Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, now powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 37-39).
Sometimes, life is not about moving forward. Sometimes the struggles we face are simply so overwhelming that it takes all the strength we have merely to hold on.
George Lacy was working as a public school teacher when he and his wife, Minnie, decided to take their vocational skills to the mission field. In 1903, the couple and their five children journeyed to Saltillo, Mexico, to organize and operate a school for girls, the Madero Institute.
Joy turned to sorrow in December 1904, when a daughter fell ill with scarlet fever. She died so quickly doctors weren't able to diagnose her illness. Shortly after that, a son also died. Not knowing what was wrong but desperate to escape the illness, Mrs. Lacy and the three oldest children boarded a train to return to Arkansas while Mr. Lacy buried their two youngest children, his heart breaking. Before the train reached home, the three remaining children also died of the fever. Lacy's letters to the foreign mission board describe in terrible simplicity the utter despair he and his wife felt in those hours: "Sometimes it seems more than we can bear."
Some of you are facing just such a time right now. The pain of the loss of a loved one; the struggles of caring for elderly parents who no longer remember you; the uncertainty and fears of grave illness; the loss of a job; the debilitating and misunderstood darkness of depression---all of these and so much more are real parts of a fallen world. In these moments it often seems more than we can bear. We cry out to God with questions, sometimes even in frustration and anger. When the answers aren't apparent, it often feels like He isn't there or isn't listening.
He is there and He is listening and He is not silent, though the sound of His voice may be hard to discern and the touch of His hand may not be easily felt.
These are the times when the work of the Holy Spirit goes on in you even in fits of rebellion, even in the very face of spiritual doubt. When you can no longer pray, the Holy Spirit lifts your heart's deepest prayers for you. When you cannot move forward one more step, a Trinity of compassion inhabits the place where you pause. Paul understood this when he built his list in Romans 8 of the things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. He knew clearly what we need to remember when the pain is too great: It is not necessary for us to hold on to the love of Christ in those difficult times because He is doing the work, making certain nothing that is done to us, indeed nothing that we do ourselves, separates us from His love.
George and Minnie Lacy ultimately decided to return to Mexico, to face the place of their greatest despair and continue to minister to the children there. Forty-six years later, when their ministry ended, their work left behind a legacy of children whose lives were touched by the same love of Christ that sustained the couple in their deepest trials. It was not their own strength that moved them through the storm. It was this promise from God: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5)
He has not left you, either.