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)
Sometimes waiting can be agony. Waiting is one of the great pains of this present age, and few have known that better than the apostle Paul. He not only acknowledges it, but writes a major section (Romans 8:18–39), at the height of his most important letter, for the pains of our waiting in “this present time” (Romans 8:18).
Here our sufferings are front and center. Not only does the cursed creation around us wait for God’s final redemption (Romans 8:19), but we also “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). We long — at times more than others, and especially in our days of distress — for God’s coming deliverance from the sin and sorrows of this age, and the particular ones in our lives. We hope for what we do not yet see, and we learn, day by day, often all so uncomfortably, to “wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).
So, what truths can we rehearse in the agonies of our waiting as it becomes hauntingly clear to us that our sense of timing doesn’t match our Father’s? How will we genuinely trust his perfect timing, which is usually less convenient, and more difficult, than our preferences and prayers?
In the Waiting
As suffering, groaning, agonizing, waiting people, for now, we often do not know how we should pray in such seasons of distress. Should we pray for God’s swift rescue from what ails us, or for the grace to endure for longer than we can imagine? What is God’s will in our various sorrows and griefs? Into that confusion and seeming chaos, the apostle holds up for us what we do know: “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).
For some, it’s a lesson to learn, and apply, in the midst of pain. But often it’s a lesson first for a sunny day, to prepare us for when the clouds come. Because they are coming. We see the truth and beauty of God’s promise to work all things for our good, and we resolve that when the rains of suffering do begin to fall, I will praise him. Yes, I will. I will bless his name, even when I’m confused. I will sing for joy even when my heart is heavy.
Working All Things Out
This promise of all things for good, of course, is not for everyone. Paul gives two clear conditions: (1) for those who love God and (2) for those who are called according to his purpose. One condition is external and objective. God must work. He must initiate. He must call. And the other condition is internal and, we might say, subjective. We must be caught up in his work. We get involved. He calls his people effectively to his purposes, and our hearts, that once despised and neglected him, come to life with love for him. All things for good, in all its stunning grandeur, is promised only to “those who love God.”
But what kind of good? Does our God simply salvage a heap of bad with a sprinkling of good? No, when he works all things together for good for his people, he does not just take our tough circumstances and turn them to produce some silver lining. He works them for good from the beginning, and at every moment along the way. For those who love him, he has designed all things, even and especially our hardest circumstances, for good. Period. Capital-G Good. Our ultimate Good. The Good of our being glorified, in the end, with his Son (Romans 8:18, 21, 30).
Verses 29–30, then, drive piles deep beneath the surface as bedrock for the high and shining promise of verse 28. This is indeed our Father’s world, and universe, and from before its foundation he has foreknown his people, and predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son — by the very hardships and pains we suffer in this age. They are designed for our good. And with no dropouts, all the predestined are called in time and space, and all the called are justified by faith alone, and all the justified, as surely as he is God, will be glorified, so certain it’s spoken of in past terms.
This is an unbreakable golden chain from his choosing his people before the foundation of the world, to shaping us to be like our Savior through our sufferings, to glorifying us together with him in the end.
When Your Heart Is Heavy
On such a foundation, then, how can we not declare, with resolve, “Yes, I will worship”? When hardship comes, “Yes, I will bless his name.” Even in unimaginable suffering, “Yes, I will hope in him and keep trusting, and not turn on him.” All things for good gives us the impetus to make our “I wills” emphatic. Not just “I will” but “Yes, I will.” We settle it now. As for me and my house, we will. We resolve with the psalmist: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11).
Yes, we will worship, come what may, because this we know: In Christ, our God is working all things, painful as they are, for our everlasting good. Which is why we can sing for joy with heavy hearts, and lift our God high in praise even and especially in our lowest valleys.