In Romans 8:28 Paul wrote, “We know that God works all things together for good to those who love him.” This verse tells us what we will one day see in retrospect.
C. S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote that “both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective… Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”
The Curse will be reversed. Lewis has Aslan explain the deeper magic the witch didn’t know about when he died for a sinner: “the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”
Retrospect enables us to see everything differently. It’s why we can call the worst day in all of history “Good Friday.”
Faith is like a forward memory, allowing us to believe as if what is promised has already happened. One day we will see how Romans 8:28 was true all along, even in those moments we most doubted it. Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20, the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament: “You intended it for evil but God intended it for good.” (Notice Joseph didn’t merely say, “God made the best of bad circumstances.”)
Here’s a question: how long will it take living with God on the New Earth before you say, “At last, all that suffering has been worth it”? Five seconds? Five minutes? Five years? Maybe you’re a pessimist and you think, “It would take 500 years before it would be worth it!” Well, fine, Eeyore, or perhaps I should say Puddleglum; after 500 years you’ll have an eternity of unending, God-centered happiness in front of you, paid for by the shed blood of God. Can you think of anything better?
There is only one answer bigger than the question of evil and suffering: JESUS. Do you ever think, I would never do to my child what God has done to me! He must not care”? Picture Jesus stretching his nail-scarred hands toward you, and asking, “Do these look like the hands of a God who does not care?” God’s Son, by taking upon himself our sins, suffered far more than any person in history.
If God decided all the suffering of history is worth the price paid, who are we to say otherwise? He knows everything, and took upon himself the lion’s share of human suffering. Hasn’t he earned the right to be trusted?
Take some time to list the worst things that have ever happened to you, then list the best things. You’ll be astonished by how many of those best things came out of the worst things. Trust God to do the same with things that don’t yet make sense. In the hands of a God of sovereign grace, our sufferings will give birth to future happiness beyond our wildest dreams. Jesus said our sorrows will turn into joy—not just be followed by joy, but transformed into joy! (John 16:20). Think of it…for God’s children, what is now pain will ultimately be transfigured into both glory and joy.
This blog is excerpted from Randy’s contribution to The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis (Edited by John Piper, David Mathis; Contributions by Randy Alcorn, Philip Graham Ryken, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Douglas Wilson).