So today I visited an old (literally old, as in age) friend in the hospital. His whole being is an encouragement to each person that he knows. It is this kind of person that I hope to be someday…but seeing him in the hospital shook me back to the memories of my own grandfather in the hospital. Some of you didn’t know me at that time, but it was a difficult time for me & my family. It was a deep time of uncertainty & disbelief. The quietness of the hospital room, being surrounded by a presence of peace & grace, yet shrouded with fear and pain. In the last few hours that I spent with my grandpa, I sang him some old hymns & read some scriptures…he was unresponsive for two weeks, yet when you held his hand he would squeeze so tight that you knew he understood my intentions were to show my love for him. Today, as I visited my friend, we prayed & he squeezed my hand the way my grandpa did…it brought tears out of my eyes, silently releasing the longing I still have to see my grandpa again. As I remember what God has told us & look back on how I have seen Him work, I know that through this, God IS STILL WITH US. Last night, I watched Martian Child, and the father says to the little boy who has been hurt, abused, abandoned & left behind, “I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever….leave you.” As the child embraces the man who he knows truly loves him more than anything, you get a sense that this is how God reaches out & comforts us amidst our pain. In Romans 8:28 it says “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.” And Romans 8:38 says “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Think on these things & be comforted knowing that though men & women die, leave us, move away or forget us, God will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER….leave us.