In 2000 a small team of psychologists began a study of how babies in Romanian orphanages developed compared to orphans placed in foster homes and children who live with their families. The orphanage staff fed, changed, and bathed the children but apart from that they were left in their cribs all day to entertain themselves.
The psychologists included 136 children between 6 months and 3 years who had been in Bucharest orphanages since birth and put half of them in Romanian foster families.
They discovered that the children who remained in the orphanage had much worse outcomes in terms of cognitive function, motor development, language and socio-emotional behaviours. They even experienced changes in the patterns of electrical activity in their brains.
The children in foster homes did much better and if they were removed from the orphanage before they were 2 by the age of 8 their brain’s electrical activity looked no different than the control group of children who lived with their families.
What does this all tell us? In a nutshell, love is as important as food or hygiene!
The Importance of Love
Love is not just important to make us feel good but it actually has the power to physically change the way our brain works. Love comes in all different shapes and forms – there is love for God, love for one’s spouse, love for one’s parents/children, love for one’s friends, love for one’s pets, love for those who we haven’t even met and more.
We all seek love but are also often afraid that we won’t be given it or don’t deserve it which can be a terrible burden since love is completely vital for our health and well-being.
Tim Keller says a very profound comment about love in his book on Marriage: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.
It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
The Source of Love
For most of us, we are blessed with many sources of love, parents, siblings, spouse, church family, friends, pets, and more but the most important, most available, and most life-changing love is the one that is provided to absolutely everyone, the love that comes from he who is love himself – God.
Tim Keller also says a wonderful comment about God’s love in the same book:
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
God knows everything about us and loves us completely with a love that is completely independent of anything we do or don’t do. God’s love is perfect. He’ll never leave us, only ever do things for our good, and love us with the deepest most consuming love that exists.
Out of an abundance of love Jesus came to die in our place so that we could be reconciled to God. As Paul says in Romans chapter 8 verse 32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Just a few verses on in verses 35-39 Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Fountain of Love
The wonderful thing about Gods’ love is not just how amazing it is to be loved by him but how his love fills us and overflows to all around us like a fountain. We can pour out love on those all around us and even those who are far off.
Love is not always easy (it’s often hard in fact!) but the more we practice it the more it grows and the easier it becomes to share it. This February let’s dwell on the wonder of being loved by God, how we can love others better and of course enjoy some love themed chocolates!
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.