Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God
May I tell you the story of a young college girl?
During her junior year, her parents separated, and she discovered they had been having marriage problems for years. Her parents had been good at hiding the truth from her and her siblings. It felt like a bomb exploded in their world.
Though she had known Jesus as Lord and Savior since childhood, she only knew Bible stories and had no idea what she believed. Her life was shaken and her faith became unstable.
Courses she had once breezed through didn’t matter anymore. She slept in and didn’t attend classes. Her grades bottomed out and she quit going to the little church that had been her lifeline while away from home. Working late each night at the college newspaper became her saving grace.
She didn’t want what God had to offer anymore, but she did want to graduate from college. She plugged through her senior year and pulled up her grades enough to stay in the game. Her parents divorced, and her mother was in a relationship with someone else and about to get remarried. Her life felt mired in quicksand and getting pulled deeper every moment.
At her furthest point from God, she still felt an urgent pull on her heart telling her God still loved her. But she didn’t know how to come back.
That young woman was me. And God was faithful even when I was not.
Everything came to a head when a sheriff’s deputy knocked at my college rental house door. This was before cell phones and my house phone wasn’t working. Sending a deputy was a common occurrence when family members couldn’t reach you by phone for some urgent reason.
“Your family has been trying to reach you,“ he said. “Your grandmother has passed away.”
My mother’s mother, whom we all affectionately called Dommie, had been a rock for me. A women’s Bible teacher, creative designer, and master gardener, she was a genuine Christian. Her warmth and love for God had always inspired me.
God used her death to break me. After some soul-searching tears, I confessed I needed Him. “God, I want you back in my life. I don’t know what to do or where to go, but I want you.”
God broke me in all the right places and I know it made my Dommie glad.
An amazing thing happened. As I poured out my heart to God, I was honest with him about all the things I didn’t like about His Church. Especially the part where I had never had friends at any church I attended. That didn’t seem right. I told Him church should be where your friends are (like God didn't know that)!
One night, a couple of weeks later, my phone rang (yes, it was fixed now.) It was a guy I had been friends with in college as a freshman. Dan had returned to the Northwest after freshman year and I hadn’t had any contact with him until now, in my last semester of senior year.
“I had a dream about you last night,” Dan said. “God showed me you have backslidden away from Him. Is that right?”
Long pause. “Yes, it’s true,” I said.
Dan didn’t seem surprised. “My pastor here in Washington is good friends with a pastor in your town. I think this is where you’re supposed to go.”
How crazy is that?!
Before I could make up too many excuses not to go, I attended that church, on my birthday. And guess what? It was a small church filled with young people my age. On my very first Sunday morning, they invited me to a fellowship that night and surprised me with a birthday party. Me and 15 young people I had never met until that day!
Bethesda Bible Church also had an in-depth Bible teaching program. I suddenly had Christian friends and over the next seven years, I systematically studied the Bible and learned what I believed. Thank God for Pastors Mario and Anne Oliverio.
I married my husband Louis in this church, and dedicated our first baby there. (And that same baby, Andrew, attended church there during his college years...that's another great story!)
This was a transformational season in my life.
Though I thought I had walked away from God, He was always there, cradling me under the shadow of His wing. His love was constant, even when mine was not.
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” Psalms 139:7-10 NLT
You see, God’s love is ever present, even when we don’t see or feel it.
We know the sun remains firmly in place in the celestial sky. If we didn’t have the benefit of scientific evidence our planet revolves around the sun while rotating on its axis every 24 hours, we might despair when the sun seems to routinely disappear from the sky.
But we know it remains in place, even during the night time hours and during cloudy or stormy days when we can’t spot it in the sky. Clouds simply obscure our vision and we don’t feel the warmth of the sun’s rays.
Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God found through Christ Jesus.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
If the sun is constant, how much more so is the God who created all the heavens and the earth? His love doesn’t fluctuate, wax or wane. It is a fixed point of reference for our lives. We may not always feel His love, but the fact remains…it is there.
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and get off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” – Corrie Ten Boom
Sit tight, my friend. No matter what you’re going through, God‘s got you. He is with you in the middle of your storm.
The sun will shine again.