Love gives. Loves goes the extra mile. Love endures.

That love is not always reciprocated.

As Christ followers, we strive to give love from a pure heart that doesn’t require a person to love us perfectly in return. We intentionally allow God to be our source of perfect love, and we relinquish the right to demand it from others. In obedience to God and His Word, we set our hearts on being patient and kind. We commit to modeling Jesus’ sacrificial love. But sometimes the person we give our love to consistently betrays and wounds us. How do we give 1 Corinthians 13 love in that situation?

Kuddos to Debbie McDaniel for her insight in "How to Protect Yourself from these 10 Toxic People." McDaniel wisely suggests we set boundaries and limit the control an unhealthy person might be placing on our life. She also notes when "we look deep into the mirror of our souls, we may realize that we are the ones who have some unhealthy tendencies that God wants to change."

Exposing Dysfunctional Patterns

I’ve got a really strong mercy streak. For decades, I’ve looked for the best in everyone. I pursued relationships with very emotionally unhealthy people. I was sure God loved them and I could, too, but I had no idea how to employ boundaries. I gave love no matter how much pain was delivered to me in return. I was too timid to speak the truth in love.

I lived with a desperate fear of confrontation. My rational thinking dropped into a coma if I sensed any threat of an explosive reaction. Eventually resentment wrestled mercy to the ground. Wounded and exhausted, I would just walk away from the relationship.

That is how I handled my first marriage. Years later, I was very close to repeating the pattern in my second marriage.

A major crisis in our marriage led me to intense Bible study and prayer counseling. God exposed many of my own toxic relationship patterns. I was addicted to the approval of others. I was a great blamer and gossiper. If there had been a contest for arrogant victims, I would have won the crown.

I once was blind, but now I see.

Restoration is God’s Work

Pride kept me from seeing these things about myself. It also kept me focused on how the “other person” needed to change so I could be ok. With amazing grace, God revealed the truth for the purpose of restoring me to wholeness.

He sent His Word and healed me and delivered me from self-destruction. (Psalm 107:20, my paraphrase)

God offers healing and freedom to everyone.

He is waiting to transform the lives of everyone leaking nuclear emotions and throwing verbal grenades. The controller, the abuser, and the too-easily angered are not immune to the power of God’s Word. We are promised that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37, Mark 10:27). There is hope for the bully, the addict, and the one whose mind is stuck in a negative gear. The blamer, the gossiper, the arrogant, and the victim are all offered fresh doses of mercy from God each and every day.

God created those who hurt us. He has a good plan for their lives. He knows the “why” behind their destructive behaviors. He knows the lies they believe about themselves. He knows what stands in the way of their wholeness. He is a Shepherd who pursues every sheep that wanders away from all He offers.

Partnering with God

We are temples of God’s Holy Spirit, empowered by Him to believe in what we cannot yet see. We are vessels of His mercy, His wisdom, and His Word. His mighty power is at work within us to accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

There is a dark force of evil behind every lethal personality disorder and self-defensive coping mechanism. Every casualty in a relationship war has fallen prey to the one who steals, kills, and destroys.

The great news is... God has far more power than Satan. The God of angel armies makes us ready for battle with His truth, salvation, faith, righteousness, peace, and the sword—the Word of God. His banner of victory flies over us. When we arm ourselves and pray, we salute His authority and partner with His plan for the family of God.

What would delight our God more than for us to turn our minds away from the problems and focus on Him? He is our solution.

Praising God is a powerful first line of defense. We can worship and adore Him, our wonderful counselor and supreme relationship expert.

Holy God. You are full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and full of love. No one can measure Your greatness. You open your hand to satisfy the needs of everyone.

You protected Daniel in the lion’s den. You provided an ark before the flood. You create streams in deserts. No situation is too dire for You. Everything is possible because You are the Creator and Redeemer.

You love imperfect people extravagantly. Your perfect love drives out fear.

You are mighty to save!

We can choose to live prayerfully and humbly before God. He can help us love those who do not love us well with a pure heart.

Father, I may be blind to my own role in toxic relationships. Help me see the truth about myself. Apply the healing power of Your Word to my heart and mind. Deliver me from any stronghold that causes me to harm people with my words and actions. Save me from self-destructive patterns.

I struggle in my relationship with ______. I need You to give me wisdom on how to love ____ well. You are my shield and defender. Show me how, when and where to erect boundaries in our relationship. I believe You are my healer and I trust You to guard my heart and mind.

I need Your specific directions on how to interact with ______.

I want to love _____ with a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Help me to love ______ courageously. Fill me with Your truth and compel me to fearlessly tell the truth with love. Let Your perfect love cast out all of my fears related to our relationship.

I forgive ______ for hurting me. I ask You to forgive me for _______ and _______. I acknowledge my emotions: _______, _________, and _______. And I invite You to steady my heart so my emotions do not rule my decisions

I surrender what I think our relationship should be. Please transform it so that it honors You.

In Jesus, I pray. Amen

The toxic person in your life may feel like an enemy. That is certainly how Satan wants you to feel about your husband, your family member, your church leader, etc. But remember the real culprit is Satan.

God has given us clear instructions to bless those who curse us and pray for the people who mistreat us (Luke 6:27–28). Jesus modeled this pure love for us on the cross, and when He washed Judas’ feet knowing he was going to betray Him.

Praying for your enemy is like training for the Christian Olympics. The stakes are high. The requirements are intense. But the reward is far greater than any gold medal. Your prayer can be used by God in a person’s life, their family, and the generations after them.

Use this prayer prompt to launch an ongoing conversation with God on behalf of the toxic person in your life.

God, I acknowledge You as _______’s provider. Thank You for providing all ______ needs to live in peace and harmony with me and others.

Your Word is alive and a gift of healing to ______. I invite You to fill _____’s life with It. Let It be a salve to _____’s wounds. Use it to set ______ free from the snare of the enemy.

You are the Good Shepherd. Please rescue _______ from paths of destruction.

You are the Wonderful Counselor. Break down the walls in _____’s heart and mind with Your battering ram of revelation. Give ____ spiritual wisdom and insight to know You. Flood ______’s heart with Your light.

Where _____ has endured shame, pour double portions of honor into _____’s life.

Your Holy Spirit intercedes for _____ 24/7. Use me to do the same and raise up an army of intercessors on _______’s behalf. Let heaven and earth work in tandem to deliver ____ from evil.

Make _____ ready to hear me and others speak Your truth in love. Help ____ to experience Your love and Your presence.

You are the One who can enable _____ to hunger for Your Word and obey Your commands. Let that be so for ________.

With faith in Jesus, I pray. Amen


Jennifer O. White is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress and Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride. Jennifer is a natural encourager who offers hope from the truths of God’s Word at her blog, Prayerfully Speaking. With every blog post, Jennifer is exalts the one true God who can empower us to do more than we can ask or imagine.