Last summer, at a vibrant Christian writing retreat nestled on a New England hilltop, I met bestselling author and teacher Liz Curtis Higgs. Although I’d never read her books, I sat fascinated as she shared her personal story of brokenness and faith. Best of all, she was funny!

Higgs’ words came from a place of hard-won wisdom that helped restore my own broken places. So I was delighted several months later to win a copy of her book, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart (Waterbrook, 2016). Each chapter focuses on a verse of scripture chosen by more than a thousand women as one of their favorites. I’ve been reading each chapter slowly, savoring one or two a month (and not always in order).

So imagine my joy this week as I slid over several books I’ve been tunneling through, picked up this encouraging volume and opened to one of my favorite verses, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28 (NIV).

I know this verse, having lived it and seen its truth in some of life’s hardest circumstances. I’ve seen God’s goodness, yet I still fear stepping into hard places the way a child fears getting a vaccination even after being assured that it will protect him or her from illness. Hard things hurt. And the more you’ve been hurt the more natural it is to fear being hurt again.

In the face of uncertainty and fear and risk, Higgs asks, “So, do you love God?”

“I’m not talking about a warm, happy feeling,” Higgs writes. “I’m talking about commitment and trust and sacrifice. No question, God loves you. I’m asking, do you love Him? Do you believe what He has for you is for your good? That’s the real test of faith, isn’t it? To say, ‘Yes, God, whatever You have for me in this life I will receive as a gift of love from Your hands.’”

That needle piercing the flesh? A gift of love. Those arms holding you tight so you can’t run and hide under the waiting room chairs (as one of my children once did)? A gift of love. That thing that scares you so bad you want to turn back and stay in a place that feels comfortable and secure? A gift of love, when you put your trust in a loving God.

When I began dating Dana, the man who would be my husband, I knew that I loved him. But transforming that love into a life-long relationship required commitment – something that occurred on our wedding day. Over the years, that commitment – his faithfulness to me and mine to him – has solidified into a deep, abiding trust. It has also required sacrifice.

This is the kind of relationship the writer of Romans is describing. Even when the way is hard and I am tempted to fear, it reminds me that that I am held in strong, loving hands.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, releases May 1. Buy here.