I cringe whenever I hear Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.). I know that’s not necessarily the best response to a verse, but I can’t help but associate it with all the negative ways it’s used. Mostly to me, the verse represents a shallow way of presenting hope to people in difficult circumstances.
Church this morning covered the later half of Romans 8, and towards the end of the sermon the pastor said this:
When we see people suffering, we should enter in rather than chime in.
To the extent that the Bible becomes a chime, we’ve lost the point. I’m not sure why we use verses as band-aides sometimes, but I don’t think think its doing Christ an favors. Quoting a verse at someone who’s experiencing suffering only creates distance. It only communicates the unwillingness to feel their pain, to experience the intensity.
Suffering is real. It’s a profound reality of each and everyday. Being a Christian doesn’t eliminate it. While we believe Christ will and is capable of totally fixing our world, we also believe that this is partially happening in the present but not yet fully arrived. So people experience heart break, disasters, loss, death, physical pain, doubt, fear, shortages of food, water, oil and healthcare, violence and so much more.
While I know that verses can and are shared as a source of encouragement and comfort, I love that Christ didn’t just chime in from a distance about the total depravity of all mankind. He entered into the story.
So when someone I know is in pain or suffering, perhaps I should think twice about sending them a card with Romans 8:28 in it. Perhaps, I should sit and listen and let the weight of their pain come over me; so I can experience their suffering with them, knowing that my pain will never be equal to theirs as I am not the one suffering, but showing them that I know their suffering is real and intense and ultimately not what they’re really made for. But by entering into their suffering, I can be a testament to both the reality of their suffering and the hope for the future good God promises to bring out of the circumstance.
To listen to the sermon from today, go here. The sermon should be posted within a few days.