“…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Romans 8:28 is life-shaping for us if we’re intentional about it. If we believe and act on it. I was finishing a retreat over my first anniversary following my loss. My son, Paul, sent me a link to a message by his pastor, J.D. Greear, on this passage. I listened. J.D. Greear stated, “The good that he is working all things toward is not so much about giving you better circumstances as it is making you a better you—a you who is more like Jesus.”
Romans 8:28 is especially poignant in the context of Romans 8:29. Everything works together whether good or difficult to conform me to his image. It’s not about getting good out of bad. It’s about becoming like Christ.
Read those last two sentences again.
“When you’re in the midst of some kind of pain or boredom, instead of asking God to get you out of the trouble, you should also be asking God what you should get out of the trouble.” J.D. Greear
When my micro-story is marked by sad loss, I can lift my eyes in gospel confidence and remember the macro-story, the grand narrative. The eternal story of redemption is on track. He is on his throne, and as a child of God, my eternity is secure. Kim’s eternity is secure—faith turned to sight. My micro-story is temporally tragic, but my macro-story is still eternally beautiful. I am able to choose to grow and mature in my micro-story. In faith, I know that eternal redemption trumps temporal loss regardless of how tragic, sad, horrible, or painful.
In significant periods of mourning, I have been encouraged by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman. This excerpt speaks to the life-shaping truths found in Romans 8:28:
“We know the world got broke when it took the fall; And here we are living in the middle of it all longing, waiting for the day when everything’s restored. But the best of the beauty that we get to see while we’re living down here in this yet-to-be is to watch God take the most broken things and to hear Him say, ‘When I get through, you’re gonna be amazed!’ ‘Cause I’m gonna turn it into something different. I’m gonna turn it into something good.” Steven Curtis Chapman, “Something Beautiful”
Be extremely careful at this point. We need to put this whole “good-out-of-bad” discussion into context. I want God to work everything out for good, as he promises. But I have to be careful that I don’t define what “good” means from a self-centered perspective. That’s easier said than done in the throes of grief.
What is the central question I have to wrestle with in light of the loss of the love of my life? Here it is: Is Jesus enough? Is his gospel enough? Or am I looking for something in addition to him? Am I looking for a reversal, an earthly restoration of things before my loss? Or am I looking for him?
“Give us this day our daily bread…” Matthew 6:11
Am I looking to him as my provider of my daily bread? Daily bread takes on many forms. Of course, we look to his hands for provision. But what if he is our provision? What if he gives us himself? What if the Bread of Life is my daily bread? Again, this question looms large for me—Is he enough?
Is he my daily good news?
“…I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
I have learned you must preach the gospel, especially to yourself. Remind yourself of his deeds he has done. Rehearse his life. Hold fast to him in his death. Come to grips with his burial. Celebrate his resurrection. Ponder his wondrous works. Meditate on his mighty deeds. Stand firm on the truth of the gospel. Fully take in—and digest—the Bread of Life; his very presence in and with you.
Preach this gospel—the refreshing daily good news—to yourself. Life-giving.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” Psalms 77:11-14
“Thy Cross is lifted o’er us—We journey in its light…” Ernest W. Shurtleff, “Lead On, O King Eternal”