print a bunch of copies out for your friends and parents and have them fill them out on your “special friend.” That’ll start a hair-raising conversation.

You can find the PDF at the end of this article. He’s permitted us to download it, print it, save it, and keep it for ever and ever, amen! Isn’t he a nice guy?

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.

* Bible texts in this article are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.

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