Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Romans 8:35-37).
Who or what will separate us from the love of Christ? The short answer for those who know and believe in the love of Christ is: no one and no thing. All of the things that Paul mentioned as possible powers to separate us from the love of Christ exist because of the Fall and the entrance of sin into the world. How powerful was that one sin? Powerful almost beyond description! First, it separated all of mankind from God! “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Second, it also gave birth to countless powers that threaten to sustain that separation, thereby enslaving men and women to fear, condemnation, and hopelessness. Those hostile powers have a right to overwhelm and rule all of us, because we are guilty of committing them against our fellow men.
It is no wonder that atheists suggest that the very presence of these things in life are what prove, at the most, that God does not exist and, at the least, that He is not loving. On the surface their argument against God and His love appears strong, until one considers the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God used sin and its own tragic consequences against themselves to conquer their power in the lives of His children!
This is a thrilling truth! Love conquers sin, suffering, and death—even the fear of it—rendering all these things powerless. God purposed to use the separation and loneliness of His Son to conquer our own separation and loneliness. What?! How?! Because God is love, He sent His Son, Jesus, to willingly embrace being separated from God. From His arrest through His crucifixion, Jesus experienced increasing loneliness as His friends and disciples abandoned Him and, ultimately, His Father turned away from Him. Our Savior suffered alone the things Paul described as unable to separate us from God’s love: tribulation, distress, persecution, nakedness, peril, the sword, and much more on behalf of His beloved. In so doing, the very things that God had allowed to enter our lives that would make us doubt His existence and love became the tools He used to liberate us from Satan’s and sin’s power.
God provided many “word” trailers throughout history to let us know how great, powerful, wise, and glorious His love is. But few stories better declare God’s character and purpose for allowing sin and its consequent effects than the Job narrative. Satan thought He could incite God to act outside of His character and purposes when he taunted Him. “‘But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:11-12). Do you know the rest of the story? God used great evil through evil men (and the taunting of Job’s wife) to sanctify him and demonstrate God’s power, love, and grace to and through him. Job’s story teaches us much about the power and plans of God in Christ.
Did you catch Satan’s role in God’s story as it’s revealed in the book of Job? Satan is under God’s jurisdiction. God suggests Job as a target for Satan merely by mentioning Job’s name to the Adversary. Satan devises a tragic plan against Job for which God will get the blame, and God authorizes the mission, within specified limits. The extent of Job’s suffering as Satan’s evil plan unfolds is mindboggling! But the book reveals much about God, suffering, and Satan’s position and function in our lives.
Pondering God’s love and Satan’s role in our lives leads me to ask: Do you have questions about life in general, or about your life specifically? “Where is God in this mess?” “What is God doing in this tragedy?” “How am I supposed to have peace in this storm?” “How can I slay anxiety in light of these things I’m facing?” The book of Job helps us pursue answers to questions like these. It causes us to ask, for instance, was God clueless about Satan’s schemes against Job and his friends’ misunderstandings and misrepresentations about God that arose from those schemes? Surely not! God is neither clueless nor dismayed concerning anything that happens in His world. Further, we might ask, why would God authorize natural disasters, mass murder and mayhem, unbearable physical affliction, and shame on Job, when He knew these things would arm His enemies with understandable accusations that would be used as weapons against His character and name?
There is only one plausible explanation. The reason is that God’s eternal purposes employ, outflank, and overcome Satan’s temporal evil purposes. Not only do we see this truth played out in Job’s life, but also in the greatest example of God’s glorious sovereign love as it is displayed in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Our loving Father authorized the use of Satan’s evil forces against His own Son in order to conquer those very forces forever. That’s how Love conquers!
Now let’s bring this closer to home. Has Satan been allowed to strike you with tribulation, distress, persecution, peril, rejection, pain, and affliction? Have these things caused you to doubt God’s love and sovereign administration of your story? Do you really think there’s a single part of your story of which God isn’t the author? If you do, then the words of Romans 8:35-37 can provide no comfort for you, because you are believing that those things have “separated you from His love.” You have no confidence that God has rendered them powerless, because you are not overwhelmingly conquering through love. On the contrary, in fact, you may proudly think of yourself as “a survivor.” Are you compelled to rewrite the narrative of your life, with your enemies and antagonists daily occupying your thoughts, time, and activities? If so, then evil forces have separated you from the love of a holy, omnipotent, and loving Father. You’re not living to love with Jesus. Instead, you’re still trying to make sense of your life apart from Him. Love has yet to conquer the evil in your heart and life. But there’s hope!
Here’s what not to do. Don’t look for the answers to your questions by trying to understand yourself, your enemies, or what has happened to you. That pursuit cannot bring healing. Rather, it will only weaponize your afflictions, giving them power to rule over and destroy you. If this becomes your consistent state of being, it will take very little pressure—time and time again—to pull the trigger and annihilate the peace, joy, and love that God intends to characterize and fill your life.
Here’s what to do. Set your mind on Jesus’ death and resurrection and the power of His love for you. The verses in Romans 8 that open this month’s newsletter indicate that as a believer you have suffered because you have been identified with Jesus. There’s no benefit to you if you blame God, Satan, or man (although each have their roles in your suffering). The Spirit says, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long.” That’s why Satan attacks you and considers you like a sheep to be slaughtered. He hates Jesus and everything He stands for. He wants God’s love to get a bad name! He can’t get at Jesus any longer, but he can strike you. Just as in Job’s case, Satan thinks that if he can afflict you, the affliction and your negative response to it will reflect poorly on Jesus.
If you’re an unbeliever, he will tempt you to reject the true God and to create a different god that will give you control of your life. There are plenty of well-meaning counselors who will encourage you along this line of thinking. The devil will also convince you that only you see all things accurately. And although you may see some things rightly, you cannot see all things that way. Nevertheless, Satan will persistently turn your mind and heart to think of God as unfair, unloving, unwise, and in other ways unqualified to rule your life. He’ll appoint you as the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner of those who mess up the story you feel you deserve. Before you know it, you will be overwhelmed by trying to get everyone to see things the way you see them. This path will steal your time, energy, and peace, as well as the grace to trust and love God and others, and eventually your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I wish I could say that this is an overly dramatic presentation of your likely path, but I’ve seen it happen in too many lives. In short, the result of self-rule is unhappiness, not peace and joy.
But if you’re a child of God, what Satan didn’t know in Job’s or Jesus’ case, he also overlooks in your case. Increasingly, you know the truth about God and His love (see 1 John 4:16). You know you are in Christ, and you understand God’s purposes and power in your storms. Like your Savior and Lord, you overwhelmingly conquer sin, suffering, and death—all that Satan can throw at you—through faith in Him who loves you. You are free to faithfully and joyfully embrace tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword (and whatever else God authorizes), knowing that none of those can separate you from God’s love in Christ. (I’m not saying you think suffering is fun or that you don’t grieve over evil and its effects). But instead of making you bitter and consumed with your story, you are better because you are more consumed with His story as it is being written in your life. You count it a privilege to love (even your enemies) through Him, because you know Romans 8:35-37 by experience. His Love has overwhelmingly conquered all sin and evil in your life. Please celebrate His love today!
As you read The Chariot this month, if you find that your story is more like what I described above regarding unbelievers, that doesn’t mean that you cannot find freedom and joy, or that they are not readily available. The evil day(s) in your life don’t have to define you and separate you from God, His love, and others. You too can overwhelmingly conquer all these things through Jesus Christ who loves you. If you will repent of unbelief and rejecting Jesus’ lordship, of idolizing yourself, and of trying to write your own story, then freedom and joy are at hand! Then if you will humble yourself, surrender your life to Jesus, thank Him for conquering sin, death, and all of Satan’s weapons against you through His death and resurrection, and pursue how you can express His love to your enemies and everyone He puts in your path each day, you will discover the glorious truth revealed in Romans 8:35-37. Nothing can separate you from Him, but instead you can overwhelmingly conquer everything that comes against you through Him who loves you! I hope you’ll join the celebration now! If you can see the wisdom and power of God’s love in what I have written, I hope you’ll let me know. I would love to rejoice with you in His love.