So much has changed in the last few months, both at the university where I teach and in the United States as a whole. Areas of campus that formerly hummed with activity are now silent and empty. Popular restaurants that were thronged with patrons are now sparsely populated or reduced to serving takeout. Highways and major thoroughfares in urban centers that were snarled with traffic jams have far fewer vehicles. Airports that bustled with harried travelers are eerily calm and host only a smattering of travelers. Yes, much has changed very quickly, and rapid change may understandably make us feel uncertain and insecure.
In the midst of such swift change, which threatens to dominate our attention and overwhelm us with worry, we can take courage by remembering several things that haven’t changed. The list, of course, could be much longer, but here are four unchanging realities that provide the basis for hope.
God’s Love Is Real
The first unchanging reality is God’s enduring love for His children. Whatever difficulty we’re experiencing at the moment, whatever we’re called upon to endure, or even whatever mistakes we may make, nothing can diminish God’s love for us or separate us from His love. If you doubt this, take some time to read chapter 8 of Romans, which I believe to be one of the greatest chapters in all of Scripture.
Take time to rejoice in the resounding declaration, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).* Contemplate the truth expressed by the rhetorical question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (verse 31). Meditate on the profundity contained in Paul’s reasoning, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (verse 32). Treasure the ringing affirmation that nothing in all of creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 39). If you do this, you can’t help but be comforted and cheered.
Forgiveness Is His Specialty
A second unchanging reality is Jesus’ eagerness to forgive us and cleanse us from sin. The four Gospels are literally replete with stories that highlight how our Lord receives with open arms anyone who is willing to come. In Luke 15, one of my favorite chapters in my favorite Gospel, Jesus tells three parables that provide heaven’s perspective on saving the lost. A man with a flock of 100 sheep leaves behind 99 of them and goes out searching for his one lost lamb “until he finds it” (verse 4). A woman, who has lost one of the ten coins she owns, searches for it “until she finds it” (verse 8). In the well-known story of the prodigal son, which should more accurately be known as the parable of the loving father, the spurned father waits with yearning and greets his returning son with open arms and a welcoming heart. In each case, a public celebration ensues when what was lost is found. From a human perspective, the celebrations seem wildly excessive, at least in the case of the sheep and the coin, but Jesus is making a point. The reason why He came to this earth was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). That’s what His mission was all about!
A New Creation
A third unchanging reality is the Lord’s desire to transform our lives into His likeness. It’s true that Jesus accepts us just as we are—this is the beauty of the gospel—but it’s also true that He never leaves us as we were. He’s eager to change us into His likeness, to refashion and reshape our marred and broken lives. As Scripture says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Notice that this isn’t something that happens in our own strength. When Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), the “him” being spoken of is Jesus Christ. He’s the One who enables the fruit of the Spirit to be visible in us. He provides the ability to live up to Paul’s challenging exhortation, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This transformation of the sinner’s life is also part of the wonder of the gospel.
A fourth unchanging reality is our Lord’s promise to return and take us to be with Him forever. “I will come again,” Jesus declared, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). This, the Mount Everest of all the promises in the Bible, is repeated and emphasized so often in the New Testament that it should be understood as an ironclad guarantee by the Lord Himself to come back and rescue His children.
Now, I don’t claim to know exactly when this promise will come to fruition, but I do know this: we’re one year closer than we were last year, one month closer than we were last month, and one crisis closer than we were before the coronavirus emergency. The rapidity with which previously unthinkable events have happened serves to remind us that the history of this world could wrap up much sooner than some have thought.
So amid all the change and uncertainty that swirl around us nowadays, perhaps it would be wise to try to forget about the news headlines, at least for a little while, meditate on these unchanging realities, and therein find courage and hope.