“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
Romans 8:35-37 NLT
Paul muses for a while on how much Jesus loves him. He runs through in his mind all the circumstances that he has experienced on his long and often tedious missionary journeys. The abuse he has suffered. The privations forced upon him. The insults hurled against him. The beatings and stoning. Even shipwrecks. The list is endless, seemingly. And he ponders for a moment, wondering if all the negative experiences that have come his ways mean that Christ has deserted him. Do we feel the same sometimes? Do we think God doesn’t love us anymore when we experience difficulties? Do we feel God has deserted us when the prayers for a sick loved one seemingly go unanswered? Or when there is too much month left at the end of the money? Has Jesus left us when we have a road traffic accident, or when we get fired from our job?
We pilgrims are natural human beings, predominantly living a life embedded in the here and now. Most of our thoughts are focused on the natural and physical circumstances in which we live. The food we eat. How we feel. The clothes we wear. But we live in a world where all of this is badly affected by sin. So it should be of no surprise to us when we feel sometimes that the world around us is a hostile and loveless place. Paul, though, had even more reason than us to feel aggrieved by his circumstances. But he could then make that extraordinary statement, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” An amazing conclusion. Paul had learnt the practice of lifting his eyes. Instead of guddling around in the mud and the mire of life, he had embraced what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 40:2-3, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord”.
Paul had learnt that his altitude was established by his attitude. As he lifted his eyes to Heaven, he could imagine Jesus there, cheering him on. Heavenly reassurance that all was well. His legacy in Heaven was safe. Lack of love on earth did not mean God didn’t love him anymore. We Christians have many challenges in life. I can look back and see on several occasions, with deep gratitude within me, how God protected me from life’s difficulties and circumstances. But there were times when He didn’t. But He still loved me. And He still does today. And I can still stand assured on the solid Rock who is Christ, with an assurance that regardless of what life throws at me, God is still on His throne in Heaven and Jesus is sitting at His right hand pleading for me.
We pilgrims are all walking our own paths to the promised land. Some roads will take us through difficult terrain, with apparently insurmountable obstacles in the way. But God is there with us, always helping, always loving, always holding our hands. And we can sing with many of our brothers and sisters, who may be experienced troubles, “a hymn of praise to our God”.
Heavenly Father. We do indeed sing a hymn of praise to You today. Your love for us is boundless. And we declare with Paul that victory through Christ is ours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.