You hear a lot of nonsense talked about love. There’s a school of thought that says that every pop song ever written is either about falling in love or breaking a heart, which would mean a whole lot more if they didn’t make it seem so banal so much of the time. When the truest exemplar of the finest emotion that humankind is capable of is supposedly either a multi-millionaire diva, a barely post-pubescent group of boys with good hair or an elderly piano player of questionable emotional stability, it may be time to re-evaluate a few basic standards in case we begin to take them for granted.

The phrase ‘unconditional love’ is another one that might need reclaiming—in this case, from a hundred sentimental pictures shared via email and social media of puppies, kittens and newborn babies. It’s come to be associated with helplessness, dependence—a lesser status, powerless before someone of greater stature, real or perceived. Beyond simply images of pets and very young children, this skewing of the idea of unconditional love has become the benchmark for ideals of romantic love. Books are sold in the tens of millions, box office receipts number in the billions—all depicting dewy-eyed couples helpless in the throes of some allegedly impossible-to-articulate emotion, that can nonetheless be summed up in a catchphrase that looks good on a book jacket or a poster. And in the vast majority of these stories, there appear to be considerably more conditions attached to this ‘unconditional love’ than they like to make out.

Love is not a top ten pop ballad, a jukebox classic or good driving music. Love is not the faithful brown eyes of a cherished dog or the cute giggling of a toddler, wonderful things though they may be in our lives. When we speak of love, we need to understand that the wellspring of love in the lives of every living thing on this planet is the Father Himself. Every other aspect of the idea of love exists as a shadow of that astonishing, all-encompassing heart that brought us all into being.

But the problem is that we’re so inoculated with the idea that God Is Love that it, too, is in danger of becoming just another pop culture cliché. That’s not the way God’s love is. It’s not a bumper sticker! When we say that God loves us, we mean that God loves us with every part of His heart, soul, mind and strength. His love is immense, and it is genuinely unconditional. Unconditional love comes from a place of strength, not weakness. Contrary to the propaganda of a hundred thousand cheap paperback novels, it is us—the recipients of God’s unconditional love—that find ourselves helpless before it. 

To feel the strength of that love in the weakest place of your heart, and in a powerless moment, is an incredible experience. In your most fragile moment, when you feel most lost, you are loved. That love overpowers any doubt or questioning. It overwhelms all our inadequacy, all of our misplaced guilt, shame or fear. It doesn’t change with our actions, or our inaction. That’s the true power of the ultimate constant, the unconditional heart of God.

God is the source of all love, and when He asks that we love Him, He only requires us to become living reflections of His own love for us. He supplies us with the spiritual resource we need to show love ourselves. He grants us the gift that allows us to rest in Him, to become serene in His majesty, that serenity that makes us unstoppable. We are both helpless in the face of His love, and made invincible by it. The weak places in our hearts become fortresses. We become empowered to stand and be the people He wants us to be. The love He bears us becomes reflected in our own love for our fellows, our peers and families. 

God’s love is constant, immense and majestic, something so perfect and absolute that we, as a people, have spent century upon century trying to craft pale imitations of it. Our art, our poetry, our songs and our stories, all based on the fruitless attempt to capture something that cannot be captured. But when we reflect His love, in our journey to become more like His Son, we are finally able to exemplify something that a thousand songs can’t begin to approach. 

In your moments of crisis, think upon how awesome—literally, full of awe—the love of God is, and how astonishing it is that He holds you so close. Close your eyes and bask in that feeling, the touch of His Spirit, and realize that you are blessed. Take comfort from this. In times of doubt and hardship, cocooned in a Heart on fire, remember what true power lies in real unconditional love, and reflect a little of that love and that power back to Him, and to every life you touch, any moment that you can.