Monday, August 23, 2010

All Things Considered

Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (NLT).
This is one of the most favored passages in Christendom. It’s one of those verses that people can throw out the reference and we can quote it without effort; kind of like John 3:16, or Psalms 23, or Jeremiah 29:11. You need no compassion to use it – just reference it and you have done your Christian comforting for the day. We have used it so much that we have inoculated people against its deep meaning and purpose. It has become like so many other Christian clich├ęs, thrown in the face of those suffering. Misquoted, misused and misunderstood, this verse can bring more pain and confusion to the hurting and suffering rather than relief and solace. 
My first confrontation with this kind of cruelty inflicted on the hurting came from my own lips. It came as I was saying goodbye to the president of my Bible College after he was asked to step down. I had just completed my first year and I was now well equipped to minister to anyone at any time. When you are in Bible College, you know everything, or at least you think you do. As I walked up to the president, I offered my hand and quoted this powerful verse. He looked at me, shook my hand, completed the verse for me, smiled and offered his hand to the next person. It baffled me that he did not put his arms around me and say, “Wow, I never thought of that! This has changed my life. Thank you for that reminder! I’ll run right home and tell my wife and kids.” 
It’s easy to quote Romans 8:28 when you are the one offering it. But it is another when the bottom falls out and the trials of life seem to be swallowing us up so that we seem to lose control. Yes, we still believe in God, but we may begin to question whether He is really in control. We know he is in control over creation, but in suffering, we begin to think He might be limited and fallible.
Despite the misuse, overuse or abuse, this verse offers does offer us a new perspective on pain. Paul was not, and neither can we, use this verse to dismiss suffering, pain, or tragedy. In fact, the verse is placed in the context of suffering. The scriptures assure us that Jesus Himself was touched with the feelings of our infirmities. We may want to only talk about joy and happiness and wealth, but if we don’t deal with suffering, we will never be equipped to talk about peace. 
We may not be able to understand it all, but followers of Christ see things with different understanding than those without Christ. Followers of Christ, during difficult seasons, do not let it go by without turning to scripture. It becomes a lifeline for hope and peace. When life’s trials cause some to wonder if God even exists, and others to wonder whether He is in control, the Christian may be assured that God is there, and He is in charge of bringing about His purpose for His glory and our good. 
Our misunderstanding comes when we isolate each incident and judge it as being “good” or “bad”. 
When this happens, it creates a careless and cruel God, randomly doling out curses or blessings. God does not bring about all things, but he is working in all things. 
“All things” include the bitter and sweet.
“All things” includes those things that are painfully unpleasant. We may even think they are unbearable. 
“All things” includes even our past hurts, failures and mistakes. 
“All things” means there is nothing which falls outside of God’s control and which works contrary to our good. Not one thing falls outside of God’s control. 
It is a comfort for me to know that nothing is ever wasted in my life. God is working – right now. 
Putting all the pieces together. 
When you look back on your past, or even your present situation, rest assured that God did not bring those things on you, but can use those things to paint a beautiful masterpiece that tells his story in your life. You do not have to look upon past tragedies as crippling. You may not know every thing happened the way it did, but you can trust an all powerful and loving God to use for the benefit of His glory and purpose.

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