The great playwright Arthur Miller was married to Marilyn Monroe during the 1950’s. In his autobiography, he describes the misery of watching the troubled actress descent into the lowest regions of depression and despair. It seemed there was no way he or anyone else could make her happy. He knew that her very life was on the line — that this could go only so far before she succumbed to her various demons — loneliness, paranoia, addiction to barbiturates.
One evening there was yet another visit from the doctor, who talked Marilyn into taking a sedative that put her to sleep. Miller was pensive as he stood and watched his wife. “I found myself straining to imagine miracles,” he writes. “What if she were to wake and I were able to say, ‘God love you, darling,’ and she were able to believe it! How I wished I still had my religion and she hers.”
What if indeed. If only he had believed — that crucial word in John 3:16. If only he had owned the joy of knowing Christ. If only he had been capable of sharing that joy with his suffering wife, a soul God loved and longed to heal.
John 3:16 could have been their answer. It’s the answer to every human need, to every prayer. In fact, it is even the answer to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, where he implores the Father to grant believers the ability to “comprehend … what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19)).
It’s an elegant prayer, and Jesus offers the elegant answer in John 3:16, where we see:
- The width of God’s love: “God so loved the whole world.” His arms are stretched wide to include everyone.
- The length of God’s love: “He gave His only Son.” That is the length to which God went to save us.
- The depth of God’s love: “That whoever believes in Him.” God reaches down to the very depths of mankind.
- The height of God’s love: “Should not perish but have everlasting life.” We will live in heaven with Him forever.
God’s love is enormous in every dimension. The one thing it is not is coercive. We are left with the free option of how to respond. He loves you as intensely as it’s possible to be loved yet never in a way that undermines your freedom to choose. Forced love is not authentic love. It is a gift that accepts the possibility of rejection.
God offers you everything He has to offer. He gives you the perfection and purity of His Son to die for you as atonement, to speak for you at the judgment, to live for you in the present, and to love you for all eternity. I cannot imagine any sane, informed human being turning down such a gift.
I urge you to say yes to that gift. Open the door to Jesus, and you let in a life of eternal joy now, with eventual delights that the mind cannot presently conceive. Say yes, and you will let in a new kind of life today — one that sets you on the one truly great adventure this earth has to offer.
Nicodemus, the man who first heard this verse, said yes. Not that night, but as John tells us later, he was one of two men who prepared Jesus for His burial and laid Him in His tomb (John 19:38-42). And according to early Christian tradition, Nicodemus was martyred as a Christian in the first century.
Obviously, saying yes to God’s invitation does not mean that trouble will cease — not yet — but the presence of your Saviour will bear you up until you leave all trouble behind forever. You will let in the Holy Spirit, a loving teacher, guide, and companion. You will let in restored relationships with friends and family. You will let in peace, security, and contentment.
Why not open that door if you have not already done so?