“And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) I love this verse! But I really only began to understand it in the past few years as circumstances that in no way were “good” came into my life.
There was a point during the toughest times when I hated that verse. How could good come from what has happened to me? This is just NOT GOOD, God! I can’t ever imagine seeing good in the things that my family has had to go through. Those words became a part of my prayer life at that time, and sometimes I was ashamed to say those things to God. But, as I was honest with Him, He showed me something in that verse I had never noticed before.
It does not say all things ARE good. They just aren’t. To pretend so would be to believe a lie. But when I really listened to the words, I learned that though the circumstance was not good, it just might work together FOR MY GOOD as I choose to love Him and follow His Purpose for me. And, when faced with a challenge, we can respond in a way that shows His good to the world.
How does the good happen? Who does it happen to? Well, second half of the verse is clear: “those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Recognizing the good and fully receiving it are directly tied to loving and following Him. So, even though life was NOT GOOD, I had to choose to love the ONE WHO IS GOOD and focus on HIS GOOD PURPOSES. Easier said than done, and I have not always gotten it right, but progress is progress, imperfect though it may be. As I purposely and intentionally made the choice to love and follow regardless of how I felt, amazingly enough, the good did come! Not by a change in my circumstances, but because of those circumstances. So many people – family, friends, even total strangers became the arms of Jesus as they wrapped me and my family in hugs and spoke words of encouragement. Being loved like that is an amazing feeling.
But even then, the greatest good came during the time when I felt all alone, when I had no one else but God to turn to. HE WAS THERE, right beside me. Walking through it all with me. I think God knew that in some way, I needed to “lose it all” to truly find Him. I needed to be in a place where He was my only source of hope, peace, comfort and JOY. Joy in the midst of my challenges and suffering, not joy in their absence. Joy in Who He Was, not in what I was going through. The struggles brought me to a place of utter dependence on God, and that has been good, VERY GOOD. Without the struggles, I would have never been in that place to trust so fully and completely. Looking back, I know that it was not that things were good, but that God used those things to bring good to me, to grow my faith and character in ways nothing else could. To make me who I am today.
This is the epitome of God’s amazing mercy – making good come from the bad, making beauty from our ashes, trading our mourning for joy, giving a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (see Isaiah 61:3). I love how my daughter's Bible, the Jesus Storybook Bible, puts it: “Jesus makes sad things come undone, and death come untrue." Mercy brings hope, and hope brings a new perspective and attitude.
The song “Fall Apart” by Josh Williams is easy for me to identify with. The chorus says: “My whole world is caving in, but I feel You now more than I did then. How can I come to the end of me and somehow still have all I need? God I want to know you more! Maybe this is where I start. I find You when I fall apart.”
When life gets challenging, my prayer is that you will FIND HIM. Find the God who loves you, has good plans for you, and is always there. Find your Savior, the Friend of Sinners. Find peace knowing that even in the challenges, God has power to bring good. Allow Him to use the challenge to chisel away the things in your life that keep you from being a Masterpiece.
Rejoicing in His Goodness,
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