I grew up around tools and in a culture where being able to do your own work around the house was considered a fact of life. I love tools and religiously watch the sales for good prices on that tool I never knew existed but which I suddenly realize I must have. I research my tools seeking to get the best value for my money and how to make the best use of them. I like to know how to use my tools and how to care for them.
I tend to get upset with people who misuse tools. I am not fanatic about it, though. I don’t mind using a screwdriver as a chisel or a pry bar (screwdrivers are, after all, relatively cheap and shaped perfectly for those jobs), although I am opposed to using a chisel or pry bar as a screwdriver. I like tools and like to use them properly so that I can get the best use and the best value from them.
And that carries over into my use of Biblical tools–I want to see the various tools God has given us in the Scripture used well and properly. And so when I look at 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 want to be sure that it is used well and wisely. In the last post, I looked at how not to use the verse. And so now, we look at how to best use it.
Remember that this isn’t a magic incantation, something that we can say and immediately calm the troubled soul. We need to know the right time and circumstance to make the best use of the power behind this promise. In my experience, that right time and circumstance isn’t in the middle of a crisis or painful situation.
At that point in time, people need a supportive, active listening care giver; someone who will give them the space and freedom to get out what they need to get out, to say what they need to say, to cry the tears they need to cry, to be free to process their feelings. Quoting Romans 8.28 at that time serves only to restrict and attempt to re-direct what should be a free flow of feelings.
I have found that the best time to introduce Romans 8.28 is well before it is needed. Rather than seeing it as a cure for suffering, we might be better off seeing this promise as a prescription to be taken before the suffering to help lessen the effects of the suffering.
Whenever we go to Kenya to work, one of the things we do is request a prescription for the latest recommended anti-malarial medication for our destination. We get the medication and take it, following the directions carefully. Now, anti-malarials do not prevent us from getting malaria. They greatly lessen the chances and ensure that if and when we do get it, the effects will be much less. We will experience a mild to moderate flu-like episode rather than a severe to fatal illness.
As a pastor, I try to include this promise in my preaching and teaching on a regular basis. Suffering is a reality of life and while we can’t really prepare ourselves for every possible problem and difficulty, we can prepare ourselves by knowing that when suffering comes for us as believers, God is still going to be there and still going to be at work and somewhere, somehow, he will transform the painful and wrong and evil and bring into being something positive and good for those of us who have chosen to follow him.
Like the anti-malarials we take, knowing this promise won’t prevent us from having bad stuff and struggles in life but it will help us as we seek to deal with it. It will help us to remember that God is present and active, even if we don’t feel it. It will help us to mobilize our faith to help us in the midst of the struggle as we remember that God is at work on our behalf. It will remind us of the power of God directed towards us as we remember that God is doing all that he can to transform the situation. And as we remember all this, our faith will eventually help us to see the pain and struggle from the perspective of God’s love and grace.
May the peace of God be with you.