Incapable, unable, impossible, unfathomable… whatever word you choose, or whatever way you determine
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully” (Ephesians 3:18, NLT).
Saint Paul was attempting to describe God’s love as he wrote these words two centuries ago to a group of people in the city of Ephesus. It was a concept and a truth that he earnestly wanted them to know. He did so by putting God’s love into measuring terms, which is a human attempt at trying to get our head around something bigger than our minds can understand, but in reality, he failed to achieve it. God’s love is immeasurable.
In order to measure something, you need a standard of measure, but here is the contradiction – the measure is immeasurable, meaning it is incapable of being measured. So how do you measure the immeasurable? When Paul says he wants us to be filled to the measure with the fullness of God, what measure is he talking about? He is unable to provide the unit or standard of measurement, because whatever way we might try to measure God’s love, it’s going to be more than that.
However, Paul still suggests that we attempt to measure the immeasurable.
If it were possible to understand God’s love, and if we gave God access to all who we are so that His power within could give us this understanding, it would still be immeasurable. But what I think he is really trying to say. is, “Go on! Explore God’s love. See how marvelous it is!”
The width of God’s love is vast, and extends way beyond any measuring instrument we might have to calculate it. It extends from east to west and beyond. If I were to keep travelling eastward, I would never get beyond the reaches of His love. If I were to turn around and travel westward, I would never travel outside of its borders because it goes far beyond. To measure width, we extend a measuring tool along the entire horizontal edge of the space until we reach the edge. What if there was no point to begin at? What if there was no edge to measure to? What if there was no adequate tool? How far is the east from the west? Immeasurable!
Paul would again say, “Try to measure it! See if you can determine how long it is”. It is far-reaching, long before and long after, from eternity to eternity, from the past and into the future. It can not be measured. I can read of God’s love for me in the past, “even before He made the world, God loved me” (Ephesians 1:4, NLT), and in the future, “I will love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV), and in my present, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion” (Philippians 1:6, NIV), but I cannot measure past, present or future. He simply, yet profoundly, loves me at all times.
God has loved me through my past, whatever that has looked like, whatever stuff has gone on. He loves me right now – the work He has started in me, He is still working on right now in the circumstances I face, and the things I am learning and experiencing. He desires that I know His love, like
God’s love for me is immeasurably high. It extends far upwards. Were I to climb the highest mountain, I would not be beyond His love. If I were to go even further, to somehow fly into space, I would not be outside the realm of His love. If I reach the heights of my career or any great achievement in life, His love is there.
Get this: the bible says, “He raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6, NIV). He takes me to the heights, the highest place, and as His daughter, I become heir to His kingdom and all He owns, He gives me the highest position of authority alongside Himself, includes me in all His plans and purposes. So immeasurably high is His love for me that I get to have all that He has in the heavens above, and be part of all that He is doing! Incredible!
God’s love for me is immeasurably deep. It extends far down. It is bottomless. I was trying to figure this out. To find some kind of illustration that gives a good picture of immeasurably deep love, to help me understand –
The Krubera Cave in Mexico is one of the deepest caves known, extending over 2000 meters deep from the face of the earth. That is a 2-kilometer trip towards the centre of the earth. They call it the abyss – cavers don’t think they have finished going as far as they can yet into this cave. It is a dark and unknown – and scary place. I could go that 2-kilometers into the cave, and His love would be there.
Yet what I think it really means, and what I love even more about this standard of measure, is that God’s love extends far inwards to that inner-most part of me. To that deepest, darkest place that I can’t even measure – the unknown – though it is who I truly am. The place where my deepest dreams are kept. And where my deepest hurts and darkest secrets are locked away. Where the real me is guarded. His love reaches here.
The verse, “He lifted me out of the depths of the slimy pit” (Psalm 40:2, NIV), means His love can lift me out of the depths of my ruin and sin and misery, out of that place of darkness and hopelessness. When I am truly broken, messed up and desperate, life feels like a pit, like a grave, like death. But even here, in my lowest place, having sunken to the depths, His love is present.
I wished I had attended the funeral of a pastor I heard about who took his life. He had left one place of work and through whatever the circumstances were, he was unable to find another place to pastor. Over time he became discouraged and depressed. The depths of his distress became too much that he took his life, so I was told. A friend of mine told me about his funeral. His wife had shared his story and then had the song Chasing Cars played, which when I heard about this, moved me very deeply. It had such a profound impact on my life at the time –
We’ll do it all/Everything/On our own/We don’t need/Anything/Or anyone/
If I lay here/If I just lay here/Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
I don’t quite know/How to say/How I feel/Those three words/Are said too much/They’re not enough…
Forget what we’re told/Before we get too old/Show me a garden that’s bursting into life/
Let’s waste time/Chasing cars/Around our heads/I need your grace/To remind me/To find my own…
All that I am/All that I ever was/Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see/
I don’t know where/Confused about how as well/Just know that these things will never change for us at all/
If I lay here/If I just lay here/Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Even in death, as he took his life, God’s love was there with him. I don’t know, but
“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 8:38-39, NIV).
What was the collection of moments like before his death? What were his thoughts in this time of hopelessness, and the dark journey to this place, where nothing but death seemed to be the only way out? It makes me sad. I have no doubt it is the same for God too – He who longs for us to know love that gives hope and purpose and satisfaction to the one who cannot find it anywhere. I cannot comment on what it is like to be in this place where death is the only answer to the pain, I can only suggest that love is there alongside, even when it cannot be felt, even in death.
The verses above say nothing can separate us from His love, not even death. As I think about this man, as he lay down, God laid down beside him and went with him into the very deepest place, death, it made me cry. How great is it that God’s love reaches and goes beyond our deepest place? To me this story speaks so powerfully into how great this love is for humankind. When this man went to his deepest darkest place, even to death, God was there.
God’s love for us is immeasurable! Far beyond what we could ever fully understand, but its truth is none-the-less real. Wherever I find myself, He is there. He is there. He is there. He is there as God is Love.
His desire is, that I understand it more, experience it more, explore its width, length, height
Continued in next week’s blog…