This summer has had some really special moments but it has also been filled with bad news.
- We had cars break down and one them bit the dust forever!
- Our children are growing into adults and with that comes tears over relationships and break-ups.
- We received news about the death of young man in the prime of his life this summer. At the funeral I felt the deep anguish of a family in shock and grief.
- Sometimes this summer the bad news for me has just been the continual struggle with sin – my sin, the battles my loved ones fight, and the general effects of sin on the planet. I wish life wasn’t so hard so much of the time.
Maybe your summer has been full of great news. I sure hope so! Or maybe your brand of bad news looks much different than mine. Studying the book of Romans for the past year has been such a great reminder of the ultimate good news. All of my bad news scenarios are temporary. Even sin won’t be a permanent fixture in my life. I can be continually overwhelmed by the bad news or choose to focus on the God’s grace in the midst of ambiguity.
From Paul’s letter to the church at Rome I rediscovered afresh gospel truths that have been game changers in my life. We don’t earn His love – He extends it to all. Faith alone is what He asks of us. This gospel isn’t information – its an invitation – to enter into a relationship with a loving God based on belief not behavior. Of course I wish I understood why all the bad stuff happens, but I no longer try to attach “reasons” to all of it. Instead of trying to figure everything out (which usually ends up being like nailing jello to a wall). I want to put my energy into embracing what I do know to be true.
The simple truth that I am loved by God – the Creator of the world – while I’m still a sinner – has been a powerful truth in my life for many years! In high school my closest friend was a cheerleader, and she decided she wanted me on the squad. Since I didn’t have any cheer experience, she talked me into trying out for the mascot; and since I was the only one trying out, I got the job. (scroll to the bottom of this post for an embarrassing picture) At football and basketball games I wore a hawk costume and did skits for the children in the crowds. Inside the costume my eyes were level with the hawk’s beak. At this time in my life God was capturing my heart in a personal way, and Romans 5:8 resonated strongly with me. So I wrote the verse on a scrap of paper and taped it inside that beak where I could see it during the games.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ” Romans 5:8
This verse encapsulates the gospel in a way that gets at the heart of my insecurities. I can talk a good grace game, but something inside of me wants to earn the love and approval of others, including God. I want to be a godly wife, loving mother, and sacrificial friend. At times my motives to live this way are the overflow of God’s love in me, but other times these goals come out of a place of hoping to be accepted. I want God and others to say, “Good job.”
When I read Romans 5:8, what makes me tear up every time is the phrase “While we were yet sinners.” The verse on that scrap of paper in the beak of my hawk costume are forever burned in my memory even thirty years later.
Here is what God didn’t say:
- Because you read your Bible and pray every day
- Because you do good works
- Because other people say you are nice
- Because you got an A on your test or an accolade at work
No, God demonstrated His love by sending His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Whenever I get off track into “work hard so God will love you” mode, the Holy Spirit whispers these words in my ear, “While Melissa was still a sinner, Christ died for her.”
The same is true for you – But God demonstrates his own love for ____________________ in this: While ____________________ was still a sinner, Christ died for ____________________.
I hope that good news overshadows all your bad news today! I know it puts all my frustrations into perspective even as I process and grieve the difficulties of life. It helps to know that we are loved, that God is present with us in the bad times, and that one day – things will be different!
If you would like to journey deeper into the Good News that Changes Everything – Check out my new Bible study that releases on August 6th! https://amzn.to/2wChCZr