Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 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 8:26-39
I do not like this Sam, I am. I do not like this lock-down slam! Apologies to Dr. Seuss! But I don’t like these drastic measures we must take because we care, because we love, because we are very aware of this enemy we call COVID-19. One translation of verse 36 has, “We face death all day long.” So it seems for us these days. And I don’t like it. Not. One. Bit.
We are facing death all day long during these days. And while I don’t want to be morbid or self-consumed by these realities and threats, they are real threats. One day we’ll look back on all this and draw some conclusions about ourselves. Are we too self-consumed? Have we made a mountain out of a molehill? Are we just wimps? Or did we way under-estimate the threat, and make too little of what we’re facing. Neither approach is good.
Paul was not exaggerating when he speaks of facing death. He was literally left for dead after one particularly violent beating. He suffered shipwreck and imprisonment. He received 39 lashes on more than one occasion. I’m sure he knew all about impending death. I’m certain he was not exaggerating.
But neither did he give up hope. He predated Admiral James Stockdale by centuries. Stockdale is famous for the Stockdale paradox: a approach to life that faces the brutal facts while holding onto hope. Paul lived it. He faced the brutal facts of death. But he never lost hope.
Perhaps the best thing that could be said of us in the years to come – we who have endured this pandemic – is that we faced the brutal facts of these times, but never lost hope. We never lost hope because we believed that the Love of God is unstoppable. We believed that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus. We held to the hope that One Day all will be good and right, holy and pure, peaceful and perfect, glorious and grace-praised.
I may not like these days of trouble we face, but I will not give up hope. I am thankful that because of Jesus I don’t have to either deny the brutal facts or give up hope.