I hate waiting, but it’s something that we all have to do at different times in life. There’s the short-term, high-anxiety waits: for the outcome of a job interview; for the results of a medical test; for the resolution of a legal battle; for a college acceptance letter; for an exam grade. And then then there’s the slow-burn, depression-inducing kind of waiting: re-building your life after a divorce; unemployment; the longing for an intimate relationship.
If you’re in you’re in one of these waiting periods, my #1 piece of advice is: Don’t be fatalistic. When facing uncertainty, people have the tendency to say “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen” or “God’s going to do what God’s going to do.” We must realize, however, that in every circumstance we face, our attitudes and our actions affect the outcome.
One of the most misunderstood and abused verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28. People love to quote, “God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purposes.” Many interpret this as a declaration that no matter what’s happening in their lives, it’s “for God’s glory.” It’s all been pre-arranged and pre-determined, and we just have to accept the outworking of God’s plan. That is what I call “Christian fatalism” and it actually has nothing to do with what Paul is talking about in this passage.
If we go back few verses in Romans 8, we find Paul describing the futility of this world. Life is really hard. Meaningless, pointless things happen. But we’re not called to just sit back and idly watch it all go by. Every experience that we go through – change, tragedy, sickness, loneliness, loss, boredom – is an opportunity for God to work. But we have to cooperate with him in order for his purposes to be accomplished.
In this passage Paul challenges us to pray – with the understanding that our persistent, hopeful prayer will affect the outcome of our circumstances. Bring your weakness before God and ask Him to intervene in your life. I’ll admit that this is not always easy. I sometimes find that when I’m in one of these waiting periods, I don’t even know how to pray. I don’t have the words to express all that I’m feeling and thinking. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m asking God to do. Paul’s answer is this: just get before God and groan (vs 26). That is, expose yourself before the Lord, let him search your heart, and allow the Holy Spirit to work through your feeble words, because “the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God” (vs 27).
And then we get to verse 28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This isn’t blanket fatalism. God doesn’t automatically make everything turn out OK for everyone. Things will come together for the good of those who pursue his purposes, and those who actively choose to love him.
Every difficult season in our lives presents us with choices. When we respond to these situations by re-affirming our love for God and committing our path to him; when we acknowledge our deep dependence on him, when we ask him to intervene and bring about the doing of his will; when we follow his leadership step-by-step – then we are giving the Lord the opportunity to “work all things together for good.” This doesn’t mean that everything will turn out peachy. You might not get the job. You might fail the exam. The medical test results might be bad. But through your prayers, your surrendering, your broken-ness and your declaration of trust – you are shaping the final outcome. You are actively participating with God in turning the whole situation into something that really will be “for his glory.”