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. (verses 28)
This is a promise that gives a sure footing of hope and security to the whole of life. I am so thankful.
Yes, these words can all too easily be dished out flippantly in the face of hardship, as if suffering doesn’t really matter because “it will all turn out for good in the end - so, buck up and get over it.”
But the reality is so much stronger than that. Paul commented back in verse 18 “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” As there, so here, the focus is not on minimizing the reality of pain, but rather in realizing the wonder of God’s sovereignty regardless of our circumstances. Paul knew too much about suffering to be flippant. But he also knew too much about the glory and provision of the Lord to allow present realities to diminish hope. So he set his sights on the Lord’s ultimate purposes.
That’s the power of this verse. Even when the surface of things doesn’t reveal it, God is working his purpose out.
Again, to be clear, the verse does not say that somehow everything that happens to us is good. No. Clearly, some of what we experience is unquestionably bad, plain and simple. Nor does the verse say that God causes bad things to happen so that good may result. Rather, the affirmation is that the Lord God is not daunted by hardships and difficulties that come our way. Instead, he is able to take what was meant for evil and use it for good, to cause trials to strengthen us, and suffering to build character. The breadth of the phrase “all things” even gives me hope that he can take my own failings and weaknesses, indeed my sin, and reshape it in his hands to work out his purposes in my life. Correction and discipline may be part of the process, but “good” will be the Father’s aim. Such is the power and compassion of our God.
The word translated as “works” has the fuller meaning of “works together,” giving me the sense of the artistry and craftsmanship of God as he deliberately takes disparate parts of my own experience, hard as they may be, and builds them, one with the other, into a pattern and design that is for my good. Beyond expectation, beyond cause and effect, he works for the good.
So, I pause to trust him again with everything that lies behind me and all that lies ahead. Nothing escapes his redemptive plan. The old fairy tale speaks of spinning straw into gold, an impossible feat. But our Lord is able, indeed willing, to re-spin the events of our lives with the divine touch of his glory.
Finally, this promise is for “those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In other words, it’s for those who have been embraced into his family. Yes, we ourselves press forward in relationship with him, loving him as daughters and sons, but ultimately it is all based in the fact that he is the One who has chosen and called us. He paid the redemption price and adopted us as his own. That eternal reality guarantees this present promise.
We know. In all things. God works. For the good. Of those who love him. Amen.
Father, thank you that when you called me according to your purpose you made the commitment to perpetually be at work in my life. You have begun a good work in me - you promise to bring it to completion. In the midst of the bad and the good, the joys and the sorrows, you are working your purpose out. Praise your name. I submit afresh to your hand.
Reflect: Is there a present hardship you are battling? Is there a past suffering that lingers? Is there an apprehension for what is coming next? With this verse in mind, submit each one to the Father’s care. Watch for his loving artistry.