All Things Work Together for Good
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
When I became a Christian at the age of 15, I quickly found a number of favorite “life verses.” Towards the top of that list was Romans 8:28 - you know, the one where God says he’ll do good things for those who love him? Well, at least that’s what I thought the verse meant. I love God, he does good things for me, and unlike worldly unbelievers who didn’t know God I thought my life would slowly get better and easier the longer I followed Jesus. It’s unfortunate I got the meaning of this verse so wrong; when my secret struggles didn’t resolve (and actually intensified) I became convinced something was wrong and began to doubt God’s love for me.
So what does this verse actually mean? Well, I think the true meaning of Romans 8:28 is so much better than my adolescent version! Joni Eareckson Tada does as well, and she presents her case in a devotional titled “All Things Work Together for Good.” When life goes sideways, one of the things we long for most is to have someone come close, put their arms around us, and assure us that everything will be ok. That’s one of the things Romans 8:28 does - it reminds us that no matter what happens, ultimately God will use it for our good. What is that good? I found this quote from a Crosswalk Bible study about this verse:
“God allows everything into our lives for one of two purposes—either to bring us into a relationship with himself or, if we already know him, to make us more like his Son.”
In other words, God can use all things for good, but that doesn’t mean everything that happens in that process will be good.
Joni can speak from a place of real authority on this topic (her 50+ years in a wheelchair on top of chronic pain and 2 bouts of cancer make my 8 years of chronic pain look like a walk in the park!); when people ask her why God allows suffering, her answer (which she said to me when I interviewed her last summer) is “God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” And what he loves more than anything are men and women who look more like Jesus - which is what Romans 8:29 points to: “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”
I think God put passages like Romans 8:28-29 in the Bible to help put gas in our tanks when the trials of this life have us running on fumes. When my struggles with chronic pain started over 8 years ago, and I couldn’t see any meaning or purpose in my suffering, I wanted to end my life. When the Holy Spirit began its good work in my heart, and helped change my perspective, allowing me to see God’s goodness and provision in the midst of my trials, everything changed.
Do the circumstances of life have you feeling like you’re running on spiritual fumes? Let the words of Romans 8:28 fill up your tank with hope - God is using everything for your good!