Chapter Two: Mable’s Lonely Journey Begins

Chapter Two Mable's Lonely Journey Begins

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After a couple of sessions of getting to know Mable, I began to ask her specific questions regarding her fundamental understanding of theology and how that theology worked out practically in her life. I knew that if I could uncover what she believed about God and how she applied her understanding of God to her life, I would start to understand how she had gotten to this place in her life and marriage. The answer to every issue that she would ever encounter, including her current marriage problems, would, in the final analysis, flow out of her theology: specifically, how she thought about God and how she practically applied those thoughts to her life. My initial point of focus was Romans 8:28.

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And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

I discovered that Mable’s core theology included her misunderstanding of the word good in Romans 8:28. She realized that her understanding of and desire for what is good differed from what the Bible portrays as good. While all things work together for good for the Christian, the reality of that text for Mable was frustrating. Sadly, she had misinterpreted Paul’s meaning. One of the first things I did was assess and adjust her interpretation and expectation of what good meant to her. She had been set on a course to find and experience good for many years. And it was evident that she had a simplistic and incomplete idea of what good meant from a theological perspective.

To explore this presuppositional truth with her, I had to get her to think through what Paul was thinking in Romans 8:28 and how Paul wanted us to interpret the good that happens to us when trouble comes. Most certainly, the good from that text does not necessarily mean I will live a healthy, wealthy, and peaceful life—all the time. It also does not mean that, when trouble comes, God is about to turn this tragedy or disappointment into man-centered prosperity or a preferred outcome for me. Let me illustrate with the story of Mildred.

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Mildred was in an automobile accident, completely wrecking her car. Through the ordeal, she received an incredible insurance claim that allowed her to buy a far better car than her previous, aging vehicle. Though God did work these things into her life, and she did receive a brand new vehicle, it can be misleading to bring Romans 8:28 to bear on this situation. For some, it might imply that God is our “Divine Dreamweaver,” which is not the good Paul was discussing. It also does not take into account the other person in the accident, whose rates went up and who has new car payments. Whether or not our life and circumstances unfold to our liking is not the point of the Bible, nor is it the point of life in a fallen world. Giving us the life we’ve always wanted is not at the top of God’s to-do list. For example,

  • Jesus’s life ended in death so that God could bring about good. (Hebrews 2:14–15)!
  • Joseph’s life landed him in a pit and then a prison to bring about good (Genesis 50:20).
  • Moses spent forty years in a desert to bring about good (Acts 7:20–35).
  • Esther was willing to lay down her life to bring about good (Esther 4:16).
  • Job lost everything, but from his horrible experience came good (Job 42:10).

The good that God is working in me and you are to make us more like Jesus. If the circumstances in my world are not conforming me to Jesus, I’m missing the point of what is going on in my life. The purpose of the Bible is transformation, not seven habits for highly effective people. Neither is it my success or happiness as defined by our culture. If I gain personal prosperity, property, plaudits, or power in this life, but these means of maturity do not conform me to the image of God’s son, I have missed the point of God’s work in my life. The good in Romans 8:28, and the significance of the whole passage, is that God will change me into the image of Christ but not necessarily healthy or wealthy.

And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28– 30).

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During my counseling sessions with Mable, it became apparent that she saw her marriage as something to bring about her interpretation of what is good. Though she loved God wholeheartedly, she felt incomplete and thought Biff would fill the gap. The trap that Mable fell into was a trap of her own making. After her marriage had grown cold, her hope was for her husband to change. While Biff did need to change, the first order of business for Mable was for her to change. Her theology and practice of theology—the doctrine of God—needed reshaping before she could address the apparent flaws in Biff and their marriage.

Call to Action

  1. After you make a significant decision that does not go as planned, is your instinct to regret the decision or see what God might want to do with your life?
  2. Can God use our sinful choices redemptively? (Clue: Christ dying on the cross.)
  3. Why must Mable focus on her theology before addressing what is wrong with her marriage?
  4. What do you think is deficient about her relationship with God?

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