Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Never Separated

Paul gave this stirring declaration about God’s love in his epistle to the Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39).  He certainly could speak about this given the countless harrowing experiences he suffered through for the gospel: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).  His witness to the Romans was that despite these difficult experiences he had suffered through, being stoned and beaten and shipwrecked and in all manner of perils, he had felt the love of Christ remain with him. 

We certainly see evidence of how the Savior’s love remained with Paul in the New Testament.  When Paul was in prison at Jerusalem after nearly being killed by the Jews, Luke recorded that “the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11).  When he was in danger of death on the water, he recounted, “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar (Acts 27:23-24).  He wrote to the Corinthians of a great difficulty he had, saying, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”  Though this difficulty was apparently not taken from him, it did not separate him from Christ’s love, for he recorded, “[The Lord] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” and thus “the power of Christ [did] rest upon [him]” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).  None of his trials, from imprisonment to perils in the water to this thorn in the flesh could separate him from feeling Christs presence and love.      
Perhaps one of the lessons of this declaration of Christ’s unwavering love for us is that our love should be similarly true and undeterred.  As Christ is our great Exemplar, we should seek to follow Him in this as well, that our love for others cannot be diminished by the struggles or difficulties or weaknesses that they face.  In particular, I would hope that my children can look to me and say something similar to what Paul said of the Savior: no matter what happens to me, no matter what mistakes I make, no matter what difficulties I face, I know that Dad will love me.  Moroni described God this way: “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Mormon 9:9).  I know I have a long ways to go, but I hope that my family can one day feel the same about my love for them—there is no shadow of changing no matter what the circumstances and no variableness in my devotion to them no matter what they do.  I pray most importantly that they can feel never separated from the love of Christ, but I hope as well that they will know that my love for them is also constant and true.    

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