According to John 3:16, God’s love is proved, not by the circumstances of our lives.

God’s love is proved by a particular action, at a particular time, in a particular place in human history.

John says,

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.

It is interesting what this verse does not say.  It does not say God so loved the world that God made everything run smoothly and nicely for all the good people who believe in him.  It does not say that God so loved the world that God took away all the pain of life and made everybody blissfully happy all the time. That’s the god we might create if we were given the chance.  But it is not the God revealed to us in the pages of the Bible, or in the history of the human race. God’s love is not proved by sunshine and lollipops. God’s love is proved when we walk through the pain, suffering, and horror Jesus  bore on the cross.

We all know that the world is full of craziness. Life is often weird, unstable and unpredictable, sometimes even deeply tragic. But John 3:16 suggests that there is a deeper reality. There is another truth, which we can know in this life. There is a force at work in all of life that is stronger than all the brokenness we see around us. If we open our hearts we will know this deeper reality.  John 3:16 calls this other dimension “eternal life.”  “Eternal life” does not mean life that goes on forever and ever.  “Eternal life” is life that is lived now with an awareness of a dimension of reality that exists outside of time.

In Christian tradition, the cross is the portal into this other dimension of being. On the cross Jesus left behind all human dignity, surrendered all human power, knowledge, and understanding. Then the Gospel of Matthew says, he

cried out again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

It was, Matthew says,

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50,51)

The material realm was breached by the nonmaterial. The curtain in the physical world was torn and the realm of the Spirit was physically manifest. All of the mystery and unknowing of the human condition was opened and transformed. The deepest secrets of the universe were revealed in Jesus. The truth beneath the chaos was uncovered. It is this truth we need to hold close at all times.

In a strange way, Rollen Stewart had it right. We need to see John 3:16 flashed up all over the place. We need to suddenly become aware of John 3:16 in the midst of alarming news stories, uncertain stock markets and frightening health scares. We need to perceive the true order of the universe in the midst of our fight with our spouse, our struggles with our children. In the face of our fears, our insecurities, uncertainties and anxieties, we need to see that there is always another truth that is more real than the surface turmoil we face. We need to look up and see John 3:16 printed in the sky.

Beneath the external forms of life there is something which is eternal, which is invincible, which no chaos can overcome, and no pain can destroy.

The truth is God’s love remains even when our lives are messy and chaotic.  God is not fixated on surface circumstances.  God wants us to see that the nature of the universe is love. And this love has been proven once and for all in the person of Jesus.

The tragedy of Rollen Stewart is that his “conversion” apparently did not cause him to open to a deeper reality. Instead it caused him merely to switch from one fixation to another. Jesus desires to save us from our obsessions. Jesus desires to set us free from our fixation with surface circumstances. Jesus desires to open our hearts so we might know that deeper reality in which wholeness is experienced regardless of the strangeness of the surface. The challenge to us, even in the midst of frightening circumstances, is to open and trust this deeper dimension of reality in which it is possible to know the eternal presence of the living God sustaining us and giving us the gift of lasting peace.