Perhaps you’ve had a crisis loom in your life that you couldn’t understand—an illness, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. It was a complete shock to your spiritual system, not something you were prepared for. At first, you prayed, read your Bible, and tried to remain faithful to God. But in time, your faith began to wane. Where was God? Why wasn’t He healing you... providing a new job... comforting you? Maybe your faith began to fail you. And soon, you didn’t feel like much of a Christian at all. You felt like a person living life with no faith at all.
1. God's love is stronger than the pressures that we face.
2. God's love is stronger than pain.
3. God's love is stronger than persecution.
4. God's love is stronger than privation.
5. God's love is stronger than poverty.
6. God's love is stronger than peril.
7. God's love is stronger than prison.
What do you do when your faith deserts you? It can happen; we are not perfect. We would not be provided great truths about God in the Scriptures to build up our faith if there was no possibility that our faith would ever fail.
The apostle Paul had obviously given much thought to the subject of God’s love and how it never fails us—how we are never separated from His love regardless of how things might appear. In Romans 8:35–39, Paul tells us how to find courage when we feel God has forgotten us—when we feel our faith deserting us and leaving us on our own. He tells us we can take courage from the strength, success, and safety of God’s love.
I believe what lies behind Paul’s words in Romans 8:35–36 is his own experience as an apostle of Christ. All the things he mentions—tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword—were things he had endured for the sake of Jesus. And through all that, he had never been separated from God’s love for him.
Paul’s list reveals seven ways God’s love safeguards us against the difficulties of life.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than the Pressures That We Face
The word tribulation means to be squeezed; to be put under pressure. It occurs many times in the New Testament in different contexts, but the basic meaning always has to do with pressure. Paul is saying there is no pressure strong enough to push you beyond the reach of God’s love.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Pain
When Paul refers to distress, he uses a word that refers to a very narrow place. Think of being forcibly pushed through a very narrow opening and the pain and discomfort that would bring. There is no distress—no place so narrow—that you will be separated from God’s love.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Persecution
To be persecuted in the New Testament means to be pursued; to be chased down and harassed or harmed because of your testimony for Christ. In Matthew 5:10–12, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Bible says that if you live in a godly way for the sake of Christ, you will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). But Paul says that no matter how far you are chased for Christ’s sake, you will never be beyond the reach of God’s love.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Privation
The famine Paul refers to here is usually privation resulting from faithfulness to Christ, not from a natural famine. Even when you are faithful to Christ and are fired from your job because of it, and you can’t put food on the table, God’s love is with you.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Poverty
Nakedness is not a reference to nudity; it is a result of being so poverty-stricken that you can’t afford to buy decent clothing (1 Corinthians 4:11). Whatever the reason for your situation of poverty, you will be tempted to be embarrassed and wonder why God doesn’t deliver you out of your situation. But Paul says that our clothing has nothing to do with the way God loves us. We have His love even if we have little else.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Peril
Paul was an expert on peril. In one verse, he uses the word peril eight times: “... in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren...” (2 Corinthians 11:26). If you wanted to find Paul, the best place to look was in the local jail because he was always in peril of being jailed for preaching the Gospel. Paul was in jeopardy every hour of his life (1 Corinthians 15:30). Still, he was never separated from the love of Christ.
God’s Love Is Stronger Than Prison
The word Paul uses for sword describes the short sword used to execute prisoners, not the long sword used in battle. Paul tasted that sword at the end of his life as he was beheaded, history tells us, in Rome. Even when you’ve been incarcerated in prison and died by the sword, Paul says, you are not separated from God’s love.
So, here is the practical application of this passage in Romans 8. The very next time you think God has forgotten you and your faith is deserting you, pull out Paul’s list and see if your situation falls under one of Paul’s categories. I can already tell you it will. There are no loopholes, no room for anything to slip by God’s protection and separate you from His love.
Here is the second application. There will be times when you feel this way in the future. I don’t mean to accuse you of being weak in faith. I am simply reminding you that we live in a world that, from a human perspective, is unstable and insecure. Christians are not guaranteed immunity from temptation, problems, and tragedies. You will have times when you wonder where God is... why He is not protecting you... why your faith doesn’t seem adequate to bring God closer to you. So, prepare yourself now for those times. Center your mind on the truth of what Paul has written here: There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But here’s a subtle distinction to keep in mind. Our confidence is not in our love for God. Our love for God is fickle and faltering. We would not want to depend for our protection upon our own frail faith. Rather, our confidence is in God himself and His love for us. Because He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8), we know that His love is the same as well—His love being an attribute that does not change.
The most important part of realizing and walking in the love of God in Christ is to be in Christ. It is only those who have placed their faith in Him who can enter the secure relationship of love that a heavenly Father has for His children. Draw near to Christ and you will draw near to the Father’s love.
This article is an excerpt from David Jeremiah’s Courage to Conquer study guide.