And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB
Know – Well, we might know that God causes all things to work together for good, but it surely doesn’t feel that way, does it? Paul uses the Greek verb oida, not ginosko, and for good reason. If Paul used ginosko, then we would ask for the evidence to support his claim. We would ask to see the data, to understand the conclusions, and to be convinced by the arguments. But that would be rather impossible, don’t you think? Where is the evidence that all things work together for good? Nowhere, as far as I can tell. When I survey the evidence, I see children under the bridge, dying from AIDS because their mothers have unprotected sex because they in turn have no money, no jobs, and no other way to live. I see brutality, torture, and honor killings because of “faith.” I see million upon millions of impoverished, struggling to eat in a world where 250 people have more financial assets than 250 billion of the poor. What’s worse is that I have assets of more than millions of the world’s poor. I see hatred, racial tension, bigotry, destruction of the planet, recalcitrance, rigidity, and polarization. I see the world being led into digital slavery like sheep, without protest. So tell me, “How does all this point to God’s bringing about the good?”
Ah, but Paul does not use the Greek verb for collecting evidence and drawing conclusions. He uses oida, a verb that focuses on an internal awareness that breeds confidence, a kind of psycho-emotional intuition that registers in the whole complexity of what it means to be human. He uses a verb that is closer to self-awareness than data analysis. In other words, Paul basically says that he has a convincing hope that God is working all things for good. It is a hope that he cannot reject because it is founded on the character and sovereignty of God—even if there is very little evidence to support it. For Paul, the good is the inevitable, incontestable outcome of who God is. It has almost nothing to do with what is happening now.
But what Paul knows seems incredibly difficult for me. I might know this hope too, as theory, as theology, as eschatological desire, but I am still here, in the grind, and the grind is my reality even if I hope for something different someday. In recent conversations, I have noticed that the grind is getting more intense. Perhaps it is just a matter of age, but I’m noticing that more and more men are struggling with why they are even alive. The routine is no longer enough. Work to pay the bills, try to forget the struggle with work, work harder to get more so that you can forget again, and pay more bills. The endless and pointless grind. And at a certain age, most men I know just want out. Their dreams have long ago turned to memories. They have more past than future. They are tired, but there is no end in sight for the demand to perform. Slowly, ever so slowly, the grind is eating into their souls. They are becoming men without purpose, waiting for it to be over. Do they know that all things God works for good? I don’t think so. I think they want to believe it. I think they try to believe it. But in the end, life is the grind and hope is the friction dust of worn out gears. How come Paul was able to say, “We know”? That just might be life’s most important question right now.
Topical Index: know, oida, grind, ginosko, Romans 8:28