As the title would imply, I was a teenager with depression. I’m an adult with depression as well, but for me at least, the combination of a brain wired for depression and teenaged hormones formed a particularly potent combination. Also, as I’ve said many times before, despite growing up in the church, I missed a good chunk of the Christian boat entirely. This definitely included any sense of Scripture being “powerful” or being able to speak into my life. I knew the Sunday school stories. I sat through Vacation Bible Schools, Confirmation, youth groups, mission trips, and retreats. I owned several Bibles. I even started traveling with a Bible in hopes that something would click into place and maybe help with the tremendous weight that seemed lodged at the pit of my soul. As with much of the rest of the normal religious experience, other people grasped something, and I felt left grasping for anything.  

Romans 8 changed some of that for me. I don’t remember who or what introduced it to me, but I do remember when. I landed at a particularly low point in my late teens. My romantic choices turned out poorly. I dated a nightmare human or two. A person who called himself my friend actually spent much of the time trying to get back at me for, in his view, my theft of his girlfriend. (Editor’s Note: With the hindsight of a couple decades, this is not how human women functioned then or at any other time in history.) None of these things aided me in dealing with the normal struggles of school, trying to get into college, the typical ups and downs of teenaged friendships, or actual depression. I felt fairly unlovable. Certainly, I didn’t love myself, and enough people in my life at time didn’t seem to love me either, which only made the premise of my unlovability that much more believable. This is the point where Romans 8 entered my life. As the church mouse, who perpetually missed it, I hadn’t considered God’s love for me at all, and yet, here, Paul drives home its unstoppable nature. 

This chunk of Romans 8 punches with quite a bit of rhetorical heft. It culminates in the two verse long sentences that shows off Paul’s ability to make the nature of God palpable.  

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV) 

Ann Jervis in writing her annotations for this passage in the Fifth Edition of the Oxford Annotated Bible points out, “The preceding list refers to things that are not God, and includes those not listed (anything else).” All of the things that are not God do not have the capacity to stop God from loving you. Nature can’t. Other people can’t. Your past can’t. Your present can’t. You can’t. Paul writes an all-encompassing list, and God and God’s urge to love surpass it all.  

Romans 8, as a whole, represents the climax of the letter. Salvation, the ongoing support of the Holy Spirit, and God’s fundamental love for humanity can overcome any barriers to our relationship with God that we or the world can put up. The chapter presents much of the faith in outline. Romans 8:1-17 shows the redemptive power of placing one’s life in Christ. Romans 8:18-25 reminds us that our current suffering can be endured because of the glory of what lies on the other side. Romans 8:26-39 gives lyrical expression to God’s presence with us now, God’s shaping us into something new, and the unbeatable power God’s love and support for us. Romans 8 recognizes our need for redemption without leaving us unredeemed and reminds us of suffering without abandoning us to it. In a single chapter of Scripture, Paul lines out a compelling witness and the positive case for having God in your life. God loves you, has always loved you, and won’t let anything stand in the way of that love, if you want it.  

This is not one of those testimonies where I read this one passage of Scripture and all my problems went away, but it certainly helped. I read this part of Romans for the first time as a late teen and understood what it meant for Scripture to have power in your life. As a 17 year old sitting on the pool table in the game room of my parent’s house and reading my Youth Bible, Paul’s expression of God’s love spoke directly into my feeling of being unlovable. I may not love me. All these people around me may not love. But, God loves me, for no other reason than my existence as God’s creation. It gave me a first rung to hold onto in pulling myself out of the hole. I had God in my corner, even if no one else was. The rest of that journey still took years, but Romans 8 gave me the first real clue that God’s love might help and might be there even for me.