28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
I’ve had many conversations where people have shared that they don't know what to say in response to hearing the trials of others. Some of this verbal paralysis is increased because we have heard people in pain tell us about the dumb things other people have said to them, and we don't want to hurt people. The other side of the tension is that when we are in pain, we do want to hear from others. We expect people to speak in response to the sharing of our trials.
So what do we do with this tension? Especially, as we are in discipling relationships, how do we respond when others tell us of their trials? First and foremost, always listen. Actively listen to hear the circumstances, but also the heart of the person in the circumstances. The best things Job's friends did for him were to sit and mourn and listen (Job 2:11-13).
And there are some things that we can say to help one another in our trials. This is what Paul is doing in this section of Romans—he is giving hope from the gospel to brothers and sisters in difficult situations or who will be in difficult situations. The hope doesn't make all the problems go away, but it does give us perspective as we endure difficulty in this futile world. Jonathan Edwards summarized the verses above in this way:
This summary is so helpful in reminding my heart of God's power and goodness, and gives me perspective as I endure difficulties of various kinds. How I begin to apply this perspective to my circumstances goes something like this:
1. Whatever I encounter in this life till I see Jesus face to face is under God's control to make me look more and more like Jesus. The things that will really destroy me in life: foolishness, hard heartedness, denial, unbelief, pride, etc. God is actively involved in my circumstances to rid me of these life destroyers.
2. No matter what comes, my relationship with God is set and secured by him. Nothing in this life can take away what God has secured for me.
3. One day, when Jesus returns, and creation is new and every tear is wiped away, the greatness of God's new creation will cause the difficulty and pain of this life to fade away. Even more in some powerful way, because the end will be so great, I will even see that it was all worth it.
It takes wisdom to know when and how to remind one another of this perspective on our trials, and one of the ways to learn that wisdom is to be applying this perspective on your own heart. In your trials, apply Paul's words of hope to your heart. As you preach the hope of the gospel to yourself, you will become more comfortable and wise in giving hope to others.