Good Is Better
By Anthony Casperson
How often have you been struggling with some difficult situation and then had someone quote “all things work together for the good of those who love God” at you? The intention of this person in speaking part of Romans 8:28 is usually akin to the statement, “it’s going to be okay” but with a bible verse to back them up.
If you’re anything like me, that’s happened more than a few times in your life. They mean it with the best intentions. The person saying this desires for good things to come into our lives. They want us to realize that our situation won’t be forever. But they speak a promise on behalf of God that goes further than what the verse actually says.
The context of the verse shows Paul speaking of the general anguish of creation awaiting the day that the effect of sin and death will be undone. And the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, groans along with us in our weakness concerning this. He acts in such a way as to mediate between us and the will of God for our lives. This will being the very same purpose for those called by God in verse 28.
And just after verse 28, we see Paul speak of the conforming into the likeness of Jesus by those whom God foreknew would come into relationship with him. Those who were predestined, called, made right in the sight of God, and set on the path of becoming holy like he is holy.
So it seems that the purpose for good that God desires to work into us is becoming more like Jesus. In the lives of we who love God, everything builds in us the character of Christ-likeness. Everything in which we find ourselves, both pleasant and repugnant, were planned by God before the creation of the world so that he could build his holiness in us. Every brushstroke of the Master, both the highlight and the shadow, create the masterpiece we were meant to be.
This doesn’t mean that God promises that every work of art will have more highlights than shadows. For some, the difficulties of life will dominate the canvas. But what it does promise is that God’s loving plan from the creation of the world, his purpose and will, calls us to follow him through the pleasant times and the difficult times. And through this, we will be conformed into the likeness of Jesus.
A little later in the book, Romans 12:1-2 shows us this same idea, but from the human perspective. Paul tells us to submit ourselves to God as living sacrifices, not conforming to the world, but transforming into the renewal of our minds. And in so doing, we come to see what the good, acceptable, and pleasing will of God is.
When we sacrificially submit ourselves to follow God in every situation, we become conformed into the likeness of Jesus, which is the very good that God planned would work all things together before the creation of the world. This is when we see God’s perspective of good, as he saw it when he created all things. It just takes us a little while to witness God’s predestined purpose.
We can take heart in the difficult times that God is with us and has planned for this trial to make us more like Jesus. Our responsibility is to submit to God, seeking him and ways. It doesn’t promise that everything will eventually turn our way, but it does promise that all of these things are exactly according to God’s perfect purpose.
And I’d take God’s all-knowing, all-powerful way over what my finite mind could dream up. His good is better.