“What then shall we say 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 with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:31-32)?
In part one of this series in Romans 8, we saw that God is for us by looking back to when He “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.” In part two, we saw more of how God is for us by looking forward to when He will “graciously give us all things.” But today, in this shattered world, sometimes even the cross behind us and glory before us can seem like a small comfort. It wouldn’t be unusual for someone to look at truths like these and say, “Ok, God, I hear You say You love me and that one day everything will be good, but right now I’m really hurting. That’s great that one day You’ll give me all things, but today… my wife has cancer.”
Or, “my husband left me.”
Or, “my kids are breaking my heart.”
Or, “it still seems like no one in this world really loves me for me.”
“What good is the love of God for me now? How does God being for me help me today in my suffering?” Those are huge and valid questions, and God has given us unimaginably good answers.
What God Doesn’t Promise
But first, let’s be clear about what this text doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that God’s love keeps you from suffering. Tragically, there are a lot of popular teachers today who say God offers you a healthy, wealthy and prosperous life if you would only claim it by faith. But the Bible teaches very clearly that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22). The narrow road is hard (Matthew 7:14). In this world we will have trouble ( John 16:33). We’ll face not only natural evils like famine, but also violent, personal evils like persecution and the sword of martyrdom (Romans 8:35).
So when a seemingly friendly preacher tries to tell you that God will remove all sickness and pain from your life if you just have enough faith, run. Change the channel. They just want your money. It’s essential to be aware of this kind of false teaching so that when the storm of suffering inevitably comes, your faith isn’t shipwrecked on the rocks of unmet expectations.
Better Than a Pain-Free Life
So why be a Christian? Why would anyone sign up for a life of increased suffering? The reason Romans 8 gives is that God’s good design for your suffering is infinitely worth it.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (vv. 28-29).
God is working everything together for the good of His people. Specifically, He is using all things to make us like Jesus. And this is good news because being like Jesus includes having deep and joyful fellowship with the Father! God is not merely working in all things to make us more moral. He is working in all things to make us abundantly joyful in Him — happier than we could ever be simply with health, wealth and a safe distance from the Almighty.
What is More Than a Conquerer
Paul goes on to drive home the point that suffering is for the Christian’s benefit through one of the Bible’s best known yet often misunderstood phrases: We are more than conquerors. Here’s the context:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 35-39).
So in the famine, we’re more than conquerors of the famine. In distress, persecution and death, we’re more than conquerors — not because the painful situations will necessarily give way to easier ones in this life, but because they can’t stop God from accomplishing His loving purposes for you through them.
Paul says that pain and suffering are like an army marching against us to destroy us. To conquer the attacking army would mean that you stop them from destroying you. To more than conquer the attacking army would mean that you not only stop them from destroying you, but that you then make them serve you! Now, not only are they not trying to defeat you, but they’re actually trying to help you! They’re promoting you! They’re for you!
And this is what Paul is saying: Are people really against us? Yes. Does our adversary use sickness and suffering as weapons against us? Absolutely. But God is so powerful, so in control of all things and so on your side, that in Christ, even those who are against you are for you! Whatever can’t separate you from the love of God is being lovingly worked together by God for your good! Whatever it is, if it can’t make God stop loving you, it is part of God’s loving plan for you!
Let Suffering Serve You
All the suffering in this world, whether it’s sickness or natural disasters or evil done to you by another person, is working for you a future glory so great that you will one day say, “My suffering was as nothing compared to this joy!” If you look to Christ as a treasure better than the absence of suffering, those who are against you are for you. What tears you apart is building you up. Even what takes your life is giving you your life! Revel. Rejoice. Worship! Christian, God is for you. Even in your suffering.