Strength to Comprehend
I was reading in Ephesians the other day when I came across this: “. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:17b-19). I was once again struck by how odd it seems—at least to me—that Paul is praying that we would be strong enough to comprehend.
Why does comprehension take strength and particularly from the Spirit’s power strengthening our inner being (3:16)? What is it that calls for strength and empowerment for us to be able to comprehend? Perhaps it takes strength to realize the truth. Perhaps it takes the Spirit’s power to even begin to understand God’s love.
Lies Our Culture Offers
If you think about it honestly, our culture asks us to believe a lot of things that are just not true. We tend to link who we are with what we do. We tend to assign worth by how successful a person is. We need to wear the right clothing, drive the right car, use the right fragrances (or none at all), eat the correct diet, hold the correct political views, etc., etc., etc. Many of us secretly feel that we don’t measure up, that we are not worthy of God’s love. After all, how could God love somebody who [fill this in with whatever is currently bothering you]?
Doesn’t it take a certain amount of strength to break away from the narrative that any culture sets for its inhabitants? Isn’t it difficult to move out of a narrative that defines everything we see around us and blasts that definition to us constantly over the airwaves, through print media, in movies that we watch, and in almost every conversation we have with others? Don’t we need help to do so? I have a few suggestions to help us get started.
How to Break Away
First of all, we need to come to grips with the fact that God loves us, period. There is no add-on to that statement. It is not that God loves us when we say our prayers, have our quiet time, study our Bibles for an hour each day . . . God just loves us. John does not say “For God felt sorry for the world,” or “For God loved the world only when it was searching for Him.” No, it says “For God so loved the world that . . .” I am sure you know the rest.
Second, we desperately need to learn how to think another way—God’s way—or as Paul would tell us, “renew our minds” (Rm 12:2). This reminds me of the literal definition of the Greek word for repent – metanoia. It means to change one’s mind. When we change how we think about ourselves and the world around us, we will change how we live in that world. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. It takes effort. I know from my time as a worship leader that the only way to get an incorrect version of a song out of your head is to listen to, sing, and play the correct version over and over again. Similarly, we need to fill our minds with God’s truth and repeat it over and over again.
Third, we need to join in Paul’s prayer above. We should ask God to grant us the strength to comprehend the truth. To give us, by the Spirit, the ability to understand just how deeply God loves us and how much He desires to spend time with us.
These three suggestions are only a possible starting point. I am keenly aware that there is much, much more that could be addressed. However, I think the above three suggestions form a foundation for moving forward and having our minds renewed.