Just a single verse. But it is a verse that we should all have kept safe in our heart, ready to bring to mind when we suffer difficulties of various kinds. It says…
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
What does this important verse tell us? Firstly that ALL THINGS work together for good. Now we can often imagine how the things that are happening in the way that we desire and hope and plan might be for our good. But there are a great many things than happen in our lives which are not good in themselves at all. We do not need to say that everything that takes place is good. We may indeed be treated hatefully by others, we may be struck down by illness or unemployment, we may find ourselves without the means of supporting our family. None of these are good things.
But there is a hidden hand at work, a divine and loving hand, which gathers together all the circumstances we face and turns them to our benefit. This does not mean at all that we will always and suddenly find ourselves healthy and wealthy. Indeed many of the difficult situations may remain.
God alone sees all things and knows every aspect of our lives. He sees what we most need rather than what we want. And even in the worst of times he uses all of the circumstances together to bring about our salvation. We do not understand ourselves most of the time. How much less can we understand all those around us, and all the complicated networks of events and actions that have led us to experience certain things today. We cannot even begin to have a comprehensive understanding. But God sees and knows all. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
It is God’s hands alone and the infinity of his knowledge which gives us confidence to believe that he can work all the multiplicity of our circumstances into something that is for our eternal good.
But this working together for good is secondly for those who LOVE GOD. Why is this? It is surely because love requires of us a trusting and hopeful relationship. There are those who grow angry with God because he does not act as they wish. But to have such a response to circumstances is to treat God as a divine vending machine. We put in certain religious actions and we expect certain benefits just as pagans would sacrifice to their idols and expect to be rewarded. There is no love in such a religious transaction.
The one who loves God is in a loving and living relationship of persons. And such a relationship is filled with hope, patience, humility, trust and faith. It is when we give God time and space to act as he wills and in his time for our salvation that we discover all things work for our good, for our salvation and for eternal life.
And thirdly, those who view their circumstances in such a positive way, however difficult they might be, are those who understand that life is lived with purpose when it is lived in a loving relationship with God. We are not randomly moved about by our situations. We are confident rather that there is a divine PURPOSE that is beyond the worldly aspirations of so many. This divine purpose is fulfilled in the increasing experience of life with God by grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit. It reveals to us the truth that in the worst and most desperate of trials we may still find ourselves in the purpose of God, may still find ourselves in his transforming presence and may still find eternal good where the world sees only evil.
We often find ourselves waiting patiently to see what is the will of God for us. But we can be sure that God means all of our circumstances for good. We must be unceasing in prayer that the will of God will be made known and that we may serve as Our Lord wishes.
We wait, trusting in the Lord for his salvation and that grace we all need. He is with us always, working out our salvation, even though we cannot always see his purposes and his hand. But faith gives us hope, and experience gives us confidence to trust God in all things.