Are you familiar with a man by the name of Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen? What a novel name for you prospective parents to consider! Nansen was a renowned scholar who possessed great knowledge in many diverse fields. Born in Norway in 1861, Fridtjof gained a reputation as an explorer, scientist, diplomat, and humanitarian. He was highly regarded for his wealth of experience until his death in 1930.
At the age of 27, Nansen led a team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888. Amazingly this courageous team made the traverse across the island on cross-country skis. A few years later, Fridtjof led a historic three-year expedition to the Arctic Ocean in a search for the North Pole. He retired from exploration after this challenging feat and returned to his native Norway.
Nansen’s techniques of polar travel, along with his innovations in equipment and clothing, influenced a generation of explorers who ventured in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. He was ultimately recognized as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Additionally, the lead ships in the Royal Norwegian Navy bear the name “Fridtjog Nansen” in his honor.
One particular aspect of Fridtjof Nansen’s Arctic journey stands out. During the extreme challenges of the exploration, it became necessary for Nansen to guide his ship into very deep waters. As part of his studies, he would drop a sounding line to check the ocean’s depth. He recorded the date, time, location, and the length of line it took to find the ocean floor. As the ship made its way north, Nansen found that the measuring line was too short to reach the bottom of the ocean. So, he made a notation in his log that read, “deeper than that.”
Nansen would then instruct his crew to find an additional length of rope on the ship to connect to the one that had been used previously for measurements. When they lowered the longer sounding line, they found that it was still too short to find the ocean’s bottom. Having the same result, he used the same notation as before, “deeper than that.” Even after adding yet additional rope, the ocean’s floor was still out of reach. So, once again, the note was written as, “deeper than that.” Finally, he used all of the rope available on the ship but still came up short in completing his measurements. The explorer entered into his logbook a final notation that listed the final length of line used and a statement that simply declared, “still deeper than that.”
What was true for Nansen in seeking to find the depth of the ocean’s floor is even truer when it comes to God’s love for you and me. No matter how we may try to measure it, God’s love is “deeper than that.” John, the Apostle best known as “The Apostle of Love,” often sought to drop a sounding line in order to measure God’s love in the writings that became a part of the canon of scripture. The most famous of His sounding lines is “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). After yet another futile attempt to drop a sounding line to measure the depth of God’s love in his letter known as First John, John proclaims, “See what kind of the love the Father has given [or “lavished”] to us!” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Ultimately, John runs out of rope for an additional sounding and writes in both profound and simple terms “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The fact that God is love is a certainty. Yet we are overwhelmed and challenged by the task of trying to explain this incredible doctrine in terms that can be grasped. Theologian A.W. Tozer struggled to explain God’s love as well. He once said, “I can no more do justice to this awesome and wonder-filled topic than a child can grasp a star. Still, by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. And so, I stretch my heart toward the high, shining love of God so that we may be encouraged to look up and have hope.”
The last time in my life when the culture was in an uproar and upheaval that parallels today’s world, it was the spring of 1965. Famous contemporary songwriters, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, penned a song which they hoped would bring into focus what their world needed. They proclaimed in song and lyric, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. No, not just for some, but for everyone.” The lyrics contained an earnest sentiment that became a popular recording for several singers in subsequent years. One of those recordings included sound bites in the background of yelling mobs, stunning news reports of tragic events, and political commentary. However, while lamenting the world’s need of love, the song failed to point to the source of such love or the reservoir where that love can be found in infinite supply.
However, Christians and churches, you and I can! While we cannot begin to describe all of its facets and hues, we can indeed point not just to the source of such love, but the One Who IS Love! As Paul the Apostle proclaims, “[I pray] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)
An obscure contemporary of Nansen was a man who lived in London, England, by the name of Samuel Trevor Francis. While you may not recognize his name, as a Christian you have been impacted by his life story. Experiencing great agony as a teenager in the early 1850s, Francis contemplated suicide while standing on a bridge that arched over the River Thames. As he looked at the body of water below that would soon seal his doom, he was overwhelmed by sight of the swollen liquid mass. His heart soon reflected on the vastness of the love of Jesus Christ and turned away for his horrific plan.
Reflecting upon his shallow thinking and the depth of God’s love, Francis penned the words to the highly regarded song, “O the Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus.” The first stanza illustrates the depth of Christ’s love: “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love, leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!” Francis found in Christ’s love Someone, as well as something, more significant and overwhelming than the despair of his life.
Much attention will undoubtedly be given to the theme of love during this month. My great hope for all of us is that we might desire a better understanding of the love of God and embrace it. What a blessing it is to discover that even when we think we have come to understand its depth, it goes even deeper than that!
Yes, very much deeper than that – you have His Word on it!
MARBC Ministry Director
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell,
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair bowed down with care -
God gave His Son to win.
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry -
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song!
Songwriters: Robby Shaffer / Jim Bryson / Mike Scheuchzer / Nathan Cochran / Bart Millard / Pete Kipley
The Love of God lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.