I entered our marriage with a seriously dysfunctional approach to relationships. Instead of talking about how things were going between us, I would try to read signals in Sue Ann’s behavior. On the flip side, instead of talking about what I was thinking and feeling, I would send signals. You know, those non-verbal cues like clamming up or slamming doors. Subtle … not! Like I said, seriously unhealthy.
Non-verbal communication is powerful. The message intended by sighs or eye-rolling, etc. is not complete nor is it clear, but such non-verbal signals are powerful. When we see such signals we get the message that something is amiss. But therein lays a problem. What is amiss? What specifically is going on? What are the emotions being felt and what events triggered them?
Without answering such questions with words, the other person is left to guess what is really going on. And, no, the opinion that “He knows!” or “She gets it!” is not valid. Also not helpful is this typical interchange: “What’s wrong?” “Nothing!” Words can clear away the fog. Only honest words can bring to light what is concealed beneath the frowns and furrowed brows, the crossed arms and clenched jaw.
The Lord has brought Sue Ann and me a long way in our marriage, for which I give Him thanks. Our communication has improved tremendously, although, truth be told, I still send signals from time to time. It is not always easy, but using words to talk things through is a much healthier way to relate than sending or reading signals.
This “reading signals” can spill over into our relationship with the Lord. It is so easy to interpret how He is feeling toward us by the circumstances surrounding us, to take those circumstances as His “signals” to us. Especially is this true on the negative side of things. When we find ourselves in distressing circumstances, we can jump to the conclusion that God is not happy with us. When the doctor gives us dreaded news, we easily wonder, “Is God against me? Does Jesus still love me?”
Words, however, can clear away the uncertainty. It seems that God had in mind to answer this very concern by what He had the Apostle Paul write in Romans 8 and verses 31-39. Those verses give the words we need to hear when, in times of distress, we are tempted to question God’s love.
God is talking in this passage about distressing circumstances; He even uses the very word “distress” in verse 35! And in the passage preceding this one, the Lord spoke about the sufferings and groaning we experience in life. (See Romans 8:17, 18, and 23.)
With that in mind, notice three strong words of encouragement to God’s children, to those who have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ: (1) God is for us (8:31). He is on our side. So much so that gave His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins so that we might be forgiven (8:32-34). This sacrifice that God the Father made for our benefit forever settles the question of whether He is for us or against us. He is for us. He is on our side. (2) Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus (8:35-37). God lists a string of very awful circumstances in verse 35. Not one of them can separate you from the love of Christ. Even if you were persecuted to death for being a Christian, that would not mean you are cut off from the love of Christ. (3) Nothing can separate us from the love of God (8:38-39). Not death, not remote locations, not even demons! Nothing in all creation has the power to separate us from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage equips us to resist the tendency to read distressing circumstances as signals God is sending, signals indicating that He does not really love us, that He isn’t really on our side. His words, clear and complete, let us know that He is for us and that we are secure in His love. Don’t read circumstances as signals. Read God’s clear Word and hold fast to it in times of distress.