There's a verse I hold dear when calamity strikes, and it does strike often. Sure, I could hold on to quips like, "Everything is ok in the end, if it's not ok, it's not the end." Or "It's a bad day, not a bad life." But I'd much rather hold on to Scripture. I'd much rather think on God's promises, which are surer than you and I could ever comprehend.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
I want to look at this verse, closely, with you today. Because it gives us strength when things are going well, and when things are going poorly. Because 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter, the Holy Spirit not only had the church in Rome in mind, but also had you and I and thousands of others in mind. Because the Word of God reveals what is true about Him. We only truly have joy when we're looking at God above all else. Because God's Word and the promises and truth contained within its pages are entirely sufficient for you and for me to cling to.
This is not an empty promise. This is a surefire result that you and I get as we grow in the knowledge of God through His word. We know.
We know God is good and true and just (Matthew 5:45, Psalm 16:2, Lamentations 3:22-23). We know God keeps His promises (Romans 4:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:24). We know that He is merciful, tender toward His creation (Psalm 145:9). We know that he works all things together, for our good, for His glory.
These attributes are but a mere glimpse of the character and nature of our great God; The discoveries we might have about His greatness are so abundant that we cannot exhaust them. We know these things by knowing God. We know God by knowing His word. We know His word by spending devoted time to studying Scripture. By this, all things worth knowing are identified.
God causes the things in our lives to work for our benefit. He causes the atrocities and the afflictions to submit to His will. Isn't that astounding? God takes what the world intends for harm, and bends it to submit to His purpose instead. What intends to wound, He intends for healing.
He has a plan for the good things and bad. We know that God works, that He is actively involved in our lives. God is the source of all plans, the cradle of all plots. We see His sovereignty displayed in this: He acts on our behalf, He acts to accomplish His desires, He acts to fulfill His promises.
All things. Big and small. Filthy and clean. Flagrant or ignored. We know
that He causes
all of these things to have a purpose, an eternal purpose, in the sanctifying work of believers by cultivating purity within His church. Every pang we feel on earth rings out into eternity because of this, and each twinge of pain is being used to purify us before our Father as He prepares us for ceaseless life in Him.
He works within the terror of cancer. He works within the annoyance of a fender bender. He works within the weariness of the common cold. He uses these things to bring about goodness in our lives. He uses these things to bring us closer to Him. Sicknesses, accidents, criticisms–He uses them all. And He draws us nearer because of them.
Not only does He use all circumstances that we find ourselves in, but He intertwines them, creating a story that has the ultimate end of bringing us into holiness. It is easy to focus on the "end-goal" of the promises of God. When we become laser-focused on the finish line, rather than the journey, we miss out on something crucial. We fail to see where our Savior works completely separate and distinct things together
. Feelings, thoughts, pains, irritations–He works them together
for the motive of redemption to His purposes.
When we fail to pause and view these things, we choose not to see His hand working adamantly in trials and joys. When we are impatiently fixated on "good" to come about, we forsake seeing the beauty of God working in our lives, reclaiming things we call "bad" and turning them into "good."
Let's talk about "good" for a moment. When we think about what is good, we often think about what is painless, pragmatic, or wholesome. While those definitions aren't necessarily wrong, I want us to expand our thinking of goodness to a more cosmic or universal sense. Goodness isn't synonymous with ease. Goodness is synonymous with God. Everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen to us is intended by God for goodness. God is good. Nothing apart from goodness can come from Him.
A "good" life isn't spared from pain or suffering, instead it is a life spent worshiping God and allowing His glory to be made known through lives. Did Job have a good life? Maybe not by worldly standards–He lost almost everything he had. But this had a purpose– purpose to proclaim to Satan that God was precious and indispensable to Job. In Job 13:15 we see Job say, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." He lamented and grieved his losses. But ultimately, he knew that goodness came from the Lord.
"Those who love God"
This is a verse for Christians. For those of us who are committed to suffering for the sake of Christ who suffered for our sake, that we might have life eternal. This verse is a reminder of the resounding cry of 1 Peter: we will suffer for God, but it is invaluable and completely worth it because of the imperishable nature of our inheritance with Christ.
Those called according to His purpose. This isn't an exclusive call, something meaningful to only some Christians. If you are in Christ, if you've bet your life on the reality that Jesus died for our sin, then rose that we might have life, then this verse is for you. When an individual becomes a Christian, they become called according to God's purpose.
What is the purpose? To live for God. To know God. To love God. To love others. To suffer for the sake of the Gospel. To proclaim the Gospel to those who don't know. To live according to the Scripture. To live in holiness because of God's holiness. This is our purpose on this earth.
Is this not a verse to find complete satisfaction in? We have confidence in God, that He will purpose everything that happens in this life to sanctify and purify us for His namesake. This verse is a comfort to the downtrodden, an edification to the Church that God will
work and accomplish His plans. Let's rejoice in being called to His purposes. Let's rejoice that He has a plan for the hard things. Let's rejoice that He is good.
Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.