We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Couples sometimes disagree about which of the two of them initiated their relationship. It can be humbling but also deeply affirming to hear that your partner had their eye on you long before you ever made your first play for them. So it is in our relation with God. We learn to our initial consternation that it is not all about the decisions we made for God. Rather…
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
On reflection we find that the initiating love of God becomes for us the grounds of our security and spiritual assurance. We journey within the framework of the divine purpose for our lives. Beginning as a twinkle in his eyes, God determines to bring us to himself, calling us through the gospel, forgiving us and transforming us as he leads us to glory. This is the ‘good’ towards which all things work. To the question: what can separate us from such love? Paul answers: Nothing!
Many of us have, or course, struggled in our journey of faith, sometimes hiding, sometimes even running away from the divine presence. But the divine lover is not to be dissuaded.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
(Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven)
For those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, all things work together for good.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Ps 139:1-10)