PREPARATION: lighting the candle and readying myself to listen.
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
I once thought that to understand God and the Bible it would be helpful to spend some time farming and some time shepherding. I thought that planting a seed, caring for it, watching it grow, and harvesting it would give insight into what Jesus said about the life of faith. And I thought that shepherding skittish and clueless sheep would teach me more about the Shepherd. But no more. I am now convinced that better than being a farmer or a shepherd, it would be better to be a lover. If we are to rightly to understand God we must know God as a Lover. As a lover one knows what it is like to always want to be with someone; to not be able to stop thinking about someone; to want to change one’s life for someone; and yes, even to have love rejected. Only then can we begin to understand the love of Immanuel, who wants to leave heaven to come and be with us!
The apostle Paul prays in today’s scripture that we might know more and more of that love, “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Remarkably, Paul prays to know something that cannot be known. He asks for something always beyond our grasp: to know how much Christ loves us! As the finite cannot comprehend the infinite, so His love will always exceed our comprehension of His love.
Think about it! God did not need us, nor did He need our love, but He longed to be Immanuel, God is with us, and to give His life for us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The old Scots preacher Alexander Maclaren marveled at the wonder of Christ’s love for us:
“We know not what He forewent; we know not, nor ever shall know, what depths of darkness and soul-agony passed through at the bidding of His all-enduring love to us. Nor do we know the consequences of that great work of emptying Himself of His glory. We have no means by which we can estimate the darkness and the depth of the misery from which we have been delivered, nor the height and the radiance of the glory to which we are to be lifted.” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture)
What breathtaking humility and vulnerability Christ shows in asking us for our love, knowing that we will hurt Him. We can but touch the fringes of His love for us and skim the surface. “It is higher than heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Job 11:8-9).
With mighty stretch of thought and faith Paul prays to know the sheer vastness of Christ’s love for us. He wants to know its boundless dimensions: “what is the breadth and length and height and depth…” The breadth of Christ’s love embraces all the people of the earth; the length of His love reaches from eternity to eternity; the depth of His love grasps us in our lowest hell; and the height of His love raises us to heaven’s glory and honor. Our knowledge of such love is incomplete and wanting, and always will be. We cannot fathom His cross or lowly manger! But let us thank God that Christ’s love for us will always be beyond our understanding. There will always be more for us to know and to enjoy of Immanuel!
CONVERSATION: I talk with God about the thoughts and feelings stirring within.
REST: I take time to be present to Immanuel who is present to me.