Romans 8:28: Three Pillars of Hope in the Midst of Suffering
Romans 8:28 is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God …” (CSB). For many people, this verse is a source of tremendous hope.
But for others, Romans 8:28 feels like salt on their open wounds.
For those who have suffered greatly, it can be difficult to imagine what kind of “good” might arise from their tragic situations. What silver lining is there when a couple loses a child to miscarriage? What possible good could come from a father abandoning his family to start over with a new one? What “greater good” is God up to when a car accident leaves a teenager paralyzed?
Romans 8:28 should be a verse of comfort. But in the midst of profound suffering, people still feel abandoned by God. Rejected. Cursed.
Have you ever dealt with someone in this kind of situation? Have you ever gone through something like this yourself? If you haven’t, you will at some point in your life. And when you do, you’ll need to remember three ways God uses Romans 8 to give you hope in suffering.
1. What God started, he’s going to finish.
In verse 29, Paul brings up the “p” word: “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
Paul’s not trying to start a theological argument here about Calvinism; he’s trying to give us assurance: “And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
Paul knows that for those who are suffering, it often feels like you are barely holding on. But in the midst of your suffering, you have this assurance: What God started in you, he’s going to finish.
When you feel like you are barely holding on to God, be assured that he’s still holding on to you.
When my daughters were younger, we had a standard bedtime ritual. I would say, “I love you. Now, does daddy love you because you are pretty?”
“No, daddy! … But we are pretty, right?”
I would say, “That’s right, you are pretty. But that’s not why I love you. Now, does daddy love you because you are smart?”
“No, daddy! … But we are smart, aren’t we?”
“That’s right, you are smart. But that’s not why I love you.”
I would go through a few more—strong, brave, kind, etc. And eventually, I would ask, “So, why does daddy love you?”
At this point, they would all call out, “Because we’re your daughters!”
I’ve set my love on my daughters, and I’m never taking it from them. That’s what God has done with you.
You’ve been adopted into his family. You are a beloved child, and your Father sees you in your suffering. Whatever else is happening in your pain, you can be sure that your Father hasn’t left you alone in it. You are his child, and his heart is bound up with yours. What you feel, he feels. When you weep, he weeps.
2. God is using all things to make you more like Jesus.
People who quote Romans 8:28 often overlook the rest of the verse, which may be the most important part: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” And what is that purpose? “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” (Romans 8:29 CSB).
God’s purpose in your life is to make you more like Jesus. The “good” Romans 8 talks about is not giving you better circumstances—as if every bad event will automatically lead to a greater one later on. The “good” of Romans 8 is God making you a better you—that is, more like Jesus.
Invariably, at every moment, God is working toward that. That painful chapter in your marriage, that betrayal at work, that chronic illness—all of it was for that end.
And there will come a time, if you submit to God in faith, when you see that all the painful chapters, all the heartache and tears and disabilities and disadvantages and disappointments were used by God for one purpose: to mold you more into the image of Jesus.
3. Your story ends with the redemption of your body.
Paul says that “creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now … we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23).
There is a physical redemption coming, and our bodies literally groan for it. For a young, healthy, privileged person, this may not sound that fantastic. But for the elderly, for the sick, for the hurting, this groaning is a daily reality.
In Christ, our groaning is a promise that our bodies will one day be redeemed. And not just back to the days of our youth, but to a body like Christ’s resurrection body. We won’t ache or get sick or even struggle with weight gain.
I don’t understand everything there is to know about what is waiting on us in heaven, but Paul says that in light of the glory experienced there, even the worst things we experience now are going to seem like a “momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Paul isn’t trying to minimize your present suffering. (He was, after all, a man who suffered greatly himself.) He’s trying to give you hope for a day when that suffering will be swallowed up in something greater.
You may not see it in this life, but not a single second of your suffering is wasted. Not one thing happens in your life that the goodness of our God will not one day transform into glory.
In a world consumed by pain, corruption, and futility, this is hope you can cling to for life.