I love Romans chapter 8. It is hands down one of the most uplifting and encouraging passages of scripture one could read. In it one reads about the exhortation to be spiritually minded, the encouragement that we are sons of God through the Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s help in times of suffering. We also learn that the Spirit helps in our weakness and nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! What a chapter!
But there is one verse that I think often gets misunderstood and that is verse 28 which reads:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
What could this really mean? I can tell you my thoughts on this by first saying what I don’t think it means. I don’t think it means that if you are a Christian, everything that happens in your life is God’s purpose for it. To believe that would mean we have to believe that God is the author of all the good, bad and ugly in our lives or at the very least that God rubber stamps it all as if He is some kind of micro-manager of all of creation’s acts. That to me suggests a misunderstanding of both the sovereignty of God and the great gift of free will He has given to His creation (but we’ll leave that for another time!). No, scripture teaches us that God is love and God is good. It also teaches that we have an enemy that wants to kill, steal and destroy. I don’t believe that God is actively planning bad things to happen so that He can somehow teach us something through them. It has to mean something more than this!
So what could it mean? Perhaps the context gives us a clue. It is within a passage that talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit to free us from sin, to strengthen us in the midst of suffering. It is also framed within a dialog about God’s purpose which is to conform us to the image of His Son and is surrounded by words of exhortation of the presence of God’s love that we will never be separate from!
I read it like this. In the context of the randomness and vagaries of chance in this fallen world, a world that certainly isn’t “fair”; nothing that happens to us or that we cause to happen to others either accidentally or deliberately need be wasted. All things can be used by God (not caused or even ‘allowed’ by God) in our journey of transformation in becoming more and more like Jesus.
For example, my wife and I suffered the cruel fate of unexplained infertility for 17 years. That’s 17 years of monthly hopes and broken dreams, emotional and mental turmoil, guilt and shame over the envy we felt towards our fertile friends and many many tears. All of that need not be wasted and thankfully hasn’t been! It has been used “for good” as part of God’s redemptive story in our lives to empathize, encourage, support and uplift those that are facing the same challenge and to speak of God’s presence in the midst of it all!
Likewise, those that have walked or suffered through all manner of different situations, challenges, trials and the like, can in the same manner, allow God to redeem their stories. They too, like us, can be used by God to empathize, encourage, support, uplift and even be a channel of healing to others that have also encountered the same. I think this is part of the redemption through the Cross that God always had in mind. If we will let Him (and I appreciate that it isn’t always easy), God will redeem and use even the ugly parts of our story as a source of life, comfort, healing and support to others. The choice is ours!
Where we have been those that have caused hurt and pain to others, I believe there is redemptive possibility if we will humble ourselves to God within it. The journey we go on in humbling ourselves, seeking forgiveness, reaching out for reconciliation can be powerfully redemptive in the hands of a loving God.
So to close then, let me leave you with this thought. Your story is powerful. Your story is glorious. Your story may very well be the key to transformation in someone else’s journey.
Will you waste it?
Will you allow God to redeem and use it?
May the love, grace and mercy of God be with you all.