Romans 8:18,28 NRSV
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
In Romans 8, Paul puts the suffering of believers into the larger context of the suffering of the entire creation and the hope of future salvation. Paul here sees the story of the universe as a dramatic sequence: human sin, creation’s subjection and decay, believers’ present experience of the Spirit, believers’ salvation of the universe (the glory to be revealed to us).
Romans 8:28 in particular is a favorite verse for many. While this verse testifies to God’s love and sovereignty, it does not say that God wills all things, but that God works in all things for the good of those who love God and are called to God’s purposes. God does not will our suffering, but works for our ultimate good in the midst of “the sufferings of the present time.”
–Adapted from Common English and New Interpreter’s Study Bibles
Questions about the Scripture
1. In Romans 8:18 above, Paul acknowledges “the sufferings of this present time.” The night before his crucifixion, Jesus assured his disciples “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). These verses acknowledge the reality of human suffering, just as the Buddha did (first noble truth). Starting from this common point, Christian and Buddhist thought begins to diverge. From what you have learned from both traditions, what are their respective solutions to the problem of human suffering?
2. The second and third Noble Truths affirm that human suffering results from attachments, and that we can overcome suffering by overcoming attachments. In the gospels, we see that God addresses suffering by attaching to us in the incarnation of Jesus (“God with us,” Matthew 1:23). Has the experience of God’s sustaining presence (both in the presence of the Holy Spirit and/or the “body of Christ”) helped you in the midst of suffering? How?
3. Much of Buddhist thought sees God as irrelevant to the problem of human suffering. Read Romans 8:28 again. What does this verse say about God’s work in the midst of human suffering? Looking back on your journey, have you experienced the promise of Romans 8:28 at any particular time in your life? If so, share with your group.
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or more) of the following actions:
1. Meditate. One discipline Christians share with our Buddhist friends is the practice of meditation. Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.” Try spending some time this week meditating on a favorite scripture passage, prayer, or even a worship song/hymn lyric.
2. Disconnect. Buddhism focuses heavily on letting go of attachments and unhealthy desires. While Christian and Buddhist religious motivations are different in many ways, we can all agree that humans often attach ourselves to things which bring worry and anxiety into our lives. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Try to identify at least one thing in your life that causes worry or distraction in your faith journey, and consider ways you might let go of this unhealthy “attachment.”
3. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.