By Branden DesCarpentrie

There was a time in my life when hearing Romans 8:28 made me cringe. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.

I heard it all the time, especially during difficult times, and I got sick of hearing it.  The verse was a mantra for everyone wanting to encourage me.  It seemed like a cop-out when times were hard. 

Right after I graduated from college, I took a new job in the Chicago suburbs and had a shiny new car.  Best of all, I purchased a diamond ring for the woman I loved and became engaged at Christmas.  I had it all together, right?  Wrong. 

I was a self-absorbed pretender.  Sin had a stranglehold on me: anger, lust, pride, debt, impatience.  A few months later my fiancé broke off our engagement.  My house of cards fell apart.  I could hardly get out of bed for a few weeks, lost a lot of weight and work was impossible.  Of course, most everyone thought she had made a big mistake, but privately I knew I would have been a terrible husband to her.  In my brokenness, people would try and encourage me with Romans 8:28.  The problem was I really didn’t believe the verse.  To me, it was an easy thing for people whose lives were going well to say to someone whose life was full of hurt.

But it was during this time God got a hold of me…when I admitted I didn’t have it all together.  I needed forgiveness.  A new life.  A new love.  I needed Jesus. 

Today, almost 15 years later, I am married to a woman that I love desperately, a woman that God has used to slowly and gently change me.  My anger, lust, pride, and impatience are not conquered completely, but I yield to the Spirit much more often.  My home is filled with four beautiful children.  One came to our family through adoption, and another, a brown-eyed baby girl who we foster.  I no longer live in Illinois working as a Landscape Architect.  We moved to Arkansas two years ago to serve as missionaries.  Turns out, a lot of people were right.  God took a huge disaster and reshaped it for my good and His purposes.      

With the hindsight of 15 years, what did I learn from that experience?  How do we encourage people who are sinking in a life filled with suffering, loss, confusion, and hopelessness?  We can do more that throw a few clever verses at them.  We can encourage them to truly believe that God is working right now for their good.  We can help them cling to Romans 8:28 like a life preserver because God is not absent from their suffering.  He is right in the middle of it.  I guess it’s not such a bad verse after all!