I remember first reading Romans 8:28 as a young girl and being able to admire its depth and beauty, yet only being able to admire it from afar. It simply became a nice “coffee-cup verse” that I could add to my library of “coffee-cup verses” and impress fellow Christians with.
We often find ourselves quoting bible verses because they sound nice and quaint in given situations—be it in trying to affirm to others our knowledge of scripture or giving counsel to someone who is in need. However, they have yet to become real to us until they have really pierced our hearts with the sword-like quality that the scriptures tend to have—and often times, it takes pain to do the piercing.
I had the glorious and yet painful privilege of experiencing the weight of Romans 8:28 when I was diagnosed with an incurable, chronic neuromuscular disease known as Myasthenia Gravis, in the summer of 2013. The disease is Latin for “grave muscular weakness” and within the 6 months of searching for a diagnosis from multiple doctors, my muscle strength began to deteriorate as I slowly began to lose my ability to speak, smile, chew, swallow, walk, and eventually breathe. The everyday functions that once seemed menial and normal, became impossible feats that brought with them many tears and frustrations. The muscles that enabled me to speak gave up on me, as my speech became slurred and unintelligible. The muscles that enabled me to chew and swallow food gave up on me, as I began to choke on every meal I tried to enjoy. The muscles that enabled me to inhale and exhale gave up on me, as I ended up in respiratory distress and relied on a breathing machine to keep me alive for a time. With every simple task I attempted and every attempt resulting in failure, I found myself questioning, “How is it that You, God, can bring any good out of this?”
It was in those dark moments of despair and doubt, where I felt utterly betrayed by my body, my mind, and my flesh, that my heart began to experience the words of Romans 8:28. The words that once seemed overused and cliché, came to life by the power of the Holy Spirit as they read, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those are called according to his purpose.” My spirit and flesh wrestled with it, as every muscle in my body was literally saying “no”. Yet the spirit won as I was continuously assured of what I was saved from (sin), whose I was (God’s), and what I was called to (His purpose, glory, and my joy). The spirit reminded me that I am a child of God whose identity does not lie in how well or how poorly my body is working, but in Christ and in His promise of sanctification and the hope of being with Him forever.
The “good” that Paul talks about in Romans 8:28 began and continues to manifest itself in many ways. Through God’s healing power and the gift of modern medicine, I am currently symptom-free! I can once again eat, smile, laugh, talk, walk, and breathe without ever being reminded of my condition—and how glorious it is. The good is evident in how my husband has mirrored the love of Jesus through his self-sacrifice, grace, and patience—and how much our marriage has been strengthened as a result. There is good in how family and friends have reached out to me with their encouragement, help, presence, and comfort—so that I too can comfort others. There is good in how I am reminded of the hope of heaven and of a body that will not grow weary. There is good in how I have been able to preach Jesus through my story and witness many people’s faith be strengthened or kindled. There is good in how I have been and am continuing to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus—who has already overcome this world. There is good in how I have been able to experience joy that extends beyond circumstances. And there is good in how when dark and painful circumstances may have deemed it justifiable to doubt, question, or even curse Him, I could find rest in the truth that the God who sent His son on my behalf, is the same God who works all things for my joy and His glory. There is no more ultimate good than that, friends. May you find rest in it.