NORMAN — How’s your suffering meter? Senseless violence, the threat of war, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the ever-present bully, failure, rejection, more bills than money, illness, an adulterous spouse, a rebellious child, a broken friendship.
Suffering is a part of life. So, how do we suffer and still find meaning, love and joy? How do we suffer and not lose hope, especially when the suffering seems to never end and each news report brings more bad news? Suffering challenges our faith. So, where can we turn for help?
Romans 8:28 is a place where many Christians have found comfort and understanding during times of suffering: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
First, this verse does not proclaim that “God causes all things.” Rather, the passage declares that God takes “all things” and causes them to work together for good. Yes, there are some who want to promote the sovereignty of God to mean that God causes “all things” (good and evil). But, others understand God’s sovereignty as God allowing good and evil to transpire in light of our “free will.”
The good news, however, is that in the midst of evil and suffering, God unceasingly works to redeem, renew and reconcile. Wherever there is pain and suffering, God is present, not helpless and indifferent, but purposefully working for good. Even in unspeakable suffering, God invites us to a faith and a hope that is greater and to believe that our suffering does not have the final say.
Second, this promise is given to those who “love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Jesus taught that those who love God are those who obey His commandments.