FIRST-PERSON: Finding the good in the bad
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- Have you ever worried about wearing out Romans 8:28? It's one of the greatest promises in the Bible: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
"All" makes it universal -- not just some, but all things work together for good. No matter what happens, God finds good in bad and transforms burdens into blessings. Romans 8:28 covers all contingencies -- like a blank check for the Christian, good at any time, drawn on the bank of God's infinite wisdom and power.
How do we cash this check and find good in the bad?
Perhaps someone reading these words is facing tragic or complicated circumstances. Afflictions come, but God's powerful promise in Romans 8:28 can overcome.
Claim this promise and capitalize on its truth.
Give the burden to the Lord
First, give your burden to the Lord. Remember Psalm 55:22: "Cast your burden on the Lord.... He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Lay your burden on the altar. If it crawls off, put it back on the altar.
You could have a "turning over" time, a ceremony where you "officially" give your problem to the Lord: "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Latch on to God's promises
Turning your burden over to God leaves a vacancy in your heart that God's promises can fill. Learn the vital art of recording God's promises on your heart. Cleave to them and be saturated by their power.
Find a promise, put your name on it, write it in the flyleaf of your Bible, or post it under the glass on your desk. And lay hold of its penetrating power.
Practice a platitude
Third, practice the great old platitudes. Adopt one or two as an expression of your philosophy. Here's a sampling:
-- Christians live by promises, not explanations.
-- Every problem has a purpose.
-- When you can't trace God's hand, you can trust His heart.
-- God doesn't waste suffering. If He plows, it's because He purposes a crop.
Preaching to ourselves is less offensive than listening to others toss platitudes at our pain.
It's also important to find ways of getting a good night's sleep during painful periods in life. When we're tired, we worry more, grieve more, hurt more deeply, feel more hopeless. During Elijah's depression, God gave him rest and refreshment (1 Kings 19).
The Bible says that God gives His beloved sleep.
Look for opportunities in the crisis
Finally, look for opportunities in the crisis. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were flogged. After hours of hurting, they began praying and singing, witnessing and winning even their jailer.
Evelyn Hersey, a missionary in Japan, sought for years to win a certain man to Christ. She eventually returned to America with terminal cancer. As she was dying, she called her Japanese friend and said, "Don't worry about me; I'm bound for heaven. I just want you to know we love you and I'll be praying for you."
Soon afterward, the man became a Christian. "How could I fail to trust a Savior," he said, "who gave my friend the kindness and love to pray for me even while she was sick and dying?"
It's not always possible to instantly see good results from bad circumstances. Blessings are not like jack-in-the-boxes that shoot up suddenly when the crank is turned. It often takes months and years for things to work together for good. God has all eternity at His disposal, and He isn't in a hurry.
Faith is choosing to trust God's ability to fulfill Romans 8:28 even when the answers are not immediately apparent. That's why the Bible tells us to "wait on the Lord." The great hymnist, Henry Lyte, expressed it this way in his wonderful hymn, "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken":
I have called Thee "Abba, Father,"
I have set my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.