A reassuring promise for times of suffering

The promise of Romans 8:28 that God works for our good “in all things” is reassuring. It means that no matter the circumstances, the pandemics, or whatever life throws at us, God is at work in our lives so that all things work together for our good when we love God and have been called according to His purpose.

Yet, for those who have suffered greatly, it can be difficult to imagine what kind of “good” might arise from their tragic situations. What silver lining is there when a couple loses a child to miscarriage? What possible good could come from a father abandoning his family to start over with a new one? Or what “greater good” is God up to when a car accident leaves a teenager paralyzed? What good is there in a pandemic with many who are sick and dying? How can God take chronic anxiety, or depression, and work that for our good?  What about divorce, war, earthquakes, tsunamis…the list is seemingly endless.

The fact remains that there are some really crummy things in the world and in our lives, and many of them can’t be explained away or given a silver lining.

Romans 8:28 should be a verse of comfort. But in the midst of profound suffering, people still feel abandoned by God. Rejected. Cursed. How can things like death and disease work together for our good? In the midst of suffering we can remember five things from Romans 8 to bring hope into our suffering.

When we are suffering, we can remember that What God starts, He will finish

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Paul knows that for those who are suffering, it often feels like you are barely holding on. But in the midst of your suffering, you have this assurance: What God started in you, he’s going to finish. When you feel like you are barely holding on to God, be assured that he’s still holding on to you.

Here are three reasons we can know that God will finish the good work He has started in us:

We are sons and daughters of God

2 Corinthians 6:18 reminds us that God said, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.” As his sons and daughters, He love us with an everlasting love. You’ve been adopted into his family. You are a beloved child, and your Father sees you in your suffering. Whatever else is happening in your pain, you can be sure that your Father hasn’t left you alone in it. You are his child, and his heart is bound up with yours. What you feel, he feels. When you weep, he weeps.

God is Faithful

God is a Faithful God, He will never start something and not finish it. We can have faith in God and believe that what He started in your life, he will bring it to completion. The Bible says that God will never leave nor forsake you. So, He will never leave you halfway. Nor will He leave you just as he begins his good work in you.

We are His masterpiece

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus so that you can do good works that He prepared for you ahead of time. As His masterpiece, He will go above and beyond whatever you can expect or imagine in order to accomplish what he has started in you. He will move mountains and part seas to accomplish the good work he has started in you. God will finish what He started in You. 

When we are suffering, we can remember that All things are for our good – not all things are good

No matter how optimistic you are, some things just horrible.  Things like war, death, human trafficking, and the like are awful. But our God is more powerful than all the forces of evil and all the rotten things that happen in our lives.  God took death itself and used it to redeem all of humanity.  He reached down into the depths of our brokenness and began the restoration process.

People who quote Romans 8:28 often only quote the first part of the verse: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God.” They overlook the rest of the verse, which may be the most important part: who are called according to his purpose.” Not those who are ignoring his call and disobeying the rules. He uses all things for this good purpose. So, what is that purpose? “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” (Romans 8:29 CSB). The good purpose is that God uses every moment of our lives to make us more like Jesus.

When we are suffering, we can remember that God predestined us to be conformed into the image of His Son

God predestined us to be conformed into the image of His Son

The whole of you is already known by God.  And the the whole of you is already glorified.

That includes all of your mistakes, all of your victories, all of your tragedies, all of the funny little things that make you you, and all of the ordinary stuff that goes into your story.

We can say this because God does not exist in time like we do.  Although we have to live time out as though we are walking on a line, God sees the whole thing.

He sees your whole life. And God takes up that WHOLE story, every little part of it, and redeems it.  He transforms all of you so that you become more like Jesus.

God is redeeming all things

And so, Romans 8:28 does not mean that all things are good, but rather that God is redeeming all things. He is “making all things new” (Isaiah 43:19; Revelation 21:5). God is taking all of creation, even the broken stuff, and renewing and redeeming it. We can know that God is bigger than all our tragedies, all our losses and our failures.  Evil doesn’t win. In fact, in Christ’s death and resurrection, God enter into our brokenness and he redeemed the whole of it.

Even Christ suffered as He endured the cross. Can you imagine what the disciples thought on the day that Christ was crucified?  They were not expecting a bodily resurrection.  They thought that they were defeated.  And yet God surprised them.  He used torture and death to bring about new life.  Jesus was raised from the grave in order to defeat death itself.

God’s purpose is to make you more like Jesus

Because He is redeeming all things that means that God’s purpose in your life is to make you more like Jesus. The “good” Romans 8 talks about is not giving you better circumstances—as if every bad event will automatically lead to a greater one later on. The “good” of Romans 8 is God making you more like Jesus. At every moment of your life, God is working toward that.

We have to remember that “for our good” does not necessarily mean “for our pleasure” or “for our comfort and security”. God is transforming us into new creatures. He is making us into creatures who exist in harmony with him.  And this often involves suffering.  It involves the death of our self-will, that little voice inside us that wants to remain in control and be comfortable and secure. If we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, then we should expect that we will have to endure some things that we don’t like, some things that perhaps don’t make sense to us at the time.

When we are suffering, we can remember that Our story ends with a redeemed and glorified body

Paul says that “creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now … we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23).

There is a physical redemption coming, and our bodies literally groan for it. For a young, healthy, privileged person, this may not sound that fantastic. But for the elderly, for the sick, for the hurting, this groaning is a daily reality.

In Christ, our groaning is a promise that our bodies will one day be redeemed. And not just back to the days of our youth, but to a body like Christ’s resurrection body. We won’t ache or get sick or even struggle with weight gain.

While the Bible does give us some descriptions of what heaven is like, our human minds cannot comprehend the splendor and glory waiting on us in heaven. Yet, Paul says that in light of the glory experienced there, even the worst things we experience now are going to seem like a “momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Paul isn’t trying to minimize your present suffering. (He was, after all, a man who suffered greatly himself.) He’s trying to give you hope for a day when that suffering will be swallowed up in something greater – eternal life in the presence of God.

When we are suffering, we can remember that We may not see the “good” in this life

You may not see it in this life, but not a single second of your suffering is wasted. Not one thing happens in your life that the goodness of our God will not one day transform into glory. In a world consumed by pain, corruption, and futility, this is hope you can cling to for life. We have to take the long view when it comes to all things working together for our good.

The fruit of “all things work together for good” may not be seen in this life.  Because this life is not all that there is.  We are promised bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42).  We are promised more. Everything that happens to us here and now helps to shape our souls into creatures who bare the image of Christ and find joy in following God’s lead and submitting their own will to God.

If we cannot make sense of our suffering at the moment we go through it (or even for some time after), then we can at least rest assured that God will never leave us forsake us. In Isaiah 43:2, God promised: “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”

If we submit our wills to God, then he will take the entirety of our life, all the stuff that makes us us, and he will redeem it; he will transform us into a new creation who have been conformed into the image of Christ.

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