26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28, CEB
I know some people who would be quite annoyed by what I wrote yesterday. I wrote that this passage is not to be taken so individualistically as to mean that all bad things lead to good things. I have a friend who would respond by saying I’m simply too immature at this point to be able to recognize that God works in larger ways than what I can comprehend, and that I need to accept, on faith, that good inevitably comes from bad.
My response would be that I’m trying to think both smaller and larger than that. I’m thinking smaller in the sense that, if some good comes from a tragedy, and we’re never really able to see it…well…are we obligated to give God credit for that? I personally don’t think so. The Psalms don’t think so either. I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge God is powerful, and has plans and purposes far beyond what I can comprehend. And I’m thankful for that. But I can’t explain to a dying person that they’re dying because God is going to make something good out of it for some person, place, or thing that person will never see.
I’m thinking about this issue “larger” in the sense that I don’t need to offer that explanation because that’s not what the Bible is communicating in the first place. As we look at the verses that go before this, we see all this talk about how creation itself suffers right now. The suffering is real and present. It’s not “fake” suffering that will go away when the “good” comes out of it. Instead, the suffering is legitimate and, yes, God will work to end all suffering, but that doesn’t mean the things we suffer have to be seen as being “good”. Our hope is not found in believing that something good will “turn up” out of something bad. It is found in believing that in spite of all the frustration and disappointment we face in life, God’s purposes will shine through in the end. Often we want a more immediate source of hope than that. But…immediacy is not what’s promised to us. We’re promised a God who suffers in solidarity with us.
It’s possible to acknowledge God’s power and have questions about why things happen. To do so is to suggest that God is big enough and powerful enough to be able to handle all the questions we throw at Him. We’re told faith is a relationship, so let’s treat it that way. Let’s get angry when we need to and questions when we need to and put our issues out on the table when we need to.
How else are we going to get through all this?