The problem is this: things don’t always turn out good for those who follow God.
Yes, I know people like to quote Romans 8:28 when bad things happen (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”)…similar to how they like to say that nice things in the “I’m sure God has better plans for you” vein.
The problem with these statements is that they are not really supported by the Scriptures – as in the Scriptures does not promise us that all will be well; that we will life the ‘good’ life full of happiness, joy, and wealth. Neither does God promise us that the pain we go through in this life will make us stronger (as one popular song proclaims).
What He does promise is that one day He will set all things right.
One day; THAT day; the end of the end, when all things will be set right.
That is the promise that we hold on to – that despite the storm around us, we know that one day (whether in our lifetime or a thousand years in the future) all evil, greed, selfishness, pain, pride, sexual violence, and, yes, even death itself will be destroyed.
In the mean time we walk – no, we RUN – after the King of Kings knowing that He is actively at war with the evil within and around us. We move forward knowing that pain WILL come and that He WILL be there to walk through it with us.
Remember those nice comments about how things will get better? The problem with them is that there are times when God calls us to walk through the fire so that others will hear the news of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The prophet Jeremiah is one such man. God called him while he was a young man with one goal – to stand in the gap for the nation of Israel, proclaiming God’s message to them, knowing even has he started that the majority of the people would not listen. There is a reason Jeremiah is called the “Suffering Prophet”…
Jeremiah had a choice – he could have said ‘no’, and walked away to live a decent life (as in, he could have fled the city of Jerusalem, bought a nice house in the country and watched the war from a safe distance). Yet Jeremiah didn’t do that. He walked through the pain knowing that God was going to take the screwed up world around him and turn it into something good.
Hosea was another man called to walk through pain for the sake of others. He knew going in that marring Gomer was going to be painful. Yet, Hosea decided to obey the Lord and marry her – and through the pain of betrayal, single fatherhood and a screwed up marriage, God brought about a message of grace that has sustained millions of people throughout the years.
You see, the true message of Romans 8:28 isn’t that our lives will get better or that we will get stronger. The message of Romans 8:28 is that God takes all the screwed mistakes and problems in this world – the battles plans of the enemy – and instead of letting the devil win, He turns them around so that people throughout the ages will see that He is still on the throne and that He has not forsaken His people.
This is why we need to tell the stories of our past.
We need to know that God’s people have walked through hell and kept on singing praises to the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We need to know that no matter what the evil one throws at us – whether through our own sin or others – Jesus is still there and His promise to set things right is still true.
This is while the author of Hebrews details out the actions of Abel, Enoch, Moses, Rahab and others who walk through tough times, some of whom were sawed in half and burned at the stake, before telling us about the “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us. The author wanted to make sure we knew about the pain and sorrow these folks went through so what we when pain and sorrow comes our way we will not give up. Instead we will “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”