The Power of Love

Laci* grew up in a quaint farming community in Wichita Falls, Kansas. Her father’s transfer to Beaumont, Texas in the middle of the school year faced her with difficulties making new friends. Cliques had already formed at Beaumont High, so Laci ate lunch alone. When her parents then placed her in a private school, she noticed the girls eating grapes and dry lettuce for lunch. Laci felt she’d found the key to acceptance. She began limiting calories, gradually dropping from 5’4” and 135 pounds to 58 pounds.

But she lived. What turned her grave condition around? A fantastic facility? A perfect treatment center? No. Laci returned to Wichita Falls with her mother and, as soon as she saw old friends and family, began eating again.1 

Stories like these help us understand the power of love. We typically think of food, water, shelter, and clothing as our basic necessities. But humans are more connected to their emotional and social needs than we think. We witness this connection across the lifespan: Without enough skin contact, babies can stop growing and even die. One elder partner often dies shortly after the other (Johnny Cash died four months after his longtime partner, June Carter Cash.) Even pets seem to increase longevity, especially in people with heart conditions.2 In an article on loneliness, the American Psychological Association states: “Loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity.”3

Millard J. Erickson has written, “If reality is fundamentally physical, then the primary force binding it together is electromagnetic. If, however, reality is fundamentally social, then the most powerful constituting force is that which binds persons together, namely, love.”4 Love holds human beings together, not just in relationship, but as individuals. Our very DNA is formatted with love such that living in isolation violates our design.

The Love Timeline

The process of human development reveals our love-formatting. Think of love as a timeline traveled in the vehicle of the family unit. Each stage of life features a special bond-building experience that prepares us for the next stage. The trust-building, love-bonding machinery of the brain forms a bit more fully with each passing stage until, if things go according to plan, we become experts in love!

Mother-child is our first love experience, from in utero to breastfeeding and infancy. Women possess strong powers of attunement that serve them well in anticipating the needs of non-verbal babies. God provides powerful bonding chemicals through the touch that comes naturally with soft, cuddly infants. The high voice with which we reflexively speak to a baby, called prosody, actually stimulates the infant brain better than a low voice. Breastfeeding turns into an oxytocin party with nipple stimulation flooding mother’s body with the “drug,” and mother’s milk flooding baby’s body. The eye contact made possible by cradling an infant at the breast stimulates bond-enhancing dopamine in the brain.

Father-child bonding comes next, with Dad stepping in more and more after children talk. Fathers tend more toward play interactions, which is crucial to the child’s growth. Nature fights to keep Dad home by flooding his body with vasopressin, which counters the effect of testosterone, high levels of which predict more infidelity. Children need both nurture—the natural gift of a mother—and stretching—which fathers tend to do more through challenging and roughhousing with the child. The presence of a biological father in the home predicts child flourishing, and his absence predicts child struggling across a wide variety of metrics.5

Siblings typically show up next, and along with them a more horizontal-type relationship. Now the developing child must learn skills of negotiation, conflict management and sharing. The sibling bond lasts longer than any other in life, so we do well to get this relationship right. Aside from sibling abuse, parents should back off and let their children hone their relationship craft in preparation for the next stage.

Friendship is our first relationship outside the family. In other words, our friends are our first chosen relationship. We can’t pick our families, can we? But we get to pick our friends, which enable us to further refine our love skills in preparation for the most enduring and intimate of bonds.

Life partnership comes next in the process. People who master the art of friendship have prepared themselves for what is really the best friend they will (hopefully) ever have. And this friend has the added component of romance, or sexuality. The eroticism between spouses creates a neurological basis for deep, lasting love. This love is often tested once the couple have children of their own, as all family life experts know that the quality of marriage suffers when children arrive.6 But those same children, and the memories they generate, can actually bond the couple in their later years.

Friends and Family

Then come grandchildren and even great grandchildren. What a blessing the love timeline, traveled in the vehicle of the family, is to human beings! But even if a person finds themselves outside any family structure, they can still experience love in two crucial ways.

Friendship is available to all—married or single, old or young. Our brains possess mirror neurons yielding tremendous powers of affiliation. Those little neurons seem to connect our nervous systems such that emotions can be a shared experience, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (See Romans 12:15).

A spiritual family can be as close as a biological family. When we share our faith with others, forming into groups actuated by mutual serving of one another, we become as verily a family as those bound together by DNA. The New Testament of the Bible uses two words relevant to this process—agape and allelon.

Agape is a unique sort of love. Humans possess natural affection in the form of family love, friendship, and romantic love. But that natural affection is expendable. When our selfish nature takes over, killing natural love, we must receive love from a supply outside of ourselves. Fortunately, “The love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5, NIV). Once filled with the love of God, we can continue to love our people.

Allelon simply means “one another.” Over 10 times in the New Testament we are told to “Love one another.” The “one another” command is given over 36 times total, urging us to edify, admonish, serve, give preference to, and receive one another. People do best a part of a community. God designed the church to be just that—a thriving community, a spiritual family, and a love feast to which every person is welcome.

Where to Begin

Over 42 million adults in the U.S. are believe to be suffering from chronic loneliness.7 But this need not be you! Often the best first step to take out of isolation is to find a service opportunity. Local charities and churches often have something to offer in this regard. If you come with a gift of love to give, you won’t feel needy and self-conscious. Volunteer to help with a soup kitchen, homeless ministry, or clothing distribution. Book clubs and Bible studies can also help meet social needs. Finally, the Meetup app can connect us to people with common interests. Do your part to connect for maximum health benefit.

Love is in your DNA. To love and be loved is your destiny. Trust in divine power and move forward into a life of love. 

You can also get a FREE book, Footsteps: A Closer Walk With Jesus, join a weekly Zoom Bible study (Food for the Heart Bible Study, 8PM ET, Zoom 656 079 5097), and checkout Abide Network that offers workshops and mental health coaching. 


*Laci is a pseudonym.

[1] This is a true story from the book Dying to be Beautiful by Jennifer Schwirzer. 



[4]  Millard J. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2000), page 58




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Jennifer Jill Schwirzer LPC

In 1999 Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from Atlantic Union College. She is the founder of Michael Ministries, a music/speaking/writing ministry. She has produced six CDs of her own music and given concerts in the United States, Canada, Africa, South America, and Europe. Previous books include Testimony of a Seeker, A Most Precious Message, and I Want It All. Jennifer and husband, Michael, have been married for more than 20 years and have two children, Alison and Kimberly.

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