Romans 8:28 – This is probably one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, right up there with John 3:16. What does it mean for us?
Many of us one way or another have experienced hard things in life. Sometimes these hard things are short-lived and then life is back to normal. When those things seem to go on and on, believing this verse can become more difficult… when it seems that there is no end in sight.
How could Paul know that all things work together for good? The things that this promise includes, covers things that we often think might should be left out. Would it be more accurate to say “somethings” work together for good? God instructed Paul to write “all things” work together for good.
Being able to look back at things that were hard, and see good things that God did through it can be incredibly encouraging. God can use hard things for our good. We tend to quickly forget those things though, and we go on, get our feet back under us and we get distracted and busy.
Romans 8:28 is the hardest to embrace in the middle of a struggle. We can have nagging doubts, our enemy loves to slap us in the face with the promises in the Bible and what is being allowed in our life. Is God coming through for you? Has He given you any answers? This is what Satan was doing with Job…
Sometimes this verse is like a balm to the soul, it is encouraging and gives us hope. At other times it can feel like a cruel joke.
So, what do we do with Romans 8:28?
Some Things Romans 8:28 Does Not Say
First, we cannot live recklessly and expect God to wave a wand over our dumb choices and turn them into good things. There are consequences for sin and we will reap what we say. God can and will forgive us when we make poor choices and sin, He gives us what we need to live in victory and to walk with Him.
Second, this is a promise to those who love Him and are living for Him. There is a qualification for the promise that is being given. This promise is for a true believer who seeks to live for Christ in all of life.
This verse also doesn’t say that “all things are good in and of themselves.” Until Jesus returns sin will continue to devastate those who indulge in it. Our world is broken and groans under the weight of sin.
No matter how positively we force ourselves to think, there is nothing good about cancer, abuse, murder, and all the terrible things that people experience. Although Satan is powerful, God is infinitely more powerful, that is the key reminder here in this verse. If we can grasp the one-sidedness of this reality it will help us choose more wisely.
We Must Begin With God
As we experience tough things in life, we must begin with God instead of adding Him on at the end. Our typical response is to try to steer things in a specific direction, we are far better off when we begin with God and seek His direction.
God is there at the beginning. Not only in the book of Genesis but also the day we are born, the moment we go into a tough situation. He was there long before we got there.
God is at the end as well, but He is there at the beginning and throughout all the hard things we face. Whatever you are facing, God is there.
More than likely God has been preparing us for this moment. The circumstances of life, the gifts He has given us, the opportunities we have.
Life is not a fairy tale. There is so much we don’t understand. It is so hard to see how these things can be good things because they aren’t good things, but God in His infinite power can use these horrible things for His purpose, and for His (and our) good.
The darkness is still dark, the pain still hurts, the unknown is still scary… but God is there, and that changes everything.
Can we believe Romans 8:28? Yes, but we need to start with God and not just tack Him on as an afterthought.
When we experience tough things it isn’t that God’s power is just barely keeping up. Rather God is restraining His power because He knows that we need tough things to grow and to learn.
We Need an Eternal Perspective
So many things are unexplainable. Why does a tornado destroy one house and leave the next? Why does one people struggle with health and another one doesn’t. Why does a tumor come back with the doctor thought they got it all? Why does that person who is counted on heavily pass away?
As humans, we tend to judge the end by the right now. We tend to judge what we cannot see by what we can see. When tragedy strikes we assume that there isn’t a purpose. The opposite is what we need to do, judge right now in light of what we know the end will be.
When you put two things together and they become more than they are on their own, that is synergy. God’s power and wisdom can work together with the things in our life have a purpose. God is working, He is up to something and that something is always good, even if we don’t understand it.
God begins with the raw materials of life. As we surrender to our powerful creator, something beautiful is being created. God continually is shaping and molding us. God is busy even today in the situation you find yourself in.
We Must Define the Word Good – What Does Good Mean Here?
Most of us would define good as “wealth, happiness, money, ease of life, etc.” Generally, we might say that a good life is a better set of circumstances.
We tend to choose trinkets over treasure in life. Wealth, stuff, phones, houses, prosperity, fun, etc, are trinkets that Satan dangles in front of us to lure us away from the true treasure.
The next verse talks about being “conformed to the image of His Son.” God has a purpose for His children to become like Jesus. This is the good that is being talked about in verse 28.
Whatever it takes to make you and I more like Jesus… that is what is good. That is difficult to say and believe because that can include bad things. We reach out more to God when we are in pain than we do when we are in good health. Even as we experienced pain and hard things we can know that God is up to something.
Many times we don’t see the things that God is doing. When we know the character of God though, we can be assured that God is doing good things. There is a lot that we don’t know, but we do know that God is at work.
A Few Final Things
We must understand the qualifications for this verse to be true in our lives. This promise is not for the unbeliever. This promise is not for a person who says they love God but lives as if they love something else. God does hear the prayer of the repentant believer, but this promise does have a qualification.
It isn’t always possible to explain the unexplainable. Sometimes it is just better to admit that we don’t know why.
We must understand that Gods and our values aren’t always the same. It’s kind of like saying “we understand that we don’t fully understand.”
Hard times have a way of revealing to us what our treasure is and what really matters to us.