“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:18, 24)
Dr. Charles Stanley once used an illustration that has stuck with me through the years. I have cited it often in lessons I’ve taught and was reminded of it again last week when my morning devotion brought me to Romans chapters 7 and 8.
Hold your hands out in front of you, putting one in front of the other, focusing intently on the hand nearest you. Notice how the other hand subtly fades from view in your mind.
Now imagine that one hand represents your circumstances, while the other hand represents the promises of God. Do you see where I’m going with this?
In the midst of life’s inevitable difficulties, disappointments, pain, and struggles, we can easily allow life’s circumstances to cloud our view of God’s promises. When you find yourself in that situation, it is important to figuratively change the position of your hands, view your circumstances through the lens of God’s promises, and watch the gravity of those circumstances fade in comparison.
There may be no better Biblical example of that dynamic than that provided by Paul in chapters 7 and 8 of Romans.
In chapter 7, Paul’s focus turns to his personal struggles with sin, lamenting that “nothing good lives in me” – that while he desires to do good, he often finds himself doing otherwise. (verse 18-19) While all of us can relate to those internal battles with the flesh, other circumstances often capture our focus as well – such as the loss of a loved one, a life-threatening illness, or the loss of a job – to name just a few.
Any of those situations can lead us to cry out with Paul in verse 24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But notice how Paul’s focus abruptly turns to the promises of God, answering his own question in verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
In chapter 8, Paul then proceeds to enumerate five (one for each finger) of the most profound promises of God contained in all of Scripture:
- “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1)
- “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)
- “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
I encourage you to highlight these five verses in your Bible. And the next time life’s inevitable circumstances start to divert your focus to the wrong hand, allow the Spirit of God to redirect your gaze to these uplifting, unchanging, and unbreakable promises on the other hand.
You’ll be glad you did.
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.” – Corrie ten Boom
(All Scripture references taken from The New International Version, NIV)