Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Dog Days Duets series. I pray that these weekly selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
Romans 8:18-28 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in[a] hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes[b] for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[c] with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God,[d] who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit[e] intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[f]
28 We know that all things work together for good[g] for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
What are the greatest difficulties we can face? What seems to have the potential of separating us from the love of God? Paul asks, “If God is for us, who is against us?”
In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul is thinking of some the greatest dangers, difficulties and challenges of his own day and in his own experience. I suppose you could sum it up with the first two he lists in verse 38: life and death.
First, there is life. Think about all that can happen in a life. Paul refers to “the sufferings of this present time.” I don’t need to tell you that there are “sufferings in this present time.”
The demands, challenges, difficulties and tragedies of life can seem so threatening that they could separate us from the love of God. Or, we could put it this way: the demands, challenges, difficulties and tragedies of life can seem so threatening that we may question whether God is present in all this.
And then there is death. Of all creatures, we are the only ones—as far as we know—who are conscious of our own mortality. No other creature knows the ultimate statistic: one out of one dies. We know we are alive and we know we will die. We are the only creatures who number our days and years.
Eventually, we must face the fact that we are mortal. I am mortal and you are mortal. We live in a state of perpetual anxiety. Paul Tillich defined anxiety as “the state in which a being is aware of its possible non-being.” He went on to say that there are several questions which every human being must ask and answer in order to be truly human: “What is the meaning of life? Where do we come from, where do we go? What shall we become in the short space between birth and death?” And the Gospel comes to us with the Good News that we come from God and we go to God; and in between-we are to live in love, love with God and with one another.
Are you weary of the news and yet you can’t stay away from it? I am and I can’t. It is probably unnecessary to share it with you, but I have a list like Paul’s and some of it is the same: hardship, distress, peril, violence, the pandemic, political and social unrest, injustice, isolation, death, life, rulers, things present, things to come, powers…
With all that was going on in Paul’s life and in the world at large, Paul asked the question that we may be asking, as well, “What then are we to say about these things?”
Paul continues, “If God is for us, who is against us? …Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced 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.”
Paul uses one of his “hyper” verbs to describe the state of those who, though they may suffer, are never separated from Christ’s love they are hypernikan, or “more than conquerors.”
I invite you to think about the words of the great mystic, Julian of Norwich (1343 – after 1416), as she looked out on a world of pain. She lived during a time when the people of Europe were full of anxiety due to the Black Plague and the Hundred Years’ War. Because of her deep faith, her message in her day was this: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster