Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) [Emphasis mine]
I’ve had a bit of a no-fun week, but my mini-trib has been a pin-prick compared to what some of my friends are going through. My problems generally reside in my mind, and my circumstances rarely fall below “uncomfortable”, but I’ve got friends going through real, live tribulation and trouble right now.
In thinking about this I am drawn to Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”.
I can see some of you rolling your eyes now. Romans 8:28 has, for some, come to be considered a verse that is not to be quoted (let alone blogged about) when people are in tribulation. It all seems too easy, to “pat”. I myself can recall times when someone tossed Romans 8:28 my way during a down time and I found it irritating.
I’m learning, however, that the problem then was me, not Romans 8:28 or its surrounding context.
Look at that verse. Too trite? Too simple? Look again. Think of the one who wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Was Paul sitting on a stage in a three piece suit with coiffed hair and manicured fingernails? I think not. Paul was one tough hombre, and my expectation is that he was uglier than a stump to boot. He carried the scars of his devotion to Christ in his tough, weather-beaten hide. And he wrote this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Paul and those he ran with woke up most mornings knowing that there was a distinct chance of intense physical pain in their near future. They lived in a world that was, compared to what most of us know, barbaric and cruel. Stonings, beatings, cold, heat, hunger, thirst, prison. Welcome to the life of an evangelist for Christ in the first century AD. It was a world without safety nets. Sick and in pain? Hopefully you’ll recover, but don’t expect a warm bed, orange juice, or any pain meds. Broken leg? Hope it doesn’t get infected and kill you. No money? Lotsa luck. Don’t believe Caesar is god because you worship Jesus? Off with your head.
I’m beginning to understand. Romans 8:28 is a magnificent promise, one almost too good to believe, and that’s its problem. Actually, it’s our problem; our unbelief. Romans 8:28 towers over the desert of our tribulation, a solid rock to stand on, a spring of water unlooked for to one dying of thirst. It’s for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. There is a plan. What we’re going through is part of it. And the ending of all this will be the working together and miraculous harmony of a myriad of circumstances, and it will be good. If that seems impossible, it’s only because we can’t fathom or muster faith in the organizational and creative abilities of the Master of all circumstances, Almighty God.
In my life I’ve experienced little pinpricks of tribulation. Generally things work out. I’ve got it very, very easy. I haven’t had to have much faith in God’s great promise of Romans 8:28. Someday I know I will need that faith. I hope that I will not falter.
I hope I will remember the words of our Lord Jesus that He spoke to encourage eleven men who were about to embark on the most exhilarating, dangerous, revolutionary, and deadly adventure of their lives:
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart;
I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33 (ESV)
Do you believe all things are caused by God for us? or God causes all things to work to the good of us?
I really love that verse, in its context and even among everything else. I just always hear it as the “everything happens for a reason” verse. Like my mother died, people might say “romans 8:28” or even “jeremiah 29:11” and I don’t always seem to agree with what they believe it means. I see it as more of a part of salvation. Salvation romans 1:16-17, 1-4 justification 4-7 sanctification 8 glorification, something in that order. I don’t really know, anything, or everything.
I hope to not drag this into a semantic war, or any of that. You know I love you and i know it really doesn’t matter that much it.
Basically I believe romans 8:28 means the latter, not teh former. God can use, evil, or things, for the good of those who love him, not that God causes all thigns.
I know you tend to lead on the “God’s Sovereign” Side. I’m more of a “schaeffer humanist”. I love you though, and I’m sure you have good reasons even if you disagree with me.
P.S I made a new post on my LJ, I think you’ll like it. Its the “Genocide” post. I’m sarcastic, through alot of it. I’ll gladly edit it if you feel it is not productive sarcasm.
I’ve been wanting to email you but I don’t know what yours iS!!!
mine is firstname.lastname@example.org
get a hold of me, nothing crucial, just had some internet related questions!
nevermind I figured it out.
woot! http://www.bediscontent.com is mine now, yay!
Good to hear it Steven!
Let me know if you still want me to email you anyway.
On Romans 8:28 – yes, I tend to lean toward “God is sovereign in all things” but I think, overall, how Romans 8:28 relates to that, and how God’s sovereignty relates to tragedies, etc, is a profound mystery that I don’t claim to understand.
In other words, there’s a good chance that if your mother died the first thing out of my mouth would probably not be Romans 8:28. I would hope that I would simply “weep with those who weep” as scripture counsels and leave the “understanding” for way later (maybe for eternity).
But Romans 8:28 (and many other passages like it) do remind us in our trials that God is doing his thing. And He does it very, very well.
You rock Steven!
Because of time constraints, I’ve basically always limited (which is really a relative term) myself to the Imonk’s blog, Thinklings, and BHT. I’ve scanned quite a few others due to links and whatnot – I’ve even come over here once before but didn’t pay much attention at the time.
What a mistake I’ve made. After reading thru a lot of your posts, it was like I had found myself in a treasure room full of wisdom. There’s so much I could comment on, but I’ll just save that for going forward.
I realize this comment doesn’t have much to do with the post above, which was very good, and a lot of my thoughts echo yours (i.e. I’ve had it pretty easy tribulaion-wise, etc.).
But like I said: wow. And thanks.
[Not to mention all the extra points you get for using the words “inestimable” and “Rich” next to each other in the same sentence in the post below. Thanks for makin’ a brutha feel good.]
I’ll be hanging around, if that’s okay.
“Thanks for makin’ a brutha feel good.”
Ditto! I really, really needed the encouragement tonight. Thanks man.
Yes, hang around!