Is This Really Good?

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

It's a verse we teach our children. It's one of the first verses we give someone who is hurting. We've scrawled it on sympathy cards and hung it on our walls. You'd think I'd have understood it by now. But I don't think I did until recently.

"All things work together for good." In my mind, that meant that whatever problem I'm facing will have a happy solution. I've understood this verse to mean, "Hang in there, God will fix it all. He's already got a solution figured out. Just be patient. You'll get your happy ending."

"To them that love God." That's me! Hey, I'm trying to live for Him! So this verse guarantees me results...good ones. If I've been a wise, biblical steward, my money problems will go away and I won't lose my home. If I have raised my child right, he will never go his own way in rebellion. If I am a loving wife, my husband will be faithful to me. If I treat others with kindness, they will reciprocate. I've reduced God to some kind of cosmic vending machine. If I put in what he wants, I get the product I want. It's that simple. Isn't that what I deserve?

Facing a trial that you didn't see coming will cause you to go back to the Bible and read it as if for the first time. Suddenly, nothing is as it seemed. God is not Who He seemed. Has He let me down? The trial in my life has caused me to thirst for Him, to know Him more. Because evidently, I've believed things about Him that were not true.

In the case of Romans 8:28, I wanted to know what "good" He was talking about. This doesn't seem good! Could it be that He wasn't referring to my circumstances at all? "Getting it" was as simple as reading the next verse: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Was this the "good" He was referring to? Not an escape from my problems. Not necessarily a happy ending here on this earth. The good He promises is my sanctification. Isn't that infinitely more important than my satisfaction? He is much more concerned with my holiness than He is with my happiness. So He's using a trial to drive me to Him, to understand Christ's suffering more than ever before, and to know His love and grace on a daily basis.

Being covered by His grace doesn't necessarily mean my problem will work out the way I want it to. But it does mean that I can be the person He wants me to be. It means He holds me tenderly and comforts my heart. It means I learn to depend solely on Him. It means there are days I can't get out of bed without spending time in His Word. It means every verse, every sermon, every hymn has a deeper, multi-dimensional beauty. That's the good--the sweetness found only in a trial. And that's how we can give thanks right in the middle of it. I thank Him for Who He is. I thank Him for what He suffered for me. I thank Him for what He's revealed in my heart that needs to change. I thank Him for less satisfaction with this present world, resulting in a greater longing for Heaven. I thank Him for the good, and for being good.
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