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Q1. The Promise of Romans 8:28

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I used to interpret this verse as applying to individuals, but now I see it as a corporate promise.

God uses all things to accomplish HIS purposes. Not mine. The good that's worked out is for Him and His purposes; not for me and my desires. ALL things work together for the good. That's the corporate idea. Individually, however, we can suffer greatly.

Obviously Christian martyrs exist, for example. Is this His good being worked out in their personal lives? No. I can't see how torture and suffering are an expression of the "good" of God in their lives. Instead, martyrs are Christians who have been sacrificed to God's greater plan. Their suffering enabled God's plan to move forward

It's difficult for us to reconcile suffering with God's goodness. We like to think that God will eliminate or mitigate our own suffering. But the fact is that suffering usually ends with our deaths. Only in the next life is suffering rewarded. There are Christians who suffer greatly and undeservedly until they die ... and we have to come to terms with this fact. We can't blame Satan if God is sovereign.

no longer believe that sufferings are for our personal good in this life. Good can come from suffering, but this is an oblique consequence, not the purpose of suffering. For example, suffering may develop character in this life. Often it is the case that those who have greatly suffered are more compassionate and gentle than those whose lives seem untouched by sadness or pain. 

The example of Joseph is overused. Yes, his suffering ultimately ended up with his coronation as number-two of Egypt, but Joseph is the happy exception, not the rule. Most of us just suffer without any recompense in this life. And then die.

The next life, not this one, is where it is all sorted out. To sum: We suffer to enable His plan for all humanity to be enabled.

God CAUSES our suffering -- to deny this is to deny His power and sovereignty. He does not just look away with a wink and a nod, but knows and understands our suffering ... and still doesn't stop it. He could open the prison doors, as he did with Peter, and let His angels lead us away from suffering, but does not. 

We suffer unto death. That's the His rule, not the exception.

And after death, in heaven, we get a blessed respite from the suffering. One deserved. Wanted. Eagerly looked for.

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