Romans 8:26-30 is one of our very favorite passages of Scripture. Yes, some say that we should not have favorites, but this passage so encapsulates the heart of God; it shows us how to embrace even the most difficult of our Christian experience. Let us take a closer look at this passage and find important lessons in light of suffering.
The greater context of this portion of Scripture is suffering in the life of the Christian. The beginning of the chapter presents a Christian experience where there is no condemnation – picturing a life in the Spirit. It then builds into considering eternity and the idea that no matter what we go through here on Earth, what we have to look forward to eschatologically will infinitely surpass the depth of our suffering. That brings us into our focus passage that deals further with suffering. In particular, we are shown how we ought to view our suffering. There is benefit in our suffering and it is never without reason or merit.
Verse 26 begins with the great truth that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We rejoice in this good news because sometimes our troubles are so bad that we do not even know how to pray. In the worst of our trials, we lack the wisdom to know how to approach our Heavenly Father. We have been side-swiped by life and just did not know what the answer was. That meant a lack of effectiveness humanly speaking in our prayer life. However, the Spirit knows and He intercedes on our behalf. There is tremendous comfort in these words. No matter how hard life happens to be, you can rest assured that you have an advocate at all times.
We can rest knowing that God has a will in all things. Literally, we could translate the latter part of verse 27 as “He intercedes concerning the saints according to God.” We supply God’s will to the clause as that is the intention, but it is amazing that the Spirit knows what God desires and He intercedes or pleads our case according to God Himself. Here we have a win-win situation. The Spirit already knows what God wants and asks Him for it on our behalf. How could we not get what we need?
We really want to draw our attention to verse 28. The ESV translates this as “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” This brings out the nuance and clarity of the verse quite well. All things work together accomplishing good. Notice that it does not say that everything works to my good, but to the good. God’s plan is always good. What comes from the will of God is good. It is positive, productive, and perfect. This verse has never said that all of my experiences would be enjoyable. We live in a culture where everyone desires comfort and temporal blessings – a “feel good now” generation – but this verse has absolutely nothing to do with my comfort level. In fact, it is saying directly the opposite. It means that no matter what we are experiencing, it is working out goodness because it is part of the overall plan of God. Our sicknesses, our financial problems, our car trouble, and our relationship problems are all part of God’s greater plan. Sometimes struggles are necessary to get from point A to point B. Were it not for struggles, we would not become what God has designed us to be. Therefore, even the hard things in life work together to accomplish the good according to God’s design.
It all truly comes down to the matter of trust. Do we trust the sovereignty of our infinite God? Do we trust even when we are in the midst of crises? God is always at work accomplishing His plan. If we were in trouble and God had nothing to do with it, there would be good reason to panic. If there was such a thing as randomness or coincidence, then anything could happen with little or no purpose, but ours is an ordered universe, even when we cannot not see that order. Granted, sometimes seeing this is difficult. When we are told that the cancer is back, it is hard to say this is working out for some good plan, but this promise indicates that it is indeed. Our human wisdom is just short-sighted.
What is God’s plan? That question may help us see this verse a little more clearly. God’s plan is greater than our personal desires. God’s plan is for His glory to be displayed and that can happen in many ways. God is glorified by the way the righteous relate to Him. God is glorified when the elect respond to His grace. God is also glorified by judgment upon wickedness. It displays His character of justice and holiness. As our world reflects the character of God, He is glorified. We could discuss the glory of God for a long time, but suffice it to say that we serve to glorify God. Somehow, that is the plan that is working out to the good in every situation. We are a part of that greater good. When we are comfortable and have what we want, we are part of that overall plan. When we are suffering, our trial is also part of the way in which God is glorified. Whatever we go through, we must reflect upon it in this manner.
Please note: not just anyone can claim these promises. We should take pleasure in knowing that God is directing the entire universe for His glory. We rejoice in that we are part of that no matter what we experience at any particular time. Two caveats are presented in this passage. One is “to those who love God” – that describes Christians. If we believe on Christ, then we know that we are part of this process that arrives at the greater good of the glory of God. This does not offer any privileged knowledge to the person living outside of Christ. The person who does not know God also does not know any comfort of the sovereignty of God. The other disqualifier comes in terms of being called according to the purpose of God. The word used for calling is exactly what we would expect – it is “Kletos,” the concept of election. There are two groups of people in the world: those elected by God to salvation for His glory and those who are not elect or reprobate. Ultimately, this is also to the glory of God, but we are focusing here on the election of God. When we are called or elected by God, only then we can claim the promises of these verses.
What do we do when we have problems? First, we realize that the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in a manner in which we could never achieve ourselves; He is interceding with the wisdom of God. Next, we realize that going through trouble as a child of God is vastly different then going through it as the unregenerate. Lastly, we realize that out of our struggles greater good will arise. Is cancer good? No, absolutely not. However, the process that we are in will accomplish God’s will and that is always a positive experience. These are three wonderful lessons that we can realize when going through any problem. If we suffer, we will suffer to the glory of God. If we are comfortable, we are blessed to the glory of God. All things to the glory of God. Soli Deo gloria!
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:26–30.
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