(Originally published on Facebook on 11/25/14)
I have to admit, I hate this verse and I’m not alone. Romans 8:28 can be a thorn in the flesh to a grieving heart. Actually, it’s not the verse I hate – it’s the way we brandish it about. When grief is fresh – when it is a raw, throbbing ache in the heart of a believer, this verse stings – like salt rubbed into an open wound. While we realize it is true, it often “feels” trite. Those who mourn need a little time for the wound to scab over. Time to recognize God’s faithfulness in the midst of the storm. Time to gain a broader perspective, in order to embrace this verse and the encouragement it is intended to offer.
Maybe enough time has passed. I’ve certainly seen God’s faithfulness. Not so sure I’ve really gained a broader perspective as of yet, but this verse, in this moment anyway, doesn’t sting so much. (Although it still might not be a good one to share with me for the next six months or so).
Maybe it’s less offensive in print than when it’s spoken. When I encounter it in print there’s no need to school my features should it fall on a less receptive heart at that particular moment in time. When spoken in conversation, well, there’s an audience present to judge and evaluate my response, and that audience always has an expectation that I will whole-heartedly agree. But those who grieve live with rapidly shifting emotions. Up and down, moments of overwhelming thankfulness to God followed by despair and feelings of abandonment. In terms virtually every woman can relate to (men not so much and thank your lucky stars for that!), I’d describe it as emotional & spiritual PMS. There are concepts I admittedly wrestle with before embracing. Sometimes I enter a cycle where I struggle with a concept, embrace it only to bump up against it again and begin to struggle my way through it once more. Maybe God is spoon feeding it to me in bite-sized pieces so I can chew and swallow without choking. Regardless, there are times when my response to a Biblical truth runs counter to expectation. I will often school my features in those moments for a number of reasons – most common of all though is to avoid becoming the object of gossip. I don’t believe grief was ever intended to be a spectator sport and armchair quarterbacks are no more appreciated on this field of play than they are in any other arena.
But I’ve drifted from my intended purpose, the curse of verbal processor (or the ADD thinker as you may prefer to think of me).
What I intended to say is that this blog post, You Can Never be Undone, is a good read. Ann Voskamp has a gift for weaving a message around one or two concise and profound sentences – basically giving me a sound bite I can meditate on. I think John Piper said something to the effect that it’s not books or paragraphs that change or impact lives, but sentences. Therein lies Ann’s gift in my opinion, the simple sentence. Anyway, I stole a few of those from this post and rearranged the order in a way that spoke to me. Maybe they will speak to you as well.
“You can never be undone.
No matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you.
You can never be undone.
No matter what intends to harm you … God is never absent, never impotent, never distant.
You can never be undone.
What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart.
Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels,
you can never be undone.” ~ Ann Voskamp