Some people are all the time worrying lest they should be separated from that love, lest God's love should be turned into hatred against them. They walk before him with fear and trembling. They are all the time questioning whether their conduct merits his approval. They are ever fearful lest they might do something that would bring his wrath upon them. Their life is a life of fear and of bondage. Paul had no such fears and no such feelings. He knew that the great heart of God is a heart of love, a heart of tender pity, compassion, and sympathy. He knew that God is tender toward his earthly children. Why, even when we were sinners, Christ died for us! and the Father so loved us that he gave his only begotten Son. This love was for rebels. How much greater his affection for his sons! Instead of thinking that he might be easily separated from the love of God, and that he should have to be exceedingly careful lest he should be, Paul cries out, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (v.35). By this he means, Who or what shall be able to separate us?
Paul knew something of the strength of earthly love. He knew mother-love -- how tenderly it holds to its own. He knew that no matter where the son wanders, mother-love goes with him; mother-love calls him back; mother-love yearns over him. He knew love in other forms -- how tenaciously it clings to its objects. But the love of Christ, or the love of God in Christ, is above and beyond all this human love. And so he cried out, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Then he named some things and asked if they should separate us from God's love, and when he looked at them all, he was still persuaded that nothing should be able.
Paul says, "Neither death nor life." If death should lay his icy fingers upon us, it would be but the ushering into the more immediate presence of that great love. But if we must continue to live on in our earthly circumstances and surroundings, that very life can not separate us from the love of Christ, for he will love us through it all. Through various changes, through all the trying situations that may face us, that love will hold us fast. Time and change can not make that love grow cold.
Again, he says, "Nor angels." God is in heaven, surrounded by the angels, but he wants us to understand that those angels can not take up so much of his time and attention that he will forget us. Nor can those evil angels that hate God and hate us separate between us and his love. Even Satan himself, their leader and master, has not power to come between us and the love of God. Ah, soul, do not be afraid. Satan has no knife sharp enough to cut that love. He has no strength to tear its tendrils out of our hearts. He can not burn those cords that hold us. Even all his legions can not touch that love, if we trust it and trust ourselves in God's keeping.
Then he says, "Nor things present." O my brother, sister, do you believe that? Do you believe that the things of this hour, whatever they may be, can not separate you from the love of God? "Things present." How many things there are present. How many things there are that press in upon us! How many discouragements there are in life! How many perplexities! How many things that trouble! How many things that would draw us away! Yet, if we keep our trust in God, none of these things will be able to separate us from his love. None of these things will make him turn his back upon us.
"Nor things to come." Do you look into the future with dread? Do you see with forebodings the things that appear there? Do you think, "How shall I ever pass through it? How shall I ever overcome?" Ah, those things that are ahead of you can not separate you from God's love. That love is going to securely hold you through them all. That love is going to be your strength and your safeguard, your hope and your all. Cast away your forebodings. Look to God with confidence until the confidence of Paul enters your soul and you can say with the same assurance that he did, "I am persuaded."
Again, he says, "Nor height, nor depth." It matters not if God is in heaven, high above us. It matters not if he is so great, so majestic, so powerful. His height above us shall not prevent his love from reaching us and holding us up. "Nor depth." It matters not to what depth we sink, whether it be depths of discouragement or depths of fear or depths in the feeling of our own helplessness. It matters not if God is very high and we are very low, if he is very great and we are very small; our depth shall not separate us from his height. His love will bridge the gulf.
O soul, trust in that love. Rely upon it. It will never fail you. It will securely hold you in the gales of life. Tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or perils or storms -- none of these things shall be able to separate you from him. And the apostle continues to say, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (v.37). Love will bear us up as with eagles' wings. It will make smooth the rough paths. It will give strength to the fainting heart. It will preserve us while in the midst of temptation; and even when we have come short of our expectations, when we realize that we have in a measure failed, that love will not cast us off, but will hold us safe and secure until the end. Let us look to that love, and be confident, and rest in full assurance of faith, knowing that
When the storm-winds rage, and the rain falls fast, And the clouds hang low above,
I will trust his love, for it e'er will last;