Dane Ortlund recently wrote, “Dear comforters of sufferers: Just because Rom 8:28 comes before Rom 12:15 in the canon doesn’t mean it should in your counsel.”
Joni Eareckson Tada talked about this in a recent interview with Marvin Olasky:
When you were in the hospital room, in despair about becoming a quadriplegic through your diving accident, were some comments people made—with good intentions—hugely irritating?
I had many well-meaning friends my age who said well-meaning things, but they were uninformed because the Bible says weep with those who weep. Many friends would say to me, from Romans 8:28, “Joni, all things fit together to a pattern for good.” Or, from James 1:3, “Welcome this trial as a friend.” Or, from Romans 5, “Rejoice in suffering.” These are good and right and true biblical mandates, but when your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, sometimes the 16 good biblical reasons as to why all this has happened to you sting like salt in the wound. When people are going through great trauma, great grief, they don’t want answers. Because answers don’t reach the problems where it hurts in the gut, in the heart.
What does help?
When I was a little girl, I remember riding my bike down a steep hill. I made a right-hand turn. My wheels skidded out on gravel and I crashed to the ground. My knee was a bloody mess. My dad comes running out. I’m screaming and crying. Although I didn’t ask why, if I had, how cruel it would have been for my father to stand over me and say, “Well, sweetheart, let me answer that question. The next time you’re going down the hill, watch the steepness, be careful about the trajectory of your turn, be observant of gravel.” Those would all have been good answers to the question, “Why did this happen?” But when people are going through great trauma and great grief, they don’t want to know why. They want Daddy to pick them up, press them against his chest, pat them on the back, and say, “There, there, sweetheart, Daddy’s here. It’s OK.” When we are hurting, that’s what we want. We want God to be Daddy: warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of our suffering. We want fatherly assurance that our world is not spinning out of control. . . . Don’t you dare be caught rejoicing with those who weep.