The third dynamic is that God has no process without purpose. The guarantee of Romans 8:28 states that we know that God processes in us all things toward good. That’s His purpose. For the believer, there’s no pain without the purpose of a good result.
I stood in the church foyer and said to a set of relieved parents, “God has certainly been good to spare you your son.” The night before, their son had been in a terrible auto accident. He was rushed to a hospital more than an hour away for special treatment. All night he hung on to life by a thread. He had made it!
Standing next to his parents was another couple whose daughter had been killed in a car wreck a few years before. It was then that it hit me. Had God not been good to them? What was I saying about my definition of “good”? What must my comment have meant to the parents who were less fortunate?
God defines good for us in Romans 8:29. The text says that this process is for those who have been called according to God’s purpose. What is God’s purpose? According to verse 29 it is to conform us to the image of His Son—and that is good.
Anything that will bring us to a more accurate reflection of the quality of Christ in and through our lives is good. Whatever it takes, pain or pleasure, is good if it conforms us to His likeness. That’s God’s goal in the process of pain. He takes all that He permits and makes it a part of the process to bring us to reflect the image of Christ.
When our family was at a conference years ago, Matthew, our youngest child, fell and broke his wrist. I have never seen anything like it. His arm took a sharp left at his wrist and then turned again to resume its normal journey to his hand. It was grotesque.
We rushed Matthew to the hospital where the doctor began to set his wrist. I watched as the doctor pulled and twisted Matthew’s arm. The doctor began to perspire, and I felt like jumping up and pulling the doctor off my son. But I simply sat and watched. I knew that Matt’s arm needed to be restored to its original design and purpose. But pain and several weeks of inconvenience would be a part of the process.
When we are broken and hurt by sin and self-will, our good and loving God must often reset us too. Set back to His intended purpose, the image of His Son. Set back to a heart of compassion, righteousness, and love. Set into the original purpose of His glory through us.
God not only has the intention of conforming us into what is good, but He also has the power to complete the project.
I love what the prophet Isaiah said when he wrote that God would “comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isa. 61:2b-3 NKJV). God is able to restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).
Michelangelo carved the sculpture David out of a hunk of stone. Other artists take colored oils and canvas and create masterpieces. Beams of steel are bent and welded to create strangelooking monuments in our city squares. But I have never seen an artist even attempt to make something beautiful from ashes. Only God can do that (Isa. 61:3).
God is able to bring the love of Christ into our lives. It may take some brokenness. It may require that we go through a time of need to become sensitized to the needs of others. If it requires pain to do that, then it is good.
Can we weep with those who weep? God may need to stain our cheeks with tears so that we can genuinely empathize as Christ does.
Are we self-sufficient? The tragedy of our affluent culture is that we rarely sense our need for God, when in reality we desperately do need Him. God may need to strip away some of our security, as painful as that may be, to conform us to the God-sufficiency that Christ displayed. That would be good.
Are we faithless? It may take the impact of a tragedy for us to experience the reality of God so that we learn to lean on and trust Him as Christ did. That would be good.
Are we proud, indifferent, carnal, selfish, unforgiving, negative, or angry? God has something better—the lifestyle of His Son.
God is able to effect positive change in us. He knows what is best. He knows what it takes. He will, as the loving, allpowerful sculptor, chip away until Jesus is seen in the hardened hunk of our lives.
For those of us who know God, pain is a process with a certain purpose. We don’t make it through tough times. We are made through tough times—made into the beauty of Christ Jesus.
And that is good.