I know that we all go through difficult times in our lives when we don’t understand. We question God. We plead for Him to explain “what” and “why” and give us some degree of understanding. Yet His answers often elude us—at least at that time. But when I find myself in that place of crying out for understanding, I have to claim the above truth in scripture (my life verse) and believe in faith that it truly can and will make sense—if I allow God to unveil the answers in His way and in His time.
The good, the bad, the wonderful, the painful—ALL things work for good. Thankfully, God leaves no doubt that He is talking about EVERYTHING. Every joyous moment, every heartbreaking experience, every broken relationship, every painful loss, every celebration, every disappointment, every failure, every sin, every disaster—God is using every last bit of it for something good.
In his commentary on this verse, John MacArthur states:
“The extent is emphasized in the Greek word plantain, meaning all things. It is a comprehensive promise. And the context has no limits. There's nothing that qualifies the "all things," nothing. It means absolutely what it says, all things work together for good….God makes it work together for the believer's ultimate good. This is the greatest promise that we can have in this life. There are absolutely no limits on this statement in this context. It is limitless.” (soundanalarm.com)
Work TOGETHER for good
We can get in trouble when we take things out of context. Think about when you do that with your husband, friend or child. If you don’t consider the context of a comment, it can be hurtful and confusing. Or think about when a child gets upset halfway through something you are trying to explain, and you have to stop them: “Please wait, and let me finish talking!” (which, of course, makes it all better—because it suddenly makes sense!) Well, don’t we so often do that with God? We stop right in the middle of a lesson He is trying to teach us—like an impatient child who is stopping a parent mid-sentence. This portion of the verse is a reminder that we may have to wait until all the pieces of the puzzle are presented in order to see how they fit together and the picture they are going to create. I believe that is why some of the experiences we have don’t make sense at the time, because He isn’t through giving us all the pieces of the puzzle.
To them that LOVE God
Do you truly love God? Have you declared your love for Him by placing your trust in His Son, Jesus? If so, then this truth applies to you! That’s it. It’s that simple. This is just one of the powerful promises and gifts that God directs to us when we proclaim Jesus as our Savior. As Paul writes these truths to the Christians in Rome, he wants them to know that this is God’s promise to them. If you love Him, you can hold onto this truth and trust Him with your life and everything that happens in it. John Piper elaborates on the relationship between our love for God and His promise to work all things for good: “So Paul is not saying all things work for good for Christians some of the time (when their love for God is strong), and all things don’t work for good for Christians some of the time (when their love for God is weak). He is saying that for Christians—the called, those whose hearts have been brought from enmity to love for God—all things work for good all the time.” (www.desiringgod.org)
Our trust in God is an expression of our love for Him, our faith in Him and the Son he sent to die for us, and as we mature and grow in our personal relationship with Him, we learn to love Him even more. And with greater love, comes greater trust.
And are called according to HIS purpose
If we are trying to only accomplish our own purposes and goals for our lives without considering God’s purpose for our lives, then what is happening may never make sense. But if we ask God to show us His purpose for the things that happen in our lives, He will—in His time—show us those answers. I have to ask myself, “Is my heart and mind open to HIS reasoning and to HIS purpose through everything that has or is happening?” This is a fundamental question that we should all ask ourselves in difficult times. It is often easy to lose focus of HIS purpose when we so strongly desire a different path or outcome.
Bringing It Home
I must admit, our family cried out for a very different outcome when Mom suddenly became sick, but God consistently and repeatedly showed us that this was HIS outcome. HIS purpose. And as we learn to accept that and trust God more fully, then we are also able to find greater peace.
God actually used this Bible study two years ago to remind my family that He was indeed orchestrating all the circumstances (pieces of the puzzle) for our own good. After studying God’s word and faithfully writing a Bible study lesson each week for 11 years, Mom wrote one final lesson on Tuesday, September 30th. She was taken to the hospital 3 days later and was never able to speak aloud again. Little did we know (nor did Mom) that God would use her last typed lesson to speak a very personal message to those of us left behind desperately seeking understanding and comfort.
The subject was Lot’s wife and learning to accept our circumstances and not “look back.” Yet because of the circumstances surrounding us when we first read it, its meaning was very profound and very personal:
“. . . Can you see yourself ever looking back, regretting decisions, mourning lost opportunities, or yearning for ended relationships? When we look behind us, we can’t see what is before us. We must leave the past behind, enjoy the present and plan for the future. God’s mercy is always available to us, even in the worst of times, the most difficult situation, and the hardest of circumstances. He is there, stretching out his hand to lead us to safety. . . .”
You see, even through our own personal heartache, our family was reminded that God is sovereign and knew all the events that were yet to unfold in our lives and in Mom’s life. He knew Mom needed to be reminded of those truths just days before she fell ill. He knew we would need to come across that lesson days later and be reminded of those truths ourselves. He was speaking to her and through her, and we are so incredibly grateful. If we had read those words the day she had written them, their greater meaning and impact would have been lost on us. We had to wait and let God put all the pieces in place. For our family, God used this Bible study, Mom’s prompting to write a lesson on Lot’s wife, and the truths He placed on her heart, to provide us with Mom’s own words of comfort and hope—even when she was no longer able to speak.
We have to remember that sometimes only God can make sense of it all. It is the promise He makes to each of us.—a promise and a gift that is ours to claim if we just reach out and trust Him. He only asks that we LOVE Him. The rest is up to Him—He WILL work all things TOGETHER to accomplish HIS purpose in our lives.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (KJV)