“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The water was ice cold. So cold, in fact, that the sailor’s eyes were frozen shut. The raging January storm had not only dashed the ship, it had taken away any hope of rescue. Just when he thought all was lost, the sailor was plucked from the ocean by one Marcus Hanna, the keeper at Cape Elizabeth Light Station in Maine.
The year was 1885, and this is a true story. You can go visit the site today where the schooner Australia ran aground. According to the story, Hanna was sick and had just finished his shift. But he went back outside when his wife saw the outline of a ship on the distant rocks. Because of her keen sight and his heroic bravery, Hanna was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal. Ten years later he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery displayed during the Civil War. He was the only person ever to receive both honors.
We hear about Hanna, the hero, but we don’t know much about the people he rescued. What happened to put the sailors in the water in the first place? After all, a lighthouse isn’t necessary without treacherous conditions.
The sailors and other passengers had experienced a shipwreck. They had been dashed by the rocks and perhaps swept overboard. They were left gasping for air, trying to stay above water, and battling the elements.
That may be where you find yourself in your marriage. A dark night has brought as its companion thick fog, and you can’t see what’s ahead. You don’t know where to go, and even if you did, you can’t imagine how you would take one step forward. That’s when our God emerges as a heroic rescuer who can lift you out of the angry waves.
Paul the Apostle, the writer of Romans, has great confidence in this rescuer. Though he acknowledges the storms of life earlier in Romans 8, he also offers encouragement. Paul says the trouble his readers are going through pales in comparison to what’s ahead. Because the Rescuer can hoist them to high ground. Paul has encountered these waters himself, multiple times, so he has great assurance that there is One who knows the way to safety. Paul knows that the Rescuer is watching for him and will be there when he needs him.
Do you have that confidence? If you don’t feel it, how can you get it?
We can understand more about where Paul’s faithful resoluteness comes from when we examine Romans 8:28 more closely. It’s more than a feeling. The steadfast faithfulness Paul had, and that you can have, comes from a mindset that inspires a consistent lifestyle, no matter what we’re facing. Let’s look at our verse piece by piece, as if these phrases were planks to hold on to in whatever shipwreck you’ve experienced.
A Deeper Look at Romans 8:28….
And we know…
This level of confidence might be eluding you right now. You may not be able to see how in the world things could turn out well. But Paul is leaning heavily on his experience here. If you can’t think back to times in your life when God’s seen you through a tough spot, it’s a good idea to find someone who does have that perspective. Like a lighthouse keeper who knows the rocks and the waters, they’ll be able to steer you in a good direction.
…that for those who love God…
Those who love God live a certain way, regardless of the path they’re on. They love a certain way. They look and listen with a very specific intention. Their heart is overflowing with the desire to point others to God, no matter the circumstance. Hard times and suffering aren’t for the purpose of magnifying how big our problems are, but for the purpose of bringing others to God through our response to them. It’s a very difficult thing to take the focus from ourselves and put it on God, but people who love him seek him even in the storm.
…all things work together for good…
The Greek work for “work together” literally means “to be a partner in labor.” Rather than thinking the bad things that happened to you are something God caused as part of his ordained plan, consider instead that he can use them in the journey toward the place he’s taking you. They are partners in the work he has for you. You may not like all of your coworkers, but in a good team, all the roles are essential to the end product. Look at your storms the same way. You may not enjoy the experience at the time, but you can use them to accomplish the end goal of pointing other people toward God.
…for those who are called…
Examine this verse in the original language and you find an interesting nuance. Sometimes in the New Testament when people are “called,” the meaning is essentially “come here.” But in this passage, the meaning is more like when someone says “go there.” It’s the language of being appointed or commissioned for something. To receive direct orders from a commander, you stand in their presence and focus on what they say. So where’s your focus? Even though he was sick, Marcus Hanna sprang into action when he learned of the crisis at hand. He had a job to do. You do too, even if you’re experiencing some sickness in your marriage.
…according to his purpose.
The word for purpose means, well, “purpose.” However, it is also the word that’s used for the Bread of Presence. This symbolic offering reminded the people of Israel that God provided for their needs. It was a declaration of faith in him and his plan. The Bread of the Presence was required to be at the Temple 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You are called to be a devoted follower of Christ full-time, even in the storms of life. Do you see your life as an offering to God?
Your purpose is to bring God glory, even in hard times. That’s not easy or pain-free, but actively trusting your Rescuer may shine the light for someone else. Your trust in God may show them the way to safety.