Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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 8:35–39)
I can vividly remember the first day I wore my glasses. In fact, I can remember the parking lot I was sitting in and even some of the brilliant green trees lining that pavement. At age 10, I didn’t know that I needed them; blurriness was all I’d ever known. But once I saw the world through those two pieces of glass held together by some very thin metal, I never wanted to see any other way again. I had been living and looking ever since I was born, all the while blind to so much of what was around me, all the while really missing most of what was there. Then the prescription was issued, the frames selected, and my eyesight restored. One thing had changed my perspective on everything else.
The stunning, outrageous, merciful love of God for us should change us like that forever. It should reshape our eyes and hearts in the midst of our circumstances. The gospel of God’s love is a life-shattering message and reality. The forgiveness and restored relationship we have with him shines light into even the darkest shadows of the short lives we lead here.
In one sense, everything really is still the same. Nations still collide in war. Families and relationships are still broken by infidelity, addiction, and failure. Disease still ravages families. People still invent more and more ways to hurt themselves and others. Cancer stills kills loved one after loved one.
But one massive thing is different for you from the moment you put your hope in Jesus. God loves you, and that love changes everything.
The Rough Road in Rome
When Paul wrote the amazing promises of Romans 8, he was writing to Gentile Christians living in the midst of hostility, especially from the Jews. It wasn’t easy for a Gentile believer to be a Christian there, and it certainly didn’t get any better or easier for them when they announced their faith in Jesus. Instead of solving any of the physical or social problems they were experiencing, it actually made it much, much harder for them.
That’s why Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). He mentioned these things because they were likely some of the things people in the church at Rome were suffering, and it felt like the sorrow, misery, and strife had threatened their young and fragile hope in Christ.
The pain and conflict and adversity were very real, more real even now that they were following Jesus. But one thing had radically changed how they saw all their suffering. When everything familiar, comfortable, and easy had fallen away in this life, one thing remained: the newfound, never-changing, and irresistible love of a sovereign and gracious God. Because they were now enjoying and looking forward to everlasting love, freedom, and happiness with God, they didn’t have to be as distressed and undone with loss and agony now, however excruciatingly hard it might be.
Never Separated, Never Unloved
If God has loved you in Jesus and the gospel, he will never unlove you. He can never unlove you. His love never fails us now, and it surely won’t fail us forever in glory. The love of God casts out fear, overwhelms the sin yet in us, and satisfies our soul again and again. It’s the only trustworthy lens through which we can truly see ourselves and the world around us.
It’s higher than any mountains that you face. It’s stronger than the power of death and the grave. It’s constant through the trials you face and the changes you make. It is the one great, defining thing of the Christian’s life and identity, and it will keep you and sustain you through anything. He will keep and sustain you through anything, even death. Nothing can separate you from him, and nothing can unravel or undermine his affection for and commitment to you. You are his. So this life and all its sorrows are now just a short prelude to the true and lasting victory in paradise, to the eternal love song of heaven, where we will live with, worship, and rejoice before our God forever.