As I held my two-week-old newborn daughter in my arms after her mid-morning feeding, I was feeling both exhausted and content. The incision from my c-section was healing nicely but I was still quite sore.
I was having pleasant thoughts about my brother-in-law’s upcoming wedding which was less than a week away. My husband and I would be the best man and matron of honor and I was praying that I would be able to fit into the dress that I’d bought.
We had scheduled the cesarean two weeks before the due date so we’d be able to participate in the wedding, giving me enough time to recover (mostly). Everything seemed to be going according to schedule.
It was my second day of taking medication for what my doctor assumed was an intestinal infection, which she prescribed over the phone after hearing my symptoms two days earlier. The treatment seemed to be helping because I was feeling somewhat better.
My husband was downstairs finishing breakfast with our two-and-a-half-year-old son, who didn’t know what to make of the tiny invader who needed so much attention.
I had just laid my sleeping daughter down at my side and had begun to doze off when a sharp pain in my abdomen woke me up. I tried to stay calm, not wanting to wake the baby.
My husband had just left with our son to take his mom home after she had stayed with us ever since we came home from the hospital. I prayed that he would return quickly as I was getting more and more concerned.
After almost an hour my body began to shake uncontrollably. I grabbed the cell phone laying at my side near my slumbering child and called my husband and told him he needed to take me to the hospital. Something was gravely wrong.
Four days later it was the day of the wedding, but I was still in the hospital recovering from an emergency appendectomy. My heart hurt more than my body did because I wouldn’t be able to participate in the ceremony. I was utterly disappointed and questioning God’s timing.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
In that moment I had a hard time believing that God was working for my good, but He was. And not just in that situation, but in every single one.
Related: The God of His Word
Our disappointments in life can get the better of us if we don’t take the time to look at our circumstances objectively. Grief can eventually distort our view if we don’t walk through it in a healthy way, no matter the situation.
To have a better understanding of what Romans 8:28 means we have to read the context.
What Romans 8 says about us
√ We are no longer condemned (v.1)
√ We have been set free (v. 2-4)
√ What our mind’s focus on determines how we live – we have a choice (v. 5-8)
√ We have the Spirit of God in us which gives life (v. 9-13)
√ We are children of God, adopted to sonship (v. 14-16)
√ We are co-heirs with Christ, sharing in his sufferings and glory (v. 17)
√ We have a sure hope of salvation from this world. (v. 18-25)
√ We have the help of the Holy Spirit (v. 26-27)
√ We have been called according to God’s purpose (v. 28)
√ We were predestined to be like Christ and to be his family (v. 29)
√ We have been called, justified and glorified. (v. 30)
√ We have a God who works in our favor (v. 31)
√ We will be given all things by God (v. 32)
√ We can never be condemned because Christ is our advocate (v. 33-34)
√ We can never be separated from God’s love (v. 35-36, 38-39)
√ We are more than conquerors (v. 37)
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it bring us great joy in the midst of our struggles and suffering to reflect on the many benefits we have as children of God?
“And we know”
We can be certain that God will keep his promises in caring for us, despite the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Paul didn’t say, “And we think”. He said, “And we know”. We don’t have a wishy-washy God who acts on a whim. We have a God who is true to His own character and will keep every promise he has ever made.
“That in all things”
God works in all things; not just the good and not just the bad. Whatever the situation – birth, death, health, sickness, wealth, poverty, employment, unemployment, marriage, divorce, success or failure – God is working. He may not have created all those situations, but He is always present in them.
“God works for the good”
All that God does is good. He is not capable, because of his character, of doing evil. The sweetest aroma comes from a crushed rose or a burning, melting scented candle. Much of the building of our personal character comes from the brokenness and pain that we’ve endured.
Job and Joseph are perfect examples of God working for their good. Job lost everything and he was able to experience the goodness of God. And Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and imprisoned for something he didn’t do and in the end, he was able to say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”.
“Of those who love Him”
Now, this is where the condition comes in. A lot of people tend to skip over this part of the verse or, at the very least, misinterpret it. I don’t think I could put the explanation for this phrase any better than Lori Hatcher:
“Romans 8:28 is a promise for believers. Real believers. Those who are living for Christ. Not those who claim to believe in God but are living like the devil. This verse says to those who love God and are doing their best to obey his commands, ‘Even though bad/sad/evil/wicked things will touch your life, I (God) will use them to ultimately bring about good, both in your life and in the world.’”
It’s a beautiful thing to know that there are benefits to loving God with all our heart. And one of those benefits is that God is continually working for our good.
Related: What on Earth is God Doing?
“Who have been called according to his purpose”
John Piper says that “those who love God are also those who have been called by God, and his call is based not on something as wavering and uncertain as my commitment to God but only on his eternal purpose of election by which he set his favor on me without any respect to my action at all.”
God’s purpose for those who love him was established before the foundation of the world. His purpose does not depend on our love for him – no. It depends on his love for us.
God’s benefits are not bestowed upon everyone he’s created. The only recipients of the “goodness” written about in Romans 8:28 are the ones he’s called. His purpose, in general, is for us to glorify Him with all that we are and all that we do.
Sure, God loves all the humans he’s created, but he lavishes his love and goodness on those he calls his sons and daughters.
As long as we’re on this earth we will find ourselves in difficult circumstances of all shapes and sizes. They will come upon us when we least expect them. God says that he is working in all those things for our good, both because we love him and because of the call he’s made upon our lives.
Trust him, dear friend. He’s working for your good.
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