As with all scripture, this verse has the potential to be misinterpreted or misapplied which can lead to disappointment and disillusionment.
Here’s three truths that are essential for understanding this text correctly.
1. All things work out for good – even if they aren’t good now.
This is a future promise not a present guarantee. Paul does not say “all things ARE good for those who love the Lord”, he says, “God WORKS all things for good”. There’s a big difference.
Our faith and trust in God allow us to interpret our current trials and pains through the lens of a future hope we have that these hurts will not be for nothing – that they will be caught up in God’s big picture plans for our lives and His glory.
To look at some of my own life experiences – death of family members, family breakdown, miscarriage or a painful divorce are NEVER good in and of themselves. This verse doesn’t suggest that for those who love God divorce is good or for those who love God death and loss are good; not for a minute. It does promise us that in the hands of a loving Father those experiences can be redeemed and we can learn, grow, mature and flourish through them, because of them and inspite of them.
2. All things work out for good – but sometimes even that good doesn’t feel good.
Because we are not God and because of the many shortfalls in our character and ability to know the future, what we think is good for us and what God knows is good for us are not always the same.
God’s plans to redeem all things for good may include the good of doing without things that He knows aren’t healthy or helpful for us – even if we want them. They may include us being humbled or learning painful lessons that ultimately grow and refine us.
To fully appreciate the “good” God is bringing about we need to ask Him for HIS eyes to see and appreciate what He has in mind for us. It may not look good to us, but He is a perfect Father who only gives good gifts. He invites us to trust His big picture plan.
3. All things work out for good – but the timing of the good is not ours to know or control.
My maternal Grandparents were killed in a car accident together when I was 11 years old (and they were only in their early 60’s). Our family treasured the promise of this verse as we absorbed the news of their tragic death and prepared for the funeral and life without them. We learnt it as a song! At the funeral, a family member came to faith! The witness of Grandma and Pa’s lives and the confrontation of their death brought this lady into an eternal relationship with God. See, we said, God is even using this for good!!
I love that story. I love the grace of God to make this promise so tangible for us. It stood me in good stead for future trauma and tragedy that was ahead for us as a family and me personally. But the more common story is that it can often take more than a few days for the “good” to evidence itself. Sometimes it may be years in the making. Sometimes it may even remain unknown to us.
Just because we haven’t seen the good yet doesn’t mean it’s not coming. God’s timing is always perfect.
How have you seen this promise at play in your life? When do you find it hardest to hold on to? When has it been most encouraging?
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