Beloved, Keep Reading
"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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30, New International Version)
In times of unimaginable pain and unending pressure, it is hard to believe that the often quoted words of Romans 8:28 are true - that in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him.
I have dear, beautiful friends walking through impossibly difficult seasons right now and I long to believe the truth of this verse for them and with them. As I struggle to encourage my sweet sisters, the Holy Spirit gently nudges me to keep reading. Before I close my Bible with momentary comfort, but a lack of context and comprehension, my Good Shepherd draws me in deeper. Before I send a Scripture to a loved one enduring the unbearable grief of losing a child, or quote a piece of a passage to a wife faithfully fighting in prayer for the salvation of her husband, these words pull at my heart: Beloved, keep reading.
I leaf through the thin and familiar pages to begin again where I ended, and let my eyes fall to the words that I know are true but are sometimes hard to believe:
“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…”
And then I keep reading.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
Tears fill my eyes as peace fills my heart.
Lord, could it be that the "good" mentioned in this passage is explained in the following verse? What if being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is better than the "good" outcome I had in mind? Do I trust you when you invite me to have more faith in you than in a specific result?
My original idea of “good” included quick-fixes and immediate circumstantial changes. But I sense that I am being welcomed into something better than good; Lord, you are lifting my eyes to the reality of your eternal love.
A verse from the first chapter of John comes to mind and brings me to my knees:
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18, NIV)
God, if you are conforming me to the image of your Son through these trials, then that also means you are bringing me into closest relationship with you. There is nothing more wonderful than your nearness, Father. You are better than good!
Beloved, keep reading.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31-34, NIV)
Heavenly Father, it is true! You are already close, you are here with me now. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus you have made a way for me. You are for me and for my good. And regardless of the circumstance, being with you is what is good. In the midst of unimaginable pain and unending pressure, your presence provides peace.
Beloved, keep reading.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39, NIV)
I am weeping at this point. Could it be? Could God be this good to me?
Father, you will never leave me? There is absolutely nothing that can ever take your love for me away? You tell me that I am more than a conqueror through Christ and that there is nothing to fear…
And as doubt subsides and adoration emerges, the faces of my sweet sisters come back to my mind. This time, instead of just sending a verse or quoting a passage, I stay on my knees clothed in the precious righteousness of Jesus that I do not deserve but desperately need. My Father loves these beautiful friends far more than I ever could, and I know He is with them now, working for their good, tenderly conforming them to the image of His Son, and reminding them of His nearness and love.
Remind them as you have reminded me today, Lord. Give them ears to hear your voice even now: You are for them. You love them. You will never leave them. You are better than good.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.