When Allison was diagnosed with leukemia, we were in a children's hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. We spent many days, nights, and weeks there, discovering a wonderful playroom, excellent staff, and one very annoying mom. This particular mom was a regular on the 3rd floor, as her daughter had asthma and was frequently hospitalized for treatments. We met in the playroom, discovered we were both Christians; she was comfortable there, knew most of the staff by name, and was generally a very happy, cheerful person. I was not. I soon nicknamed my new friend, "Platitude Pam", because she seemed to be an endless fountain of scripture, cliches, and trite remarks. Her favorite was Romans 8:28. . . "all things work together for good, Joni!" I hated that verse. I couldn't see anything good in what was happening to my daughter.
Many years have passed since those unhappy days, and there still seems to be something about that verse that just rubs me a little wrong. Of course, it probably has nothing to do with the verse; and everything to do with how it's used by well-meaning people, including me. I've really tried to like it. . .it doesn't actually say all things that happen to us are good, and it doesn't actually say that I have to be happy about the things that are happening to me. But, it just seems too simplistic.
Psalm 106:10 says "from the hand of the enemy, He redeemed them." "You, Lord, took up my case; You redeemed my life." (Lam. 3:58). Redeemed. Now, that's a word with some real depth to it. . .I like that word. We sing about it frequently in church, use it to describe our new life in Christ, and read about it in countless books in the church library. And, this past week, I read about it in a book by Philip Yancey. In talking about Joni Eareckson Tada, he said "pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed." And then he quoted Dallas Willard: "nothing irredeemable has happened or can happen to us on our way to our destiny in God's full world." Redeemed . . . synonyms include 'buy back', 'recover', 'regain possession of', and 'exchange'. Exchange? As in 'redeeming currency' or 'redeeming a savings bond'? I know I'm a little slow sometimes, but what if Romans 8:28 is actually about redemption? All things (pain, grief, sickness, death) can be redeemed . . . can be exchanged . . . for a new awareness of how temporary this life is and how very much our Savior loves us. "I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life. . . neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. . . indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39) Even the grief I continue to live with is redeemable as it reminds me of His promise that one day "we will be with the Lord forever"! (1Thess. 4:17)
I've decided that Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses.