Have you experienced the pressure of trouble? Have you been battered by life? Then you understand what this passage means.
Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The first two words on this list: Tribulation and Distress are general words for ‘trouble,’ but each has a slightly different emphasis. “Tribulation” is from the Greek word that primarily means ‘a pressing, pressure, to compress or press.’ It was the word used for extracting the juice from grapes by trampling on them, or grinding wheat or barley into fine meal.
“Distress” is translated from a compound Greek word that refers to a narrow or restricted place. Have you ever felt as if you were being squeezed in a vise, as if you had no room to breathe? Then you know what this word means. When you combine the two, they refer respectively to outward affliction and inward distress. The two terms encompass every kind of problem and trouble that might be imagined.
Persecution refers to being pursued like a hunter pursues an animal. The church was born in occupied territory and under ruthless dictators who hunted and persecuted Christians.
Famine (lack of food) and nakedness (lack of clothing) could refer to the financial consequences of following Christ.
Peril is a general word for ‘danger,’ while sword has a number of sinister meanings, including violent death and execution for being a Christian. Paul was speaking from personal experience when he wrote Romans 8:35-39.
2 Corinthians 6:3-5: “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.”
2 Corinthians 11:22-27: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 – “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Timothy 3:12 – “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Hebrews 11:32-38: “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.”
It sure doesn’t look like the person who is going through these kinds of troubles is loved; it even appears like they are God-forsaken and maybe even God-afflicted. Paul assures Christians, and again, he is speaking from personal experience, that trials and persecution are natural, expected parts of living for God. But no matter what happens, no physical force nor any spiritual force can take you away from God’s love!
Some children are being raised by an evil parent(s). Some people are married to an evil person, some people suffer at the hands of evil people, and it happens every day. Sometimes these bad things happen to good Christian people.
Christian women and young girls have been abused to include sexual abuse by evil men for 2000 years.
Children of Christian parents have been abused by close family members or others. Christians have been persecuted and killed for 2000 years. Terrible things have happened to the bodies of good Christian people, such as the KGB catching young girls in Bible studies/underground churches, etc., stripping them naked and putting them in jail cells with grown men before they shipped them off into slavery in Siberia (Matthew 10:28 – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”).
God does not always prevent evil things from happening to us. Jesus said in Matthew 10:29 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”
Though God provides for the sparrows, sometimes bad things happen to them to include being hunted and killed. Although God watches over every one of us, and protects our souls from evil, this does not mean that our physical lives will be free from pain and suffering.
The Bible says that God knows when every sparrow falls and that he has every hair numbered. He has heard every prayer, and He is as grieved by what happens here as we are. For us to view the role of pain and suffering properly, we have to wait for the whole story.
So whatever it is that you are facing, just remember that it’s temporary, it will come to an end!
1 Peter 1:6-7: “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “…Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
One day, everything will be fixed and redeemed (Revelation 21:4 – “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away”). But for the time being, we have to live in an imperfect world where there are storms, accidents, disease, and evil people.
Job 13:15 – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…”
These are difficult days, but because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives!
There are many ways in which Christians are “more than conquerors.” We do not just survive our problems – we triumph over them. We do not merely cope with the challenges of life, but with God’s help we use those challenges to become better people. Above all, we are more than conquerors because God’s grace enables us to win the battle against great odds. In the end we will be ushered into His presence and receive a reward far greater than anything we can imagine.
Can bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered for it! Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”