In my church’s women’s Bible study, we have been studying Romans this year. And we have finally arrived at my most favorite of chapters: Romans 8. This morning as I was doing today’s study, I was struck again by the security of LOVE expressed, explained, proclaimed in this chapter. A fitting reflection for Valentine’s week … which is about love, however you feel about that.
I remember as a daughter feeling so loved by my dad on Valentine’s day because he’d bring home a special treat (usually a box of chocolates, or a stuffed animal) along with my mini-bouquet of flowers and a card. In elementary school, it’s fun to give and exchange dime-store cards. Then middle school hits, and all of a sudden this doesn’t feel like enough. I didn’t want my dad to bring me flowers; I wanted the boy I had a crush on to notice me. My friends’ cards were sweet … but …. just not quite enough. High school intensified these feelings. In college I tried to evade the longing by celebrating friends, having fancy dinners with roommates, pretending we didn’t care that we weren’t romantically pursued. Then, finally, I met the man I was to marry and he romanced me properly on our first Valentine’s together – dinner out at a fancy Italian restaurant in Center City Philadelphia, roses, a Hallmark card … my life was complete.
Or was it? Isn’t it true that in many ways, my life was already complete by being privileged to know the security of my Dad’s love for me since I was a girl? And going even further, isn’t it true that my life was the most complete it could be from the time I became God’s daughter, forever secure in Christ? I think as I reflect on Romans 8 this morning, I draw a similar analogy to Valentine’s Day memories. I was always securely loved, but I wavered in my feelings attached to this love as the years ebbed and flowed. In various seasons, I desired a different expression of this love. And that’s part of how we’re created. There is a desire for romantic love – for married love – and at it’s best, it’s meant to reflect God’s love in the deepest human way possible. Which means that even if you feel brokenhearted, jilted, betrayed, disappointed, or lonely during this annual reminder of what you don’t have in the way of romance, you can take refuge in the ultimate love that romance is (at best) a fleeting reflection of. You, too, can enjoy the real thing. Not that it eases the pain or disappointment – don’t hear me saying that what you feel isn’t real. It is incredibly real, and God wants you to come to him with all of it. Not to receive a candy-coated “my love is better!” sort of flippant response, but to receive the comfort your heart needs – a comfort that leaves room for your pain and validates it. A love that comes with its own set of promises, too.
Romans 8 for those who take refuge in Christ by faith is a cascade of promises for us. Not only do we belong – adopted into God’s own family – but we have hope for present day suffering. Hope that sustains us when faced again with the stubbornness of my own selfishness or the brokenness of this world where humans are trafficked, children are abused, marriages fall apart. Hope makes us go on, and hope makes us groan for more.
And not only do we have hope, but we have the promises that no one can be against us; that the only one left to condemn us [Christ] is actually pleading our case continually as he intercedes for us; that nothing and no one can ever, ever, ever, EVER separate us from the love of Christ. But don’t take my word from it. Read it here for yourself in Romans 8:37-39 – and be comforted, wherever you find yourself today, that there IS a lover who will never leave you, betray you, give up on you … no matter what. This is better than the best, sweetest, poetic Hallmark card. Read it … believe it … savor it!
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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.