Last night, the Midseason Finale of the Walking Dead aired. While I thought it was a good, if but a bit mediocre, episode, the internet is raging against it (If you need a reason to get hooked on TWD, click here!). One scene struck me in all the right ways, as it demonstrated the pure brilliance of the writers and producers in their storytelling capabilities. One character, as the life slipped from her lips, gave a folded up piece of paper containing blueprints for a future settlement to another character. The former wrote on it the phrase, “dolor his tibi proderit olim.” If you are not the savvy Latin lover, it translates as, “Someday, this pain will be useful to you.” The words seemingly hung in the air as the characters shared one of their last moments together. To fully understand this scene, check it out here.
What one character on TWD said to another illustrates the beauty of the show. “Someday this pain will be useful to you.” If you are familiar with the show, you know that lots of junk rails against this group of rebels, and they persevere and continue on, hoping for a life not infected with the undead. Loved ones get sick. Loved ones die. They are blessed with infinitely valuable shelter. They lose everything. This insufferable cycle I can relate with. This reminds me of my favorite scripture, Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know this, that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” When life’s murderous tides threaten to sink our rip shod vessel, we should take heart that God is working these things for our good, that is, conforming us to the image of Christ.
Sometimes, it would be easy to think that God is a malevolent observer, absently watching as the world destroys itself. Some think that, and at times when my faith and hope are weak, I might be tempted to think that. When my life fails to make sense, the selfish part of me starts to blame God. Take a look at what happened in Stillwater, Paris, and recently in Colorado. One can conjecture that Whomever lives upstairs left the scene long ago; however, this scene in TWD reminds me once again that God is not malevolent, but a benevolent Father seeking to bring the world closer to Himself through tragedy.
On a personal level, things have happened in my life that have threatened to ruin me, my life, and the very fibers of who I am. Breakups, deaths, sins, all seek their piece in the success of my downfall. While these things I consider bad and harmful and duly so, I have come to know that God has a bigger picture for me. I am thankful to serve a God that uses calamity and disaster for my benefit. I have grown all the stronger by the things I have gone through.
This is not a good that seeks its own. The good God brings through tragedies seeks to make us better. This good is conditional. Take the time to reread the scripture and note how Paul wrote out the words. This good is only promised to some. This good is promised to those who love God. Now, one of my favorite modern theologians is John Piper. Old as he is, he is a real codger and stickler to the scriptures. I recently watched a series of his videos solely on this scripture and he enlightened me as to how this verse works. God’s love in this verse is revealed to those whom God knows. Those He knows are those that have a relationship with Him. Christians are the only ones who can claim this immense, wonderful promise.
Christians can cling to the hope that everything they go through will be worked for their good. What is the good to which Paul refers? The incredible and terrible opportunity in being conformed to Christ. All words and phrases mean something. Just as Paul deliberately coined his words in all his writings, I used the word terrible for a reason. Why would being conformed to Christ be terrible? If you just asked that, I question that you have encountered any suffering. I may live in America, have all my needs met, be young, and not have a rogue army seeking my head for my faith, but I have suffered. As some of you are aware of parts of my story, you know my story is not all good. Being conformed to Christ means being conformed to Him at any cost. God will go to extreme measures sometimes to bring those He has called closer to His purpose, making them look like Christ. That is why it is a terrifying prospect. God will use what He must to bring about our surrender and submission to His plans, which are inevitably better than our own.
Someday this pain will be useful to you.” It is as if God says this exact phrase in using Paul to write Romans 8:28. Someday, Christian, this pain from which you are suffering will not lead you out of suffering, but will indeed make you more perfect. Just as fire and stress heats and tempers iron ore into iron, so God uses the poor circumstances of this life for your betterment. He will use all things, good, bad, ugly, to make you look like Jesus, and as Christians, that is the best we could ever ask for.