Who Will Separate Us From God’s Love?
“As for us, we love, because he first loved us.”—1 JOHN 4:19.
1, 2. (a) Why is knowing that we are loved important to us? (b) Whose love do we need the most?
HOW important is it to you to know that you are loved? From infancy to adulthood, humans thrive on love. Have you observed a baby cradled lovingly in its mother’s arms? Often, no matter what is going on around it, as the little one gazes into its mother’s smiling eyes, it is at ease, at peace in the arms of a mother who loves it. Or do you remember how you were during those sometimes turbulent adolescent years? (1 Thessalonians 2:7) At times, you may not have known what you wanted or even how you felt, yet how important it was to know that your father and mother loved you! Was it not helpful to know that you could approach them with any problem or question? Really, all through life, one of our greatest needs is to be loved. Such love affirms that we have value.
2 The enduring love of one’s parents certainly contributes to proper development and balance. Yet, having the confidence that our heavenly Father, Jehovah, loves us is far more critical to our spiritual and emotional well-being. Some readers of this magazine may not have had parents who truly cared for them. If that is true in your case, take heart. Even if parental love was missing or if it failed, God’s loyal love comes to the rescue.
3. How has Jehovah reassured his people of his love for them?
3 Through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah pointed out that a mother could “forget” her nursing infant, but he would not forget his people. (Isaiah 49:15) Similarly, David confidently said: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) How reassuring! Whatever your circumstances, if you have come into a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God, you should always remember that the love he has for you far exceeds that of any human!
Keep Yourself in God’s Love
4. How were first-century Christians reassured of God’s love?
4 When did you first come to know of Jehovah’s love? Likely, your experience was somewhat similar to that of Christians in the first century. The 5th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans beautifully describes how sinners, once alienated from God, became acquainted with Jehovah’s love. In verse 5, we read: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, which was given us.” In verse 8, Paul adds: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
5. How did you come to appreciate the extent of God’s love?
5 In a similar manner, when the truth from God’s Word was presented to you and you began to exercise faith, Jehovah’s holy spirit began to operate in your heart. In this way you started to appreciate the magnitude of what Jehovah did in sending his beloved Son to die for you. Jehovah thus helped you to be aware of just how much he loves mankind. When you realized that, although you were born a sinner alienated from him, Jehovah had opened the way for humans to be declared righteous with the prospect of endless life, was not your heart touched? Did you not feel a love for Jehovah?—Romans 5:10.
6. Why may we at times feel somewhat distant from Jehovah?
6 Having been drawn by the love of your heavenly Father and having adjusted your life to be acceptable to him, you dedicated your life to God. You now enjoy peace with God. Yet, do you at times feel somewhat distant from Jehovah? That can happen to any of us. But always remember that God does not change. His love is as constant and steady as the sun, which never stops sending forth its warm rays of light to the earth. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17) On the other hand, we can change—if even temporarily. As the earth turns, half of the planet becomes shrouded in darkness. Likewise, if we turn away from God, even to a limited degree, we may feel a chill in our relationship with him. What can we do to correct that situation?
7. How can self-examination help us to remain in God’s love?
7 If we sense some separation from God’s love, we should ask ourselves: ‘Have I taken God’s love for granted? Have I gradually turned away somewhat from the living and loving God, showing in various ways a weakening of faith? Have I set my mind on “the things of the flesh,” rather than on “the things of the spirit”?’ (Romans 8:5-8; Hebrews 3:12) If we have distanced ourselves from Jehovah, we can take steps to correct matters, to return to a close, warm relationship with him. James urges us: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) Take to heart the words of Jude: “Beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love.”—Jude 20, 21.
Changed Circumstances Do Not Affect God’s Love
8. What changes can suddenly occur in our lives?
8 Our life in this system of things is subject to many changes. King Solomon observed that “time and unforeseen occurrence befall [us] all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Overnight, our life may change completely. One day we are healthy, the next day we may be seriously ill. One day our secular job seems stable, the next day we are unemployed. Without warning, death can strike a loved one. Christians in a certain land may enjoy peaceful conditions for some time, and then, suddenly, violent persecution erupts. Perhaps we are falsely accused, and because of this, we suffer some injustice. Yes, life is not stable or completely certain.—James 4:13-15.
9. Why would it be good to consider a portion of Romans chapter 8?
9 When saddening things happen to us, we could begin to feel abandoned, even imagining that God’s love for us has waned. Since we are all subject to such happenings, we do well to consider carefully the very consoling words of the apostle Paul recorded in Romans chapter 8. Those words were addressed to spirit-anointed Christians. Yet, in principle they also apply to those of the other sheep, who have been declared righteous as God’s friends, as was Abraham in pre-Christian times.—Romans 4:20-22; James 2:21-23.
10, 11. (a) What charges do enemies sometimes make against God’s people? (b) Why do such accusations not really matter to Christians?
10 Read Romans 8:31-34. Paul asks: “If God is for us, who will be against us?” True, Satan and his wicked world are against us. Enemies may falsely accuse us, even in the courts of the land. Some Christian parents have been accused of hating their children because of not allowing them to accept medical procedures that violate God’s law or not letting them engage in pagan celebrations. (Acts 15:28, 29; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16) Other faithful Christians have been falsely charged with being seditious because they would not kill fellow humans in warfare or engage in politics. (John 17:16) Some opposers have spread slanderous lies in the media, even falsely accusing Jehovah’s Witnesses of being a dangerous cult.
11 But do not forget that in the apostles’ day, it was said: “As regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Do false accusations really matter? It is God who declares true Christians righteous, based upon their faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Why would Jehovah stop loving his worshipers after he has given them the most precious gift he could—his own beloved Son? (1 John 4:10) Now that Christ has been raised from the dead and has been placed at the right hand of God, he actively pleads for Christians. Who can rightfully refute Christ’s defense of his followers or successfully challenge God’s favorable judgment of his faithful ones? No one!—Isaiah 50:8, 9; Hebrews 4:15, 16.
12, 13. (a) What conditions or circumstances cannot separate us from God’s love? (b) What is the Devil’s objective in causing hardships for us? (c) Why do Christians come off completely victorious?
12 Read Romans 8:35-37. Aside from us, is there anyone or anything that can separate us from the love of Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus? Satan may use his earthly agents to cause Christians much trouble. Over the past century, many of our Christian brothers and sisters have been objects of violent persecution in many lands. In some places today, our brothers daily face economic distress. Some experience the pain of hunger or lack sufficient clothing. What is the Devil’s objective in causing these hard conditions? At least in part, his purpose is to discourage true worship of Jehovah. Satan wants to make us believe that God’s love has grown cold. However, is that the case?
13 Like Paul, who quoted Psalm 44:22, we have studied God’s written Word. We understand that it is for the sake of God’s name that these things happen to us, his “sheep.” The sanctification of God’s name and the vindication of his universal sovereignty are involved. It is because of such major issues that God has permitted trials, not because he no longer loves us. No matter what the distressing circumstance may be, we are assured that God’s love for his people, including each one of us, has not changed. Any seeming defeat we may suffer will turn out to be a victory if we keep our integrity. We are strengthened and sustained by the assurance of God’s unbreakable love.
14. Why was Paul convinced of God’s love despite the hardships that Christians may suffer?
14 Read Romans 8:38, 39. What convinced Paul that nothing could separate Christians from God’s love? No doubt Paul’s personal experiences while in the ministry reinforced his conviction that hardships could not affect God’s love for us. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Philippians 4:13) Also, Paul had knowledge of Jehovah’s eternal purpose and past dealings with His people. Can death itself conquer God’s love for those who have served him loyally? Not at all! Such faithful ones who die will live on in God’s perfect memory, and he will resurrect them in due time.—Luke 20:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 15:22-26.
15, 16. Recount some things that can never make God stop loving his faithful servants.
15 Whatever misfortune life today may bring us—whether a debilitating accident, a terminal disease, or an economic calamity—nothing can destroy God’s love for his people. Powerful angels, such as the disobedient angel who became Satan, cannot influence Jehovah to stop loving his devoted servants. (Job 2:3) Governments may ban, imprison, and mistreat God’s servants and may label them “persona non grata.” (1 Corinthians 4:13) Such unjustified hatred by the nations may pressure humans to turn against us, but it does not sway the Sovereign of the universe to abandon us.
16 As Christians, we need not fear that any of what Paul called “things now here”—the events, conditions, and situations in this present system of things—nor “things to come” in the future can break God’s attachment to his people. Though earthly and heavenly powers wage war against us, God’s loyal love is there to sustain us. Neither “height nor depth” hinders God’s love, as stressed by Paul. Yes, nothing that might tend to pull us down, nor anything tending to exercise a superior influence on us, can separate us from God’s love; nor can any other creation disrupt the Creator’s relationship with his faithful servants. God’s love never fails; it is everlasting.—1 Corinthians 13:8.
Treasure God’s Loving-Kindness Forever
17. (a) Why is having God’s love “better than life”? (b) How do we demonstrate that we treasure God’s loving-kindness?
17 How important is God’s love to you? Do you feel as did David, who wrote: “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my own lips will commend you. Thus I shall bless you during my lifetime; in your name I shall raise my palms”? (Psalm 63:3, 4) Truly, is there anything that life in this world has to offer that is better than enjoying God’s love and loyal friendship? For example, is pursuing a lucrative secular career better than having the peace of mind and happiness that result from a close relationship with God? (Luke 12:15) Some Christians have been confronted with the choice of renouncing Jehovah or facing death. That happened to many of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. With very few exceptions, our Christian brothers chose to remain in God’s love, being willing to face death if necessary. Those who loyally remain in his love can be confident of receiving from God an everlasting future, something that the world cannot give us. (Mark 8:34-36) But even more is involved than everlasting life.
18. Why is everlasting life so desirable?
18 Though it is not possible to live forever without Jehovah, try to imagine what an extremely long life would be like without our Creator. It would be empty, without true purpose. Jehovah has given his people satisfying work to do in these last days. So we can trust that when Jehovah, the Great Purposer, provides everlasting life, it will be filled with fascinating, worthwhile things for us to learn and to do. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Explore as we will in the millenniums ahead, we will never completely fathom “the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge.”—Romans 11:33.
The Father Has Affection for You
19. What parting reassurance did Jesus Christ give to his disciples?
19 On Nisan 14, 33 C.E., during his last evening with his 11 faithful apostles, Jesus said many things to strengthen them for what lay ahead. They had all stuck with Jesus through his trials, and they had personally felt his love for them. (Luke 22:28, 30; John 1:16; 13:1) Then Jesus reassured them: “The Father himself has affection for you.” (John 16:27) How those words must have helped the disciples to realize the tender feelings that their heavenly Father had for them!
20. What are you determined to do, and in what can you have confidence?
20 Many now alive have served Jehovah faithfully for decades. No doubt, before the end of this wicked system of things, we will face many more trials. Never let such trials or distress make you doubt God’s loyal love for you. It would be hard to overemphasize this fact: Jehovah has affection for you. (James 5:11) Let each of us continue to do our part, loyally observing God’s commands. (John 15:8-10) May we use every opportunity to praise his name. We should strengthen our resolve to continue drawing close to Jehovah in prayer and studying his Word. Whatever tomorrow may bring, if we are doing our utmost to please Jehovah, we will remain at peace, fully confident of his unfailing love.—2 Peter 3:14.
How Would You Respond?
• To keep our spiritual and emotional balance, we especially need whose love?
• What things could never cause Jehovah to stop loving his servants?
• Why is experiencing Jehovah’s love “better than life”?
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If we feel separated from God’s love, we can work to correct matters
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Paul understood why he was persecuted