And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are call according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:28-29
There are unfortunate misrepresentations of this verse. Mostly, it’s used as a glib cliché, handed out like an adult might hand out penny candy to placate a whiny child.
This promise is a gem but because of its misuse, I feel a negative impact as soon as I hear the reference. I don’t even need to hear it recited to feel the dread. Isn’t it time to lift the real message high?
The ‘good’ Paul describes does not mean that all will be made right and fair in my lifetime. The ‘good’ is what the next verse addresses, that God will work all things; evil, sickness, and failure to conform me to the image of His Son. I miss that entirely when I don’t read on in the text.
In my experience, these are a few examples of how Romans 8:28 is dispensed as spiritual medicine.
- Have you been betrayed and have you suffered unfairly? God will make it up to you by exalting you and dealing with your enemies here and now.
- Have you lost your job? God will advance you and give you a better one with higher pay.
Oftentimes, God does advance His children through the path of adversity. Look at the life of Joseph. But when I quote this verse to someone who is experiencing hardship, I am really telling them this ~ “If you love God, God will use this ‘crushing thing’ to make you more like Jesus.” Do I really want to say this to someone who is hurting? This is almost an insult. My inference is that they are not like Jesus so this misery is being used to shape them up.
Romans 8:28-29 is a beautiful promise but a personal one. They are words to treasure but few are the friends who can quote them to me when I’m down. It may be just one or two kindred spirits who have gained this kind of credibility.
I do want to be like Jesus. I am more motivated to see my suffering as something that will help me think and feel like Him and live a life that will glorify His father in good times and bad times. That desire changes the face of all my adversities even while I’m weeping.
Thank you for bringing something beautiful out of ugliness, even if it’s the transformation of my own countenance. Amen