Romans 8:28 has been a long-standing favorite of mine and of many other Christ followers: “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.”
When bad stuff happens to us, or when life takes an unexpected (and sometimes unwelcome) turn, we recall this verse and find solace in knowing that God—who loves us more than words can say—is in control of our circumstances and able to turn our personal pain into something good. But let’s not stop there. Let’s go deeper in our understanding of what that looks like by combining Romans 8:28 with the verse immediately following:
Suffering and pain are a part of life, and, because they hurt, our natural tendency is to avoid or numb them. Even Jesus, when facing death for our sakes, prayed, “Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from Me.” And yet He surrendered His will to embrace God’s eternal purposes.
When we surrender ourselves into God’s hands and invite Him to fulfill His purposes in our lives through them, He uses them to shape us and mold us and make us more like Jesus. Our situation’s eventual outcome might never look like what we’d design, but our attitudes and actions will reflect Jesus Christ to a watching world. Others in pain will see a difference in us, and they’ll ask us to explain the reason for our hope.
I found this to be true after my dad died in Canada while I was involved in ministry in Eastern Europe. March 4th marks the seventh anniversary of that unforgettable experience. Being a half-world away from my family as they buried my father and celebrated his life nearly broke my heart. Even now it seems surreal. But God carried me through those days and gave me strength beyond anything I could have mustered up. I learned to surrender my pain to Him, and He filled me with peace and hope.
Afterwards, when I told my story to individuals and groups back home, women came to me and told me their stories. Some teetered on the verge of hopelessness. Others wrestled with tough questions or anger. In each case, I was able to listen to them and pray with them. They found encouragement in knowing that God had not abandoned them. Rather, He was working in their lives and wanting to use their circumstances to draw them closer to Him and make them more like Jesus.
Let’s regard our circumstances as opportunities for God to accomplish His purpose in us—to make us more like His Son. He’ll replace our selfishness with selflessness, our pride with humility, and our short-sightedness with an eternal perspective.
That’s what I desire for my life. How about you?