The Suffering Sandwich

So. This morning I was reading in Romans chapter 8, and I noticed something.

Have you ever heard of a compliment sandwich? It’s where you stick some gentle criticism between two pieces of encouragement. It’s supposed to make the criticism easier to handle. It’s a choice method for dealing with millennial types… not that they need any correction whatsoever.

Anywho.

I sense a compliment sandwich of sorts in Romans 8. Paul starts out talking about the reality of us not being under condemnation if we are in Christ. How we are no longer on the payroll of sin, but employed by the righteousness of Christ. This is powerful stuff and wonderful news.

At the end of the chapter, God’s love for us is confirmed. Not only are we unable to be separated from the love of our Father, but He’s is working all our circumstances for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. More powerful stuff and more wonderful news.

I don’t know about you, but I really hate bad news. I can’t spend much time watching the news on TV or reading a news site because I will get angry or depressed. Or hangry. Sometimes you just need to eat your feelings.

We all want to hear good things and claim all the good promises in scripture. That’s why certain preachers are so popular – they only present one side of the story. The side that says that God will give you the desires of your heart and He works all things together for good and He will not withhold anything good from us and we can do all things.

All these promises are true, but very important context is missing.

Many of these promises, and the ones in Romans 8 are no exception, surround the theme of earthly suffering. Yup. That bad news sandwiched between the good news is that we are going to suffer on earth for Christ’s sake.

Things are not always going to go our way…. but God is working those circumstances to our ultimate good, whether it is refining our character or weeding out an idol or something we won’t know until glory.

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We still struggle in the flesh… but we are no longer a slave to sin. We have the choice to follow God’s way or our own.

There are people and things trying to separate us from God’s love…. but they are not successful.

I know, I know, I am supposed to be telling you how to change a diaper in thirty seconds, or give you pointers on how to deal with a drama queen. But I think that we need to remember something in the middle of our chaos of everyday life: God’s promises don’t ensure a trouble-free existence. God’s promises DO help us to endure and thrive despite our troubles.

That spiritual issue in your kid’s life? God’s going to do something. It may not look how you want it to look, but He will work it to His glory.

The mess I have to clean for the 400th time? I have the choice, through Christ, to do my work joyfully or griping.

That struggle with depression or sin? God loves you. It’s a reality that doesn’t depart just because we have human frailty. We can embrace this truth or ignore it altogether.

This isn’t the art of positive thinking. It’s dealing with life in light of the truth of God and His character and His Word. God’s promises give us the strength to face the challenges on this planet, because we know there is an ultimate goal. We can face persecution and distress and nakedness and danger and even death because despite all those bad things that can happen to us God and His love and His glory wins in the end. And that is really good news.

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