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
When things do not go well; the diagnosis comes, the job doesn’t, the child is wandering, that’s when many pull this comforting scripture passage out of their back pockets. I have clung desperately to it myself at times. It gives us so much hope to know that the God of the universe is taking our frightening circumstances and working them into something good. What a relief!
I was pondering this verse recently and began to wonder what good really means? Does good mean the same thing to God as it does to us? God’s Word tells us that His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8) so, shouldn’t we be careful about our assumptions here?
I am very cautious when I think that God is going to do anything for me that would be seen as good in the eyes of the world. He doesn’t really seem to work that way for the people in the Bible, so why would He work that way for me?
He took Abraham to the point of nearly sacrificing his son in order to show him that he had the faith it takes to be the father of the nations, and that He, Himself, would provide the sacrifice. He put Joseph in prison in order to maneuver him into the second highest seat in the government of Egypt so that he could keep His people alive and bring them to Egypt. He made David spend years in the fields as a shepherd and in caves outwitting a man who wanted to kill him in order to raise him up to be a warrior king. The Apostles Peter and Paul had to be put through flogging, prison, and crucifixion and beheading in order to get the Church to grow and Stephen had to be stoned to death for it to expand. None of those things would look good in the eyes of the world but I bet if you asked all of them, they’d say God worked it all together for good.
The stories don’t end with the Bible. Story after story is written since Bible times of men and women of God who were killed for their faith but because of their sacrifice people who had never heard of Jesus became part of His Kingdom. I think of Jim Elliot and the other missionaries with him who were all speared to death by the Waorani tribe of Ecuador. That tribe is now part of the Bride of Christ and many of them go around the world sharing their story of redemption. I believe Jim Elliot would see that as good.
So, when the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that God works all things together for good, what does that good look like? I don’t think it looks like what we sometimes assume it does. I think He’s talking about eternal good, not personal good.
The society we live in has for too long thought that good is personal. Good is what happens for us. Good feels good. But, what if good hurts? What if good is frightening?
The missionary Amy Carmichael wrote: “What if every stroke of pain, or hour of weariness, or loneliness, or any other trial of flesh or spirit, could carry us a pulse-beat nearer to some other person, some life for which the ministry of prayer is needed – would it not be worthwhile to suffer? Amy Carmichael’s Rose from Brier
God’s ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. What if your child going to jail for drunk driving became the catalyst for a transforming life change that leads her to Jesus? What if your son’s addiction sent him to a group home where he got to know Jesus and was able to lead other young men into God’s saving grace? What if the cancer diagnosis gave your mom an opportunity to sit with other women and share her experience of how her faith got her through it? Aren’t all those good?
What if the nation slipping into darkness, facing a pandemic, a divisive election, dealing with censorship, even if it does mean falling into the hands of an oppressive socialist regime, and all the other fears that are out there these days, what if they are all God working all things together for good? What if through the darkness and fear the Church was able to take their eyes off of the things that they see and look to the things that they do not see, the eternal good that is good for the Kingdom of God?
Sometimes suffering is the way to open a door that comfort and ease will not open.
We must get to the point where we realize that life is not about us. It is about our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus. It is about us finding a way, even if it is through pain and suffering, to tell others about this God who was the substitute sacrifice for us, so that we could have the hope of eternity with Him in heaven. God worked His Son’s suffering together for good and I see that as very good!