April 24, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
This is the final devotion in our series: “Easter and COVID-19.” For the past two weeks I have been working on the question: How does the resurrection of Jesus matter as we face the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis? You can find the previous devotions in this series here.
If you didn’t know anything about the life of the Apostle Paul, you might find today’s Scripture passage to be, well, naïvely positive. Sure, Paul can say that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—but isn’t this perspective rather Pollyanna-ish? Isn’t it the kind of thing said by privileged people who really haven’t experienced life’s hardships?
I have no doubt that sometimes Christians have spoken of God’s love in ways that are naïve and simplistic. I know I’ve done so at times. Maybe you have too. But, let’s be clear, the Apostle Paul was not one of these Christians. He knew all about suffering. In 2 Corinthians, for example, he talked about being “so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Later in this letter, he explained that, in comparison with others, he had experienced “far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
So, to use the language of Romans 8, Paul was pretty much an expert in “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” Yet, in spite of what he had suffered—or perhaps because of what he had suffered—Paul was utterly convinced that nothing could separate him—or you—from God’s love in Jesus Christ. He concludes his argument in Romans 8 with these inspiring words: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Now, remember, the person writing this is the same one who spoke to the Corinthians about being “so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.” Paul was not one to pretend that everything was always hunky-dory. Yet, even in times of suffering and discouragement, Paul held on tight to the truth of God’s love in Christ. And God held on tight to Paul.
As I write this final devotional in the “Easter and COVID-19” series, I watch with sadness and horror as millions throughout the world are suffering. I know that, for many, it may very well feel as if they are separated from God’s love. Perhaps you feel that way because of COVID-19 or some other hardship. I do not mean to minimize your pain. But the fact that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love is not based on our experience. Rather, it is grounded on the ultimate expression of God’s love in Jesus Christ, who died and was raised. The victory of Jesus on Easter proves that nothing can separate us from God’s love. By faith, we hold on to this good news at all times, but especially in times of loss and deprivation. Yet, even then, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we know that God is with us (Psalm 23:4). The God who has given us his love in Jesus Christ will not let go of us. Nothing in the universe can separate you from his love.
Something to Think About:
Has there been a time in your life when you have felt as if God’s love was taken from you? What happened? Did God ever reaffirm his love for you? If so, how?
Right now, do you feel connected to God’s love for you in Christ?
How can we be sure of God’s love for us in times of extremely suffering and loss?
Something to Do:
Take some time to ponder God’s love for you. How has God made his love real to you? Talk with God about this.
Gracious God, for the good news of Romans 8 we give you thanks once again. How amazing it is that nothing in all creation can separate us from your love for us in Jesus Christ!
Yet, you know, Lord, there are times when your love does seem distant, even non-existent. There are times when we doubt your love. Thank you for understanding how it feels to be forsaken, even if you have not actually forsaken us. Thank you for holding on tight to us in times when we might want to reject you.
Help me, Lord, to anchor my life in your love for me. No matter what comes, may I be confident in your love revealed through Christ. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Thank God for Relationships (2 Corinthians 1:1–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.