“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
I have never surfed. Admittedly, I’ve never been in a really big hurry to try. It looks fun, but I have long been just a bit weary about the water. A couple of experiences growing up cemented this for me.
When I was in grade school, I was with my family at the local water park, Oceans of Fun. It was a pretty standard park. It had a variety of slides, some more adventurous, some less. It had a canoeing lake. It had a kiddie area. It even had a Frisbee golf course. But the highlight was the wave pool. Hundreds of visitors would cram into the little ocean-like pool and wait for the Beach Boys’ classic, Wipe Out, to come on the speakers, signaling the beginning of about ten minutes’ worth of waves to ride.
While most visitors entered the fray with a bright yellow, oversized inner tube, for whatever reason, I hadn’t. This was okay, though, because I was a pretty good swimmer and when the waves were going, you could touch the bottom between crests even to where the water was normally over your head.
I was having a blast jumping from wave to wave, not realizing how tired I was getting. Then the waves stopped. I didn’t have enough energy to tread water, and the pool was so clogged with tubers that I couldn’t push through to get back to the shore. I tried to grab hold of some nearby tubes, but was pushed off by people who thought I was trying to mooch. Finally, from seemingly out of nowhere, a kid I had never seen before nor ever saw again, barged through the crowd, pulled me on his tube, and pulled me to the shallows. To this day I am still convinced it was an angel.
The other experience came a few years later when I was with my youth group playing in the rough surf at an Outer Banks beach in Kitty Hawk, NC. The waves were hitting pretty hard that day, but we were teenagers who figured we were invincible. At least, we did until one particularly big wave slammed into us from behind. I’m not sure how the others fared, but I was knocked clean off my feet, rolled several times under the water, and even had a rubber band that had been around my wrist for weeks ripped off. I popped up dizzy and a little dazed thirty or forty feet closer to the shore than I had been before the wave. I mostly called it quits for the rest of the day.
The thing is, I wasn’t scared of the water and haven’t ever been. When I knew I was in control of myself, I loved the water. It was when I wasn’t sure I would be able to get where I wanted to go or do what I wanted to do that I was a fair bit warier.
Most of us are about the same way when it comes to life. When we feel like we are in control of things, we’re good. We can go where we want and do what we want and nothing can get in our way. It’s when we start to lose our grip that our confidence level plummets.
What’s even more like this is when we are on the journey to the kingdom with Jesus. When we are riding the waves, so to speak, of kingdom life, as long as we feel like we mostly have a handle on things, we’re good. We are happy to walk confidently with Jesus then. But, the secret, is that we are walking next to Him on our own two feet. We’re not really relying on Him for anything other than companionship.
When life begins to turn on us, though, things begin to change. We don’t have the confidence we once did. We don’t have the joy and lightness we once did. We begin to doubt like Peter sinking into the waves of the Sea of Galilee. We start grasping at straws (false beliefs, superstitions, sin habits that bring us comfort, and etc.), hoping one of them will hold us up and keep us from drowning. All the while, Jesus is standing there wondering when we are going to realize the truth: If we are walking with Him, He’s not going to let us sink where He can’t reach us.
Why do we do this? I submit that a significant part of the reason is that we don’t really trust Him. We haven’t learned to place our whole faith on Him at all. We speak of trust, but what it really turns out to be is that very walking-on-our-own-next-to-Jesus thing I mentioned earlier. We haven’t let the deep truths of the Scriptures and the promises of God penetrate to the depths of our soul and take root there.
And what Paul proclaims here is one of the deepest and strongest. When we have found ourselves in the love of God that shapes us and molds us and makes us fully who we were designed to be, there isn’t anything in this life that can remove us from it. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. No matter how big the waves get or how tired of treading water we might be, we are held tightly in that love. No matter what.
What this means is that we don’t have to fear or lose hope when we face the various trials and temptations that are part and parcel with the path of Jesus. We can ride them with joy and confidence knowing they cannot sink us. They may swirl us around a bit, but this will only be the slightly disorienting joy of a thrill ride designed for maximum safety. When life rears up and takes a big swipe at us, we throw our heads back with laughter as we watch with eager anticipation at how God is going to carry us around the next bend. We are indeed more than conquerors in Him who loves us.
There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God once you have found yourself in its strong embrace. Rest easy with that truth and walk through life with all the confidence of one who not only knows, but has the full backing of the one who is Lord of all.