Romans 8 is arguably the greatest chapter in the Bible. Some of the most cherished verses of believers come from this text:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1).
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (v. 15).
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (v. 32).
“ . . . we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).
“(Nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).
The great theme that weaves each of these verses together is hope. Cross-created, salvation-producing, eternally-securing hope. Recovery (something all of us are in regardless of whether or not we have ever had a drug or alcohol problem) cannot happen without hope.
Hope gets us started on the journey, and hope keeps us going in spite of all the ups and downs, twists and turns that come with the journey.
When Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18), he is saying, “If you have any notion of the incredible future that lies before you, all the problems and pain you are experiencing now won’t be able to stop you from pressing forward.”
Romans 8:29-31 tells us that God’s recovery program is comprehensive and certain: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” In other words, we have a secure, indomitable hope that God is committed to recovering us and recovering us fully.
True, God’s recovery program seldom looks like what we envisioned. Freedom from alcohol or drugs (whatever our vices) may be at the top of our list of priorities, but God’s timetable may be different. He may be more intent on ridding us of other things first such as our pride, greed or selfishness. We must trust that he knows what is best and when that is best.
Christian hope does not lead to naive triumphalism, as if we could bypass setbacks and suffering. Recovery is never a straight line. Romans 8—a text full of words such as “bondage,” “decay,” “groaning,” “weakness,” “trouble,” “persecution,” “famine,” “sword,” and “death”—clearly shows that the road before each one of us will be overlaid with hardship and difficulty. The good news is God uses these very things (“hard mercies,” C.S. Lewis’ phrase) to recover us.
Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Nothing and no one (including yourself!) can frustrate God’s recovery program of your life! Tim Keller comments: “‘All’ really means all! So it includes even our backsliding and our sin. Now, sin is always bad, always a terrible thing, and we will always live to regret its painful consequences in our lives. But God is so great that he weaves it into our ultimate good.”
Everything that is happening to us is working out for our sanctification and glorification . . . our recovery! Rejoice! He is in charge, and he is determined!