Suffering For Our Good
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 8:28 ESV)
When we read Romans 8:28, we may have a tendency for our minds to lean towards the goodness of God; more specifically, God doing things in our lives we deem good. How does this verse serve as a lens for our spiritual vision when God takes us through times of suffering?
Suffering that is seen and suffering that is unseen in a Christian’s life can well be used to strengthen our faith. Faith that is untested is only a theory. Therefore, it is indeed a rarity for a Christian to go through their entire lives without significant suffering. This is the context from which Paul is encouraging the Romans: endure these things for they are only temporal; and if we are children of God, we will ultimately be glorified with Jesus.
We know is a strong conviction of assurance in the things we cannot see. Like our faith in the finished work of Jesus, this knowing finds its roots in the quiet trust in the character of God. It is a reflective faith in that it trusts His faithfulness in the past and believes Gods reliability will not change in the future. This is a tested faith!
For those who love God. We love Him because He first loved us. Our love for God cannot be dependent on our circumstances but rather on His nature, which in Christ has become ours and is continually being fashioned into His likeness. This statement is not universal to all people but specific to believers. Although God foreordains events and wills all things from before the foundation of the world (including events in unbeliever’s lives), the good things in this verse are referring to the greater good of believers.
All things work together—all events, all trials, all joys, all victories, all defeats, all gains, all losses, and all of life work together for good in the great plan of God.
Have you ever been to an orchestra performance? It is something to behold! A lifetime of the discipline of practice bears its fruit in one evening. This is not to say that the practice hasn’t served to benefit earlier or that it will not continue to be of benefit in the future, but it is fully on display for that specific performance. Full concentration of the musicians on the conductor is a must, not solely for the signals he gives, but also for those he does not give: facial expression, body language and eye contact or lack thereof. The conductor is fully aware of every sound that comes from the stage. The musicians themselves, however, may never receive the full pleasure of hearing and seeing the performance as their part is a part of the whole. So is the life of a believer in the hands of our Creator and Sustainer.
For good, not what we may in our finite vision and understanding deem good but for our ultimate good which serves His ultimate good; for if God is for us who can be against us?
For those that are called to be justified and then to be sanctified. The drawing of the effectual (successfully justifying) call of God in a sinner’s life will produce, dependent on the degree of obedience in the individual’s life, a successful sanctification which ultimately serves to fulfill His purpose. What is God’s purpose? All things serve to culminate in the glorification of Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2; Eph. 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9).
All of this good reasoning for hope in the midst of suffering, based on Scripture, is much easier to digest in the “good times” in our lives. How do we use this verse at the funeral of a 6-year-old child that just passed on to glory due to cancer? How can this bring comfort to a Christian that suffered abuse as a child at the hands of a parent, and is mentally and emotionally tormented by these memories? It is tough. So we must continually aim our vision higher to keep our focus on Jesus, even when it is much easier to hang our heads with our eyes on our suffering. Remember, His purpose is filled with His grace for every trial.