And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28.
Another blog about Romans 8:28? Yes.
I finished Dr. R.C. Sproul’s brief devotional “Understanding God’s Purpose” this morning. It was a good study and I intend to read more work by him somewhere down the line. In yesterday’s devotional, he brought up Romans 8:28. Paraphrasing what he said in the devotional, this verse leaves no room for pessimism in the life of a Christian.
At the center of all of this is the fact that I am a natural-born pessimist. If anything can go wrong, I’ll be the first to see it and I will be the first to worry myself senseless about it. It’s a family trait. My father tended to hide his pessimism well but my grandmother was the queen of worriers.
There’s my car which takes a few seconds to start after I turn the ignition in addition to my concern over how the new transmission was installed. There is a pain behind my left knee which extends into my backside (some people have claimed this is sciatic nerve pain. I haven’t looked up the particulars on WebMD since I fear to become a hypochondriac). There are job-related stresses; the worry over how the children are faring; and how to pay for the wedding that I pray will happen soon.
Where did all of this come from? I can’t testify for anyone else but me, but as I sit here thinking about it, there are a few things at work.
First, there is the tendency for us human beings (particularly here in the United States) to believe that we are gods. That’s nothing new. According to the Bible, that was the aspiration of Adam and Eve. What might be different is that this is the message we get flung at us from multiple directions in our education system, TV, radio, social media, etc. All of these things tell us we are special. Certainly, we are. But the problem is (as I may have written about in a previous post) they go much further. Because you and I are special, we deserve things.We should have our way all of the time. We should treat ourselves all of the time. We should buy the best things in life as often as we can. Our guy or gal should have won the presidency. Everyone should believe as I do- and if they don’t we unfriend them or dismiss them as disparaging term x, y, or z.
But, as we are well aware, human beings cannot get their way all of the time. Our guy or gal didn’t win the presidency. We can’t afford that. People disagree with us. It’s quite possible that a few of them don’t even like us.
And it should have been a no-brainer to me that I couldn’t have my way all of the time. After so much of society told me that I was special and could have it my way all of the time I sunk into pessimism to the point where I thought I was born under a bad sign. That God didn’t love me. That He was out to inflict harm upon me. Blaming Him for my troubles instead of where it belonged- with me.
Yet, with everything I’ve written and confessed to you, dear reader, I look at my past and see the hand of the Lord working and drawing me toward Him. And I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the Holy Spirit has reasons unknown to me for why He would want me among His people. By now, you shoROmansuld have more than a good idea that I am far from a paragon of virtue and faith.
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” -Romans 9:15
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11
So if I can see His hand working in my past, which led me to Him, then I have no reason to doubt that He will watch over my future now that I am in a relationship with Him.
There is no room for pessimism.
Second, as I look back over my life, I somehow got the impression that a sign of God’s favor in my life would mean that I would have no problems at all. I don’t know where I got that idea from at all. In fact, as I look over the course of my life at things that I thought would bury me or ruin me, I see that I grew and learned valuable lessons from those things. The pain of those lessons led to a higher level of living and, ultimately, my faith in my Lord.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
So what does this have to do with pessimism? If I am right and the hard times in my life caused me to learn lessons that resulted in a better life, why should I not expect hard times in faith? And if I experience hard times in my walk with Jesus with the knowledge that God is working all of this together for good, then it is as Dr. Sproul said, there is no room for pessimism in the Christian life.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” -Matthew 5:11-12.
These two verses, in addition to many others that I am not thinking of right now, make it clear that not even Jesus promised us an easy time in our walk with Him. Why should it be different for me? Who do I think I am to think that the fact that my car might not start or that this trial or that trial means that God is trying to punish me.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” -Romans 5:1-5.
There is a point to it all. And when we take these verses and others and fuse them together with the fact that God works all things together for good then there is no room for pessimism in my life as a Christian.
Now if I could only just flip a switch to stop worrying and to automatically think optimistically as my faith tells me to do.
These things take time.