And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:28-32
I’ve witnessed Romans 8:28 misused more than any other verse. And I know I have been guilty of misusing it myself. Maybe you’ve heard it thrown out in a small-group setting, maybe in a casual discussion. Inevitably someone has just shared a painful story about what she’s going through or has gone through. We don’t know what to say—the predicament is a sad one. It goes beyond the normal categories and struggles. It’s awkward. We want to help, perhaps, but we also want the moment to end. Or maybe we are just focused on saying the “right” thing.
Make no mistake, in this context, Romans 8:28 can be a bona fide conversation stopper. A spiritual “shut up,” if you will. And lest we think only Christians are prone to such insensitivity, the secular translation, “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out,” is no less common. Both are classic minimizations of suffering.
Quick fixes are inevitably attempts to minimize. And so is the offering of “cheer up” platitudes. But whether suffering is approached through the eyes of faith or not, the God of the Bible never reduces or compartmentalizes suffering—ever. The problems of life are large and complex. Pat answers are not only inaccurate but also unkind.
Our big problem requires a big solution. And in the old rugged cross, we have one. Despite our efforts to contain, move past, or silence it, the cross stands tall, resolutely announcing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (v. 28). All things, Paul said, even misused Bible verses and the men and women who misuse them. Instead of diminishing our pain, then, these words proclaim the corresponding and overwhelming gratuity of our Redeemer.
– Taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News