Every Christian knows Romans 8:28 by heart. In case you don’t, here’s a little refresher:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to His purpose.
What a promise from God! We cling to this verse, this claim to God’s sovereignty, during times of duress, struggle, pain, and uncertainty. It’s so often on the tip of our tongues that most Christians have picked up the habit of “looking for the good” in trials. Bad things happen, so in our attempt to be obedient, we wrack our brains, seeking the good that God must inevitably have for us.
Did you know, though, fellow believers, that this is wrong? Not that we should throw ourselves into despair or assume the worst, but that we shouldn’t assume to know God’s mind during our trials?
Did you know that’s what you do when you look for the good? When you obsessively think of every possibility of why a certain struggle or strife is happening?
I didn’t. Until I was convicted by a book that I thought would tell me things I already knew.
…Though we should never ask a demanding “why”, we may and should ask God to enable us to understand what He may be teaching us through a particular experience.
But even here we must be careful that we are not seeking to satisfy our souls by finding some spiritual “good” in the adversity. Rather, we must trust God that He is working in the experience for our good, even when we see no beneficial results.
Sometimes we come to the place where we do not demand of God that He explain Himself, but we try to determine or comprehend for ourselves what God is doing. We are unwilling to live without rational reasons for what is happening to us or those we love. We are almost insatiable in our quest for the “why” of the adversity that has come upon us. But this is a futile as well as an untrusting task. God’s ways, being the ways of infinite wisdom, simply cannot be comprehended by our finite minds.
— Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts
Those words came crashing down on my good intentions like a wall of sand bags. My mind replayed all the times I desperately sought the “spiritual good” during a trial. It became clear to me that, essentially, I was making excuses for God. And not only was I making excuses, but I was defining “good” by my own standards. “Good”, to me, was something from which I could benefit. “Good”, to me, was something tangible, something obvious. “Good” in human terms.
But God is not like us, is He?
Let me introduce you to Romans 8:29. I’ll put it in context for you.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
“Those who love God” and “those who are called” are also “those whom He foreknew” and “also predestined”. Romans 8:29 actually defines the “good” mentioned in verse 28.
So what is the good?
That we may be conformed to the image of His Son.
All things work together for good for those who love God. All things work together to conform all those who love God to the image of Christ. All things work together to make those who love God more holy.
Isn’t this “good” so much better than anything we can think up on our own — anything we can seek to pin on a trial?
I was not only convicted of my “seeking to satisfy” my soul by looking for the good, but also humbled, ashamed of my presumption that my definition of “good” could be better for me than God’s “good”. What could be better for my soul than God working me to be more holy, more like Christ, more prepared for my heavenly abode?
It makes Romans 8:28 that much sweeter.