“A Good Not Otherwise Attained” (Romans 8:28)

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Submitted by Andy McIlvain. 

Romans 8:28

Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle writes:

“There is nothing which shows our ignorance so much as our impatience under trouble. We forget that every cross is a message from God, intended to do us good in the end. Trials are intended to make us think — to wean us from the world — to send us to the Bible — to drive us to our knees. Health is a good thing; but sickness is far better, if it leads us to God. Prosperity is a great mercy; but adversity is a greater one if it brings us to Christ. Anything, anything is better than living in indifference and dying in sin.”

Upon the recent death of my mother at 91 years of age the reality of being in this world and the greater good brought about by her death came upon me with bell ringing clarity. The pain and heartache of it has made the glass darkly less so, more opaque perhaps.

For me, like many people, the struggle and misfortunes of life – often self-inflicted – were always obstacles to overcome. Only in recent years has Christ and the Holy Spirit revealed to me the folly of my ways and how suffering and adversity are crucibles of fire and pain that I desperately need.

The reality we dare not admit to ourselves is that the loss of a parent or brother, or child, or close friend can bring about a greater good in our lives, a blessing we would not have known without having to feel the pain and heartache. The process of dying unto ourselves, separating us from our sin nature is a life-long one that is never really complete. Sin like the grooves of a record is carved into our fallen rebellious selves from birth. We can grow wise but the sin nature remains a battlefield in our souls and in the world around us.

The “Good Not Otherwise Attained,” as J.R.R Tolkien put it, is often brought to us through pain and loss, tragic and sad circumstances. Adversities in life will (and do) produce an ultimate blessing (now or in eternity), allowing us a glimpse of the supreme power and inventiveness of our Creator.

All of us have grown up in a culture that avoids pain and death at all costs. Yet, it is exactly through these things, made real by Christ on the Cross that embellish and fill our lives with Christ-likeness. It is a necessary part to our being made holy and a vital part of human growth and development.

How the Holy Spirt and Christ works in us during these difficult and sorrowful times is a great and unappreciated gift, a grace gift. We must learn to be reflective in our Christian life, step back from our suffering and adversity, and view it through the lens of faith. Be thankful and praise God for never forsaking us.

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