Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
This is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible. It is also, I think, one of the scariest. For, if God can work all things together for good, then He could allow me to experience all things, including my worst nightmares. I fear losing what I hold dearest. What if’s buzz through my brain, drowning out what is real. Yet I ought to think about what is true, what is real. So here goes an exercise in training my mind, putting my thoughts where I want them to be. Borrowing heavily from Timothy Keller’s response to the question of evil and suffering in The Reason for God, today I will outline three responses to the problem of pain. A second post with further thoughts on this subject will hopefully come soon after.
Christian life is one that involves suffering. Where is God in this inevitable and unhappy aspect of life? How does He work all things together for good? For a first point, just because I cannot understand the reason for my suffering now does not mean that there is not one. Looking back in my own life on times of intense pain, insecurity, or betrayal, I see how I grew through them. Remember Joseph in the Bible and how his trials actually saved his life and that of a whole people from starvation?
For another point, as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ, God Himself, experienced suffering and death. Timothy Keller elaborates, “God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment.”1God understands our pain. When we more fully grasp the reality and extent of Christ’s sufferings, the following verses take on new meaning. Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?
For a third point, Timothy Keller, reflecting on Revelation 21 wrote, Heaven is not just consolation for the hurts experienced in life but a “restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.”2
Or as one of my favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoevesky, wrote,
“Like a babe, I trust that the wounds will heal, the scars will vanish, that the sorry and ridiculous spectacle of man’s disagreements and clashes will disappear like a pitiful mirage, like the sordid invention of a puny, microscopic, Euclidean, human brain, and that, in the end, in the universal finale, at the moment universal harmony is achieved, something so magnificent will take place that it will satisfy every human heart, allay all indignation, pay for all human crimes, for all the blood shed by men, and enable everyone not only to forgive everything but also to justify everything that has happened to men.”3
The God that I read about in the Bible, encounter in prayer, and witness at work in people’s lives is big enough to transform all things, even the hardest and darkest things, for good. He knows, He sympathizes, He redeems.
1 Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. Riverhead Books, 2008. Print.
3 Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Bantam Books, 1970. Print.