If one more well-meaning Christian quotes Romans 8:28 to me, he or she might get throat-punched.”
As raw as that statement is, that’s exactly how I felt in the moment I spoke it to one of my closest confidants.
Before I explain, let’s look at what Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
Picture it: My 22-year marriage had just disintegrated. My two daughters and I found ourselves without a home, without a job, and without anything familiar. As we were trying to piece together some type of new normalcy for ourselves, the flippant flinging of one of the most quoted Bible verses began.
More times than I’d care to count I heard, “Well, God works all things together for good, you know.”
Well, yes, I do know. But in the weeks following my life’s biggest tragedy, I felt people were minimizing my pain by slapping on the Romans 8:28 band-aid.
We don’t always know how to deal with someone who is hurting, so we want the downtrodden to think forward to the good God can do through the trial. Truth is, though, sometimes we have to let people hurt.
But Romans 8:29 is a great verse, too. Here we are told that God’s main purpose for His children is to take everything — the good, the bad and the ugly — and use those things to make us more like Jesus.
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29).
When we take Romans 8:28 and 29 together, we find that good is not God’s goal for us. Christlikeness is God’s goal. Becoming (one translation uses the word “conforming”) like Jesus can be painful. Even though I wish it weren’t so, God often uses times of pain, loss and even despair to prune away useless things and teach us to trust Him more deeply than ever before. That process simply cannot be rushed.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from my own heartache, it’s that God does not waste our pain. He can and will bring good out of it — Romans 8:28 really is true. But I’ve also learned that sharing this insight with the hurting may not be the best idea, at least not right away. An understanding heart, a listening ear and uninterrupted time with the wounded is the better balm — and just might keep the well-meaning, verse-chucking friend from getting throat punched. (Just saying!)