In chapter three of his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul offers this prayer for the members of the church: may [you] have 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… (vv.18-19). This is a magnificent prayer, one which I pray for myself and for others, but I have a difficult time quantifying the “breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ. What does that look like? Illustrations help me to understand seemingly intangible concepts, but I didn’t know where to turn for an illustration that would capture the essence of the magnitude of the love of Christ. Until recently.
For Christmas, my husband Gil gave me a powerful pair of binoculars so that I could stand outside and look up into the heavens on cloudless nights. I had become interested in astronomy last summer as I sought to learn as much as I could about the wonders of the world which God created. I thought it would help me to know God better if I observe what he has made.
One night as I sought to identify the stars whose names I was becoming familiar with, I had an insight: the vast array of stars in the sky, as far as I could see in every direction, in some way illustrates for the human mind what the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ looks like. The measure of the love of Christ is even fuller, more extensive than a sky dense with stars and galaxies too numerous to be counted.
I recalled how in chapter fifteen of the book of Genesis, God reaffirms his promise of an heir to Abraham by calling him to stand outside and look up into the heavens. God says, “…and number the stars, if you are able to number them.”…“So shall your offspring be.” (v. 5). The stars in the sky overhead served to illustrate how profoundly God would fulfill his vow to Abraham — that he would make Abraham a “father of many nations” (Romans 4:17).
God used his creation to illustrate his promise so that it was comprehensible to Abraham, and we, too, can look to the works of his hands to help us understand his promises and declarations found in Scripture. Although the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us is even more vast than the Milky Way galaxy, the home to our solar system, we can begin to get a sense of the enormity of God’s love by looking up at it from the standpoint of earth.
So I encourage you to step outside on a cloudless night and lift up your eyes and look to the heavens. And, as far as you can see, just know that God’s love for you is infinitely broader and longer and higher and deeper. I pray for you, as Paul did for the Ephesians, that you may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)