Romans 8:28 Does Not Mean Giving Thanks with a Plastic Smile
by Alex Crain
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, and even terrorist attacks remind us that, indeed, we live in a sin-cursed world. Not only do tragedies like these cause many to lose their lives, they often leave countless others in their wake---roiling in doubt and disbelief. The horrors of human suffering can stain our minds and souls and often obscure our vision of the God who is there. How are we supposed to respond?
Closer to home, we experience the curse of sin in personal ways through losses or disappointments that grieve the heart. We may wonder in all honesty at such times what verses like Romans 8:28 mean. Does Christ call His followers to simply put on a plastic smile and somehow grin and bear it?
Francis Schaeffer offers a helpful explanation to this dilemma in the first chapter of his classic book, True Spirituality. In fact, he says that a proper grasp of Romans 8:28 is crucial to understanding the world.
First of all, he takes care to point out that the Bible's view of life in the world is clear-eyed and realistic: At the Fall of man, everything became abnormal. The whole world is not what God made it to be. Therefore, Scripture verses like Romans 8:28 cannot be calling us to think…
"…that in some magical way everything is really fine when it isn't. Rather, we are to say "thank You Lord" knowing that God will somehow bring good ultimately, though we may not know how all the pieces fit together.
"It is not that Christians are to give thanks with a plastic smile, saying things are wonderful when they are hard. It is knowing that the hard things are really hard things, a result of the abnormality of the Fall, yet not revolting against God when the hard things come."
"We do honor to God and the finished work of Christ as we throw the words ‘all things' in Romans 8:28 like a circle around all things..."
"…we are contented before God… yet not complacent about the suffering of the world."
In other words, Christ neither calls us to be indifferent nor to put on a plastic smile. Rather, we are to face the facts of hard reality and then sink our roots more deeply in who He is.
What a privilege that we who are naturally God's enemies can even have a relationship of trusting Him—this faithful, sovereign, covenant keeping God who is incapable of failure. He makes and keeps great promises not only for His glory but for the ultimate good of those who are His.
Intersecting Faith & Life: In what situations are you tempted to be shaken from trusting God? Clearly, this is a sin-cursed world. Still, do you sometimes catch yourself expecting a rosy path? Why? What do we really deserve? (Read Romans 3:10)