Not a Glib 8:28er
I’m old enough to have a strong distaste for the clichéd. Believe me: you don’t live through 32 years of unrelenting 24/7/365 level-6 headache pain, have two children barely survive life-threating illness, lose both parents in 11 months, lose your job after 30 years (with no prospects in sight), have at one time (right now) three herniated discs, six bulging discs, and degenerative spinal stenosis, face COVID-19, and ride out 39 roller-coaster years of pastoral ministry, by swallowing platitude placebos.
To survive all of this you need a thick spiritual hide; one that’s been tested, tried, and toughened by a Heavenly Father who knows just how pressured, pounded, and sunbaked you need to be to get leathered up real good. And you need to cling desperately and daily to your Sovereign Maker, Wonderful Redeemer, and Heavenly Father; that One who is clinging even more tenaciously to you. I assure you; glib 8:28ism will not get it done.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in Romans 8:28. More precisely, I believe in the God revealed in Romans 8:28. But I reject glib 8:28ism. Slap-happy reminders that “it all works for good” are worse than silence for people experiencing life in the real, which is to say, the painfully fallen and broken, world. I can’t speak from experience, but I imagine that a lonely night with a bottle of Scotch might do about as much good.
And then there is the waiting; that slow, painful, “How long o Lord” crying of the heart. We soon learn that life is a perpetual waiting room, don’t we? So we might as well get used to it, while tenaciously relying on the One who outlasts everything, including our deepest, darkest, longest sorrow. Friend, you will learn (if you haven’t already) that God makes everything work out for good (Romans 8:28). But soon you will also learn not to expect to see the good for which everything works, anytime soon. Quick 8:28ism doesn’t work well when God’s plans span years, even decades of life.
But Once in a While
Still, there’s something nice about a once-in-a-while experience when the span between crisis onset and crisis resolution and reason are quicker than me eating a Big Mac. Like what happened to me recently.
It started when Gayline and I decided, after much wrestling, not to attend a large event that would have given my recent book, An ABC Prayer to Jesus: Praise for Hearts Both Young and Old, a much wider audience than it now has. Just not sure we could afford the costs involved, we opted against doing something that we really wanted to do.
Then our long-awaited first shipment of hardcover copies arrived. Like kids at Christmas we ripped open the box to hold our first copies of a project that has been ten years in the making. They felt ever so good in our hands and looked ever so good to the eye—until we opened them. Inside we found that the content was from an early draft of the book; not the final one. Somehow the old draft got programmed in at the printers.
Needless to say we were distressed. People and plans were hinging on having these books—and now it all had to wait for a while longer. Our ten-year-old dream hit another hurdle; and this time, at some real cost to us. The mistake led to many on-line disappointed customers ordering and receiving the wrong edition. This meant we had a customer-dissatisfaction mess to clean up before we could really even get started.
But then our publisher (Redemption Press) stepped in. Costly as it was to us, it was an accidental mistake, and they made it right. They set up a link for customers to get their new copy. They made good on all orders. They made suggestions on how to put the “worthless” books sent to us to good use. And best of all: they promised to promote our book vigorously at no cost to us at the very event that we had decided not to attend!
So while we’ve lost a bit of momentum, and are further delayed and frustrated for a “minute or two”, we will now—because of the set-back—see an awareness of our book reach hundreds of people (who influence many thousands more), who otherwise would not have known of the book.
It’s a plan we could not have seen and would not have chosen. But Someone did, and Someone has. And while I would be the last one to make any kind of name-it claim-it demands on God, expecting him to always give me what I want when I want it, it is nice when once-in-a-while his timing is quick and his reasons are clear.
From Fake to Faith
Take my word for it: glib 8:28ism is fake. Bumper sticker and greeting card faith will fail you. I encourage everyone instead, to move from fake to faith by choosing a firm and fixed reliance on God who turns the hassles, hardships, and even horrors of life into something beautiful—for our good, in his time, and to his glory (Ecc. 3:1-11). Since God is true, he will never fail. And that means that Romans 8:28 won’t ever fail, either.
Most of the time you’ll probably have to wait for it. But once in a while it’ll happen fast. Make sure to notice it when it does.