This Can’t Be Good

“And, we know God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28 ESV

God placed this promise on my heart for the next Digging Deeper devotional a few weeks ago. It’s one that hangs above my desk. A life verse that I cling to when my circumstances have me saying “this can’t be good” – when my heart is having a hard time believing otherwise.

In my usual study fashion, I start with the Greek Lexicon – to shed light on the keywords of the verse. Occasionally, I am surprised and challenged by what I discover, as in this case.

Let’s start by unpacking this verse.

  • And, we know that God causes – to assist, help, work together.
  • all things – each, every any, all the whole, everything, the sum of things

T.D. Jakes puts it this way in his book, Crushing: “Notice that he says all things – not some things, a few things, or the good things. All includes the hard, painful, the unexpected and the seemingly unbearable, unimaginable, and intolerable. All includes the losses that you’re grieving right now, the ones you carry around inside you every day. All includes the disaster, divisions, and distractions intruding on your peace of mind. All includes circumstances that leave you feeling powerless, vulnerable, and unsteady on your feet.” That’s every thing.

  • to work together – literally, the same word for causes – to assist, help, work together.
  • for good – means good, in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect. For our own good, for our benefit. 
  • to those who love God – when used of love to God or Christ involves reverence, prompt obedience, grateful recognition of benefits received.

Whoa, let’s pause right there. Here is one of those times that the definition really challenged me to consider its meaning. To love God means to revere, to obey, and to be grateful. When we truly love God, it requires that we honor and worship him, we obey His word (which consequently requires us to be in His word to understand how to obey), and that we actively show gratitude for all the things He has done in our life. I can tell you that by loving God in this way, it will have a profound impact on how we view those trials, those circumstances, that we question.

Now, let’s keep going.

  • to those called – invited by God to obtain eternal salvation through Christ. So this promise is for the believer. He will work all things together for good for the Child of God. Not everyone.
  • according to His purpose – predetermination, a setting forth. He has already set forth, predetermined the purpose for which these things are being worked out for good on our behalf. 

My husband and I love to do jigsaw puzzles. When we pour out the contents, it all looks like a big mess that we will never piece together. Odd looking pieces that don’t look like they fit anywhere into the big picture. Holes from missing pieces that we can’t seem to find. But, little by little, we slowly begin to piece all things together until we find a beautiful, whole, complete picture in front of us. That’s what God does for us.

“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.” Romans 8:28 (The Voice)

So, just maybe, that’s why God also tells us this:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3 ESV

  • count it all joy – “chara” the cause or occasion of joy, sheer gift, wholly joyful.
  • when you face trials of many kinds – adversity, affliction, trouble (trial) sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s faith, holiness, character.

Wait a minute…did you catch that? Trials sent by God. That definition really sent me thinking. God sends trials! I think we often like to say that God allows trials. It’s a little softer. Easier to choke down. Think about Job. Satan went to God to ransack Job’s faith. But, God had to give permission to Satan. He had to allow the trials to happen. 

God allows trials for what reason?

Let’s keep going….

  • because you know the testing of your faith – that which something is proved or tried. 
  • produces steadfastness – perseverance, the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

God sends trials to push us to greater faith. To greater good. To the greater purpose. Toward Him. So that we may be “perfect and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

“James is not saying the trials are joyful in themselves but are a means to an end which is joyful. In other words, joy in trials comes from knowing that the outcome will be good. It’s as if while in the trial, we have a future focused mindset, because we know that the trial in the hands of the good and loving Potter is not without value regarding the sculpting of our character. We must lay hold of this truth that a loving Father allows (sometimes sends) trials in our lives, not to impair us but to improve us. Not to destroy us but to develop us.” (https://www.preceptaustin.org/james_12_commentary)

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” 1 Peter 4:12 MSG

“The reality of suffering in the world causes many to question the existence of an all-powerful and all-loving God. A God of power and love is expected to be both able and willing to remove suffering from our lives. Ultimately, God will make all things new and end suffering, but for now God allows it and calls us to rejoice in the midst of it. Though we may not understand it, pain and suffering have a purpose in God’s plan, and our Creator is not immune to it. Through Jesus God enters into our suffering; now we are called to enter into His.” (Commentary from 1 Peter 4:12 The Voice)

“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 MSG

All things. For good. And, for His glory that is just around the corner.

 “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Putting It Into Practice

  • First, let’s consider the definition of “love” for God. Answer the following questions:
  1. Do you revere God by honoring his name? Does your language reflect your reverence for Him? Do you set aside time to worship Him? This can be in your private, quiet time or in public worship.
  2. Do you promptly obey God? Do you spend time daily in His Word so that you know and understand His commandments? Also, do you repent and ask for forgiveness when you know you have disobeyed?
  3. Do you practice gratitude? If not, start your list today. It can be as simple as the sunshine in the middle of a dreary winter. That’s top on my list today.
  • Are you going through a specific trial right now? Or maybe what seems like many trials? Begin to ask God to show you what He is teaching you, what characteristic is He developing in you. Begin to claim the promise that He is working ALL things together for GOOD, even when you don’t see it or feel it. 
  • Can you think back to a time in your life when God worked something good out of something that seemed anything but good at the time? Write that down and choose to remember His goodness and give thanks.
  • At a recent conference, a speaker told us to “Worship in the Wilderness”. It takes me back to that chorus: “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you. This is how we fight our battles.”  (Upper Room) Worship takes our eyes off ourselves and our current circumstances and puts our eyes on God. Turn on some worship music and sing out.
  • Speaking of potatoes, have you ever seen the experiment where you put a potato in a jar of water and it begins to grow roots and sprout a new plant?  Just like that potato, when we allow our lives, including all of our trials, troubles, and tests, to grow down deep in the living water of God’s promises, we will see new growth in our lives. Spend time today meditating on one of the scriptures in the devotional. Write it as a prayer. Write  it on a sticky note and post it so that you see it throughout the day.