My heart and mind have been on a roller coaster the last two weeks. I went to urgent care with my preschooler for a head laceration. Then something named “Hurricane Harvey” showed up to torment Texas & Louisiana, including my hometown neighborhoods. Over the past few days I had the privilege to help care for a friend’s mom in the final days of her life. Many of the things I hold onto and think I control– the health of loved ones, my current home, my childhood home, and even life itself were taken out of my hands the past two weeks. I know God was calling me to trust Him in these storms for both peace and hope. I know He is in control, but I admit when my parents were in West Houston with the bayou creeping closer to their home my anxiety level was high. It took a precious friend to pray over me and my family and remind me:
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:5b-7
The “peace of God.” What exactly is that and how does one obtain it? How does one have peace or hope when health fails, a home is underwater, or death finally comes to take a loved one?
Romans is the “essential gospel” that Paul wrote many years ago to share with the people of Rome. I cannot attempt to unpack the wonderful gospel theology packed into chapters 2-6, so I am focusing today on peace and hope for that is what my weary soul needs. I need the reminder that peace and hope are attainable despite our sufferings.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:1-5
Friends, we have access to peace and hope because of God’s love.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8
This is how God displayed His love for His people. He gave His only Son, Jesus, who suffered and died for sinners. This is God’s amazing grace. Romans 5:1,2 states we can have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” through faith. God’s grace and our faith in what God has done enables us to be at peace with God, to be reconciled with God. By placing faith in Him, I can also “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” I can look forward to a day where there will be no more suffering, anxiety, pain, or death.
In the meantime, here on earth we know we will suffer. However, for followers of Jesus, our suffering is not in vain – it is for our good and His glory. God is using our sufferings to mold and shape us into the people He desires us to be. He is producing in us endurance, refining our character, and pointing us to Him, for He is our ultimate hope.
This week, when devastation and death are hitting close to home, I am reminded the only thing that endures is God’s love and our faith in Him. My faith is the only thing I get to take with me – the only thing no diagnosis, person, or hurricane can ever steal from me. Even death cannot separate me from the love of God in my Savior Jesus Christ.
“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.” ~Romans 8:38-39
The next time you are feeling anxious — perhaps by watching too much of The Weather Channel™, ahem “Irma” — remind yourself of the hope you have or can have by placing your faith and trust in the God that loves you and will never leave you.
How to begin to understand how to have a relationship with Christ (often referred to as “the gospel” or “The Romans Road”)
- Problem: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
- Consequence: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
- Solution: “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
- Response: “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
- Assurance: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13