Bernie Diaz, January 16, 2019
I was fascinated this past Sunday after having preached a sermon in my church on Romans 8:28, long considered a favorite and life verse of scripture for thousands of Christians through the church age (myself included), in hearing testimonies from our congregation as to the manner in which God has subtly chosen to reveal the manifestation of that verse in his providence and people.
Yes, although there is awesome theological comfort alone for true disciples of Jesus Christ in the promise of that verse (conditional as it is- for those who are called or chosen by God for salvation and loving him), we may overlook the real everyday events in life in which God comforts his suffering children.
We can read scripture and find biblical illustrations, or stories in which the Lord has sovereignly “worked all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose”, as I brought out in my message, as in the lives of :
And the gripping testimony of evangelical speaker and author Joni Eareckson Tada, who at the age of seventeen, decades ago, became a wheel-chair bound and ministering quadriplegic as the result of a careless dive into shallow water.
However, what is as remarkable as those more well-known testimonies above, are the ways and means in which we see the kingdom of God expand, mature and multiply by at least three ways in which our Lord works all things together for the good of his people as he brings about:
- Salvation (Gen. 50:20; Ro. 5:6,8)
- Sanctification (Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 1:29; Ja. 1:2)
- Glorification (Job. 42:5-6; Jo. 9:3)
Having studied and found those three factors to be reliable answers to the conundrum and question of theodicy, or “Why bad things happen to ‘good’ or God’s people”, I have taken great comfort and confidence in God’s sovereignty displayed in our suffering as the result of his divine and sovereign grace in my salvation (Ro. 8:28-30).
Many Christians know that God has proven himself faithful as the great promise keeper of Romans 8:28 in the mist of personal tragedies, cataclysms and evil over the centuries, but even more remarkably in a sense of what some might consider the general trials and tribulations of life in this sin-cursed and fallen world. God is working all things for the good of his own, including in broken marriages and families.
A sister in Christ and member of my church, a lady named Jackie, gives testimony to God’s faithfulness and working of Romans 8:28 through her and her family.
I had a very sheltered and easy life and at the age of 24 I married my boyfriend of seven years. Both my parents did not approve; but they surrendered to my relentless persistence and eventually gave their blessing. I was a selfish and an unsaved Catholic girl who had a small view of God; thinking that divorce was an option if problems arose in my marriage.
Sure enough, many problems exploded, the most prominent was verbal abuse and extreme loneliness. At first, I would react with temper tantrums and try to manipulate my husband with my tears, but he was an expert at ignoring me and this caused my anguish and frustration to grow.
Jackie speaks of the difficulties of her married life though she acknowledged the Lord used painful circumstances to save her at 28 years of age. She committed to a marriage which became as she said, a “hotbed of harsh devaluing, abusive treatment”, so much so, that their own children “experienced the terror of ever displeasing their father. “
She persevered with Romans 8 prayers which became ‘groanings’ imperceptible to her own mind but were ushered up to God’s throne of grace by the Holy Spirit (Ro. 8:26-27) himself in intercession on her behalf.
Jackie added, “I strove to love unconditionally and forgive my husband daily. Many times, I wanted to give up, but God was able to continually give me the strength to trust Him.
He brought other believers into my life to offer support at my lowest moments. God’s word became more precious to me because I knew it was where I would understand why he permitted the horrors and public humiliation that was now my life. Then I saw in the Bible Job, and what he went through, how he got to see the God he loved and heard about through his suffering.” Indeed, this is how non-biblical heroes, though faithful ‘Bible-walkers’ of the faith as Jackie refers to herself, endure or persevere to the end as they yearn for glory and the “redemption of their bodies” (Ro. 8:23).
My friend Jackie’s trials and tribulations continued well into her post-conversion Christian life, but the promise of scripture continued to uphold her. She added, “I saw that patience had a work to do in me. But it was Romans 8:28 that gave me real peace to know that none of my misery would be wasted. It assured me that God is sovereign over all of my circumstances and they would work to renew and refine me.”
Jackie would need God’s sovereign grace to endure what would come in her home: I soon had two more children and the harshness from my husband would be so severe, that when he did come home even our dogs seemed to tremble. The children would many times run to their room to stay clear from doing anything that could trigger their father. I felt like a pilot flying an airplane in the darkest night, having no visuals but relying totally on the dials on the dashboard to keep myself and my passengers safe. My Bible became my dashboard and the words my dials. The darker it got the more my dials became important.
It is amazing and encouraging for me to see God’s promises come alive in my sister’s testimony, and the Lord’s providential working for the good of his children and those he may be drawing to himself, using suffering as a means of both sanctification and salvation, as Jackie said, “There were times when friends would fear for me and the children, but I grew in my assurance that God was with me and that he was ultimately in control of what I was permitted to be experiencing.
He showed me how Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house, that the presence of a Godly mother can keep light on for the children and that light is always more powerful than darkness.”
Are their common lessons from Jackie’s story to help us respond in a godly manner to injustice or persecution and flat-out pain and suffering?
Response to suffering
– Response toward God? In a word, rejoice! (1 Pet. 4:12- 13; Ja. 1:2; Phil. 4:4;1 Thess. 5:18).
– Response toward the person causing the suffering? When God’s enemies are persecuting you, you are not to be terrified but instead should respond to them with gentleness and reverence (Phil. 1:28; 1 Pet. 3:14-16).
We are to respond to our (God’s) enemies the way He responds to them — in love (Matt. 5:44-45). We are to bless them and do good to them (Ro. 12:14, 17-21).
–Response toward believers? Disciples of Christ are to be of one mind and one heart, united in spirit knowing that the enemy wants to separate believers from the fold (Phil. 2:1) but nothing can or will take them from the grasp of the Father’s hand and his love (Ro. 8:31-39).
Does Jackie’s story end well? Was there a ‘Disnified’, romantic, happy ever- after ending where her husband comes to Christ and all is forgiven, peace made and reconciliation takes place? Well, her husband deserted her and their family’s home for another woman after 18 years of marriage though refusing to divorce. Husband and wife are friends in different places during a prolonged separation and the wife remains convinced that by being faithful to Christ she is to forgive and remain married, ‘for better or for worse.’
She has seen changes of late in her husband after he survived a recent, serious illness and the Lord may be at work in his life. As we know for those of us in Christ, our story is an adventure which continues on and will not end until by the grace, good council and will of the Lord, the elect are redeemed, and are conformed to the image of the Son of God as they enter into glory (Ro. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:11-14) .
Jackie fittingly concluded her Ro. 8:28 testimony this way: When I look back and I see where I have come in the knowledge of God and His peace, the hard times look so insignificant compared to the glory that there is in knowing God. Our suffering can be the difference between knowing God and knowing about God.
Nothing that I endured over the years have been wasted. God is truly working it all out for his elect. I love Romans 8:28 and can with deep conviction say that nothing we go through is wasted, so let us give thanks to God in all our circumstances knowing that He is a good Father who knows exactly how to train us in holiness. Everything that God does for us is birthed out of His love and desire to bring us to himself.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose….”