When Linda and I were pastors at First Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois (back in the mid-70s), our church hosted a coffee house. Every Saturday night, twenty to fifty young adults would gather in the basement of our building. Someone would bring a teaching. And, we would worship.
The worship stayed with me. We had great instrumentalists, and some phenomenal voices. Some of those songs, repeated over and over, have become the furniture of my heart.
One was a simple worship song that repeated Romans 8:35:
What can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or hardship?
Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or the sword?
Follow Jesus long enough, and you will go through some of these things. Most have experienced affliction, hardship, persecution, and peril. Linda and I have had the death of loved ones. We have experienced persecution, sometimes coming from within our church families. We have known financial hardship (many pastors have, BTW). I have encountered perilous situations while ministering to people in dark environments.
Still, through it all, the experience of God's love remains.
Love is an experience, not a theory. (See Leading the Presence-Driven Church, Chapter 2, "The Case for Experience.")
God's love is felt. It is known, in the Hebrew sense of knowing.
Linda and I have never been cut off from this.
Dallas Willard writes:
"When our first child was born, I realized painfully that this beautiful little creature was separate from me and nothing I could do would shelter him from his aloneness in the face of time, brutal events, others’ meanness, his own wrong choices, the decay of his body and, finally, death.
That would be the last word on the subject, except for God. He is able to penetrate and intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in his loving companionship will never be alone." (Willard, Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, p. 51)
My first two books are...
Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)
Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)
I am now writing...
Technology and Spiritual Formation
How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation