How the Gospel Shapes Suffering

'Lonely' photo (c) 2007, photophilde - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I will never forget when I first saw two lines on a positive pregnancy test. My heart leapt within my chest as my eyes stared in disbelief. I was actually pregnant. Still in college and having only been married for 8 months, I was surprised and overjoyed! My husband Mark and I were thrilled, and we both couldn’t wait to welcome our first baby into the world.

Sadly, on October 2, I lost my baby. I remember my cheeks were hot with tears as I felt the sting of sudden loss. As the mysterious world of pregnancy slipped from my grasp, I waded through various emotions. I was sad because I wouldn’t be afforded nine months to carry life. I was angry because there was nothing I could do to rescue the little life that was supposed to be growing inside of me.

As I faced tragedy, I learned quickly that I cannot surrender to my circumstances. I cannot let loss, pain, and confusion dictate truth to me, because hope does not depend on my circumstances.

The truth is, “All things will work together for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Honestly, there were times that I looked at my situation and asked God, “How is any of this good?” It wasn’t until later that I realized that God’s definition of “good” was very different from mine. I defined “good” as 1. Nothing bad ever happening 2. Things always going well for me 3. Always getting what I want 4. Succeeding in everything that I do, etc…”

My Pastor Nathan Tarr said, “When we hope in a promise, like Romans 8:28, that God will work all things in our lives together for good, but then import our own vision of what that good must be, we set ourselves up to be “ashamed” of God and “disillusioned” with God (cf. Phil. 1:20).”

I was disillusioned, and it wasn’t until I saw God’s definition of “good” that my perspective changed. So, what does God mean when He says “All things will work together for good”?

Let’s Redefine Good.

The “good” that God promises us in His word is that…

1.The Gospel will progress. Philippians 1:12 says, “I want you to know, brothers, what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.”

I love a quote by Milton Vincent which says, “The Gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me.”

I can rejoice in hard circumstances because Christ has saved me. He has won my soul and He has made a way for me to be at peace with God. My suffering serves a purpose. In all that I suffer I am being conformed into the image of Christ. Though things are hard, I have one great unmovable circumstance- the Gospel.

2.Faith will progress. In Philippians 1:25, Paul shows that there will be progress and joy in my faith. I can be confident that my faith will progress because my hope is in Jesus- the “founder and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).

I love Romans 5 because it tells me what suffering is supposed to produce in me. “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 us.” Suffering can and should produce joy in me.

Conclusion

God will use hard situations to conform me to the image of His Son. He will progress my faith. My hope cannot be founded in my circumstances; rather, it should be founded in the word of God and in the person of Jesus. Jesus will kept His promise to work “all things” together for good in my life.

 

Ashley1More about Ashley: Ashley Baker lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband Mark, a Bible teacher. They are raising two young sons. Ashley is a freelance writer for the Farragut Shopper Newspaper and blogs regularly at http://pencilleddaydream.com.

 

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