Christ In Us: Acceptance
The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. 27 And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God. 28 We know that God makes everything work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to God’s purpose. 29 They are the ones God chose long ago, predestined to share the image of the Only Begotten, in order that Christ might be the firstborn of many.
All things work together
This is a familiar passage- especially the phrase about all things working together for Good. So let me say out of the gate, because I’ve heard some wacky interpretations of this verse over the years- this passage is not in any way saying that God causes bad things to happen to us, for our good. God does not orchestrate trials for us to endure or create situations of disaster or heartbreak. God is loving, faithful, encouraging, and patient… When we are going through situations that cripple us, when we find ourselves in grief, sadness, fear, loneliness or rejection- God is with us through the suffering, cradles us in our pain, helps us move through to healing and new life. God loves you with an everlasting love, and never has plans to harm you.
Now that we’ve cleared that up- what is this verse about? We use it, or have it used on us- we say and pray it in less than perfect circumstances- we mean it for comfort, for assurance, that despite how things look, God is working in it with our best interest at heart. And I believe that. In fact, I've leaned on this scripture myself many times, thinking, hoping, that although I'm going through a painful circumstance, or even doing something for the good of others that I know might be uncomfortable for me- that in the end, God will either teach me, strengthen me, reward me, show me something new that wasn't possible without me going through all this... in short, that eventually, I will get something out of it.
And sure, that happens. I can indeed look back at the painful experiences in my life and trace a thread to some really painful things that have brought me here- that have shaped me, moved me, and sometimes kicked me into this present moment.
But I also realize that if I let myself run with that interpretation only, I can tend to look at God as perpetually holding a big glass pitcher filled with sugar water, ever ready to make spiritual lemonade out of my sourest lemons. That no matter what I’m going through, God will turn it around for my good... or maybe for the benefit of someone I love, which is almost as good.
We work together with God...
But there are some things that, well, they just aren't able to be made sweet, no matter how much time passes or what kind of reward might be waiting at the end... We hear this verse a lot at funerals- or when we've gotten a scary diagnosis- or lost a job- or any of 100 scenarios that rock us to the core. Don't worry, we say, all things work together for good, you have to find the yes in the mess, God has a plan you just can't see...
But sometimes, it just doesn't get better. Sometimes really horrible things happen, and no amount of sweet or good or reframing will help. Some things you can point to as no purpose or reason or reward. So while at times I see the gain through pain, sometimes pain is just... pain...
So let me add an "And" to this Interpretation of the scripture.
The Greek translation of what we call "all things work together for good" is tricky. But two things need mention-First-The word used for "working together." This word synerge- from which we get synergy. It means cooperating with, being a co-partner in labor, assisting with, to put forth power together.
The second Is the syntax, or the arrangement of the sentence is out of order in our modern translations- but because I’m a Greek nerd and like to look at tenses and syntax- here’s the nutshell.
The verse names us as active participants, we, who love God and are called to God's purpose on earth, are now co-laborers with God to bring about good. We (Christ in US) work together for good. We are partners with the spirit in God's work in all of the world. That it's not just about what happens "to" us, and how God brings some comfort in "me" but about how we, with God, bring comfort to the world. That God might hold the pitcher, but we've got a spoon-and together we go to the sourest, most bitter places on earth and work as called people of God to bring about good...
The greek word for good, in this sentence is agathon- it means benefit, benevolence, kindness, generosity, and useful; in fact in Matthew's parable of the sower it is the same word for "good" soil, meaning fertile and fruitful, accepting and abundant... and so we work with God in the world for the worlds benefit, or to bring about agathon, good.
This is what calling ourselves Christian looks like. It’s saying yes to our personal relationship with and call to God, AND, its how our call as those who love the Lord plays out in community and in the world- with God! We're not called to see ourselves as simply recipients of God's grace and mercy, we're called to see Christ in US, to affirm Christ in US, to respond to and with and as Christ. This is how the world changes- God working with us- It's how God's Holy Spirit moves and intercedes and coalesces to make us one; through Christ in US.