Summary: This sermon addresses how God loves us beyond our comprehension even when we feel alone in our trials and sufferings.
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD’S LOVE
Text: Romans 8:18-28, 34-37
"I heard about a frustrated mother whose two sons where driving her crazy. She had tried everything to keep them in line, when one day she had an over-the-fence discussion with a neighbor. "I took my son to our priest," reported her friend, "and he got him straightened out for good."
Because she had exhausted all of her options and didn’t have a better idea, she followed her neighbor’s advice and took her two sons to the local parish priest. The younger boy was left in the waiting room and the older boy was ushered into the solemn presence of the robe-clad clergyman.
Without so much as introducing himself, the priest stared into the eyes of the frightened boy and began his interrogation with this question: "Where is God?"
The boy was speechless. The priest spoke again, "Where is God?" The young lad looked away, searching the room as if the answer might be found in the religious items that filled the office. He still did not answer. A little louder and with more emphasis, the priest asked for a third time, "Where is God?"
This time, the boy leaped to his feet and ran out of the office. When he came to the waiting room, he grabbed his brother by the hand and pulled him out the door. "Let’s get out of here," he said, "They’ve lost God and they’re trying to pin it on us." (David Jeremiah. The Wisdom Of God. Milford: Mott Media, no date, p.17).
This story is somewhat humorous. But, it is also profound in that it hints at separation from God in the midst of trouble or in a crisis. Romans 8 to deals heavily with the issue of suffering, hope and God’s presence and intercession. There are times when we feel all alone because of a crisis or suffering.
All of us have questioned the purpose of suffering. First of all, we question why good people suffer undeservingly. Then, we question if suffering is actually serving some purpose. Or, like Job’s friends we think that perhaps suffering comes as a result of punishment. The branch of theology that deals with the question of "Why do good people suffer?" is called theodicy. Theodicy is theological approach that seeks to clear God from criticism, blame or guilt in allowing bad things to happen to good people. In other words, theodicy ... seeks to absolve God as the bad guy in allowing evil to exist in the context of what we consider to be divine justice. God "... causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45 NIV). What that scripture has to say is very simple in one way and complex in another. What it means is that God’s love is extended to the righteous and the unrighteous. But, someone will say "Okay, fine, but you still have not answered why good people suffer." The point is this, that nothing can separate us from God’s love. True, God allows good people to suffer, but so do evil people. Suffering happens because we live in a fallen world.
How we respond to the problems of evil and suffering says something about where we are and where we think that God is as well. "Suffering makes some strong, but others callous, bitter insensitive, and defeated" (Donald E. Messer. Contemporary Images Of Christian Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989, p. 89). "What happens to us brings out what is in us" (Wilson O. Weldon. Not Afraid. Nashville: The Upper Room, 1984, p. 67). Life does not always turn out like we planned. In the road of life, we will encounter detours that send us on some other direction than the one we had intended. The detours can be the result of selfishness as well as circumstances that were beyond our control. Christians should not yield to the temptation to think of detours as the end or the oncoming dead-end of the road. How well or poor we handle life’s detours depends upon the attitude that we take with us while we travel the detour. What we learn from life’s detours depends heavily upon our attitude. (Robert H. Spain. How To Stay Alive As Long As You Live. Nashville: Dimensions for living, 1992, pp. 30-37). Only when we strive to see how the detour can be an opportunity for learning and growth can we have optimism. A negative attitude will cause us to see life’s detours as stumblingblocks from which we might not recover.
"An unlettered maid was great in the kitchen and an immaculate housekeeper, but her main strength was that she never ruffled by anything. She was always calm and in control. When asked about her secret, she quoted a verse in the Bible: "It came to pass." When told that this was not the complete verse she replied, "It is for me. It means that whatever comes, comes to pass. It doesn’t come to stay". (Robert H. Spain. How To Stay Alive As Long As You Live. Nashville: Dimensions for living, 1992, p. 32).