September 22 I Saturday
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” —Romans 8:35
Behind the question “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” is the fear that we might somehow be separated from His love. Paul raises seven possibilities in the opening verse that deal with suffering and the nasty things in life that threaten us. Many Christians assume God’s love is tied to His protection, so when they experience suffering, they might be afraid God no longer loves them. This is far from the truth, but it is this fear that leads people to ask in the midst of trial “Where is God?” or “Why did He let this happen?”
There is an old philosophical argument that says God cannot be good and all-powerful at the same time because a good God would prevent suffering and an all-powerful God would be able to prevent it. Because suffering exists, the argument goes that God may be good or all-powerful, but He cannot be both.
The problem with this argument is it presupposes that our experience of suffering is necessarily a violation of God’s love. In fact, in many of Paul’s letters, he says the evidence that he is an apostle and beloved by God is his experience of suffering, not his avoidance of it. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul lists various ways he has suffered for the Gospel. He describes being beaten, flogged, exposed to death, whipped, pelted with stones and shipwrecked. He lists being in danger in the city, in the country, at sea and from bandits, Jews, Gentiles and false believers. There were times he went without sleep, without food, without clothes and on top of all this, felt the burden of the emerging church.
Paul was not an armchair theologian, writing the “right” things from the comfort of his study. The same man who experienced this incredible suffering wrote, “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” (Romans 8:38-39).
God’s love does not exempt us from difficult things but equips us to go into and endure difficulties. As Paul writes, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It is significant that he says “in” all things and not “above” all things. To be above our circumstances is idealistic, but to be in our circumstances is realistic. Suffering is a reality in our world, but when everything else may be in doubt, one thing never in doubt is that we are conquerors through Christ, secure in His love.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love that makes me a conqueror in all things, and from which nothing in heaven or on earth can separate me.