By Peter Amsterdam
October 19, 2021
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.—Romans 8:28 AMP
God is good. He does all things well. He doesn’t overlook or forget things. He is all-knowing. He never says, “Whoops, I didn’t see that one coming.” He is never late. He is sovereign, and His providence touches every aspect of each of our lives.
The tests, trials, and losses we endure in life can work together for good for us as we place our trust in the Lord, follow Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to bring about His plan. No matter how difficult things are, no matter how much we suffer, by His grace, we can continue to trust the Lord. We know that we have a glorious eternal future ahead.
Because “many are the afflictions of the righteous,”1 it's certainly comforting to know that “all these things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them who are called according to His purpose.”2 In fact, in order to come through our many trials, difficulties, battles, and temptations victoriously, it is imperative that we make this promise in Romans 8:28 a vital part of our lives.
If we don’t send the events of our daily lives through the filter of Romans 8:28, if we don’t constantly view our disappointments, hurts, tests, illnesses, opposition, battles, etc., through the perspective that Romans 8:28 gives us, we will sadly miss many valuable lessons the Lord is trying to teach us. And we will rob ourselves of the peace that comes from absolute trust in this precious promise and principle.
If we learn the simple equation, “Trials equal good,” our lives will be richer, our lessons greater, and our minds more tranquil, and we will more easily recognize the Lord’s hand in the events of our lives. It makes all the difference in the world whether you look at a flood of problems, trials, and tribulations just waiting to see the worst happen, or if you look at them with anticipation to discover all the good that you know the Lord will bring out of them.—Maria Fontaine
It is such a privilege to know that we can trust the Lord no matter what difficulties, hardships, or challenges come into our lives. George Mueller once said: “In one thousand trials it is not five hundred of them that work for the believer’s good, but nine hundred and ninety-nine of them, and one beside.”
Romans 8:28 isn’t a “feel good” slogan or a mantra that helps us get through a rough day by visualizing a better day. It is a promise from our Father, given to those of us who love Him and who, by His grace, are doing our best to follow Him. The following excerpt explains a couple of important caveats about this well-known promise.
First, Romans 8:28 doesn’t mean we can live any way we choose, and God will fix our messes. To understand the truth of Romans 8:28, we can’t just quote the part of the verse we like: “And we know that in all things God works for the good...” and skip the rest, “of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 is a promise for believers. Real believers. Those who are living for Christ… 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.”
Joni Eareckson Tada, an inspirational speaker, author, and singer, is a quadriplegic who has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 40 years. When people ask her why God allows suffering, she often says, “God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” And what does God love? For people to enter into relationship with himself and become more like him. Joni’s life and ministry are a stunning testimony of how God can use a tragedy like a paralyzing diving accident to impact the lives of millions.
Romans 8:28 tells us God can use all things together for good. He doesn’t say all things are good… The truth of Romans 8:28 reminds us that although sin and Satan are powerful, God is more powerful. He is able to redeem and restore anything for our good and his glory. All things may not be good, but God can and will use all things for good.—Lori Hatcher3
Some people have really good imaginations and they find it easier to understand a spiritual principle if there’s something in the explanation that they can see in their mind’s eye. I recently read the following article, which I found to be an edifying and encouraging word picture.
I have a life preserver, which is my most valued possession. While sailing on the sea of life, so many times I have looked out to see a storm brewing on the horizon. I grab my life preserver and tie it on securely, then brace myself for the unforgiving blast that approaches.
When the storm hits, my little craft is tossed by the angry waves. They threaten to swamp and drown me, but with my life preserver, I know I will survive. No, more than survive. I will rise again, bruised and beaten perhaps, but victorious.
Sometimes the storms creep up on me from behind. Caught unawares in the raging fury, my boat capsizes, throwing me into the icy waters. I choke, sputter, and gasp for air, and find myself caught in a whirlpool. The more I struggle, the tighter the water holds me in its grip.
Alone, helpless, and defeated, I wait for the end, hope flickering like a melted candle. As I sink under the waters for the last time, a Voice comes over the sound of the storm. “Grab the life preserver! It is your only hope.”
Straining to see in the darkness, I catch sight of something floating on the water. It is my life preserver—always there when I need it most. I tie it on and immediately begin to float.
The darkness still envelops me. The sea still churns and foams and its angry waves threaten to pull me under. The rain continues to sting my cheeks. But I am buoyant once again. With complete trust, secure in my life preserver, I am content to wait out the storm.
What is the secret of my life preserver? It is so simple that you may dismiss it. It is a verse from the Bible: “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 NKJV). ALL things—storms, rain, and winds included—are for our GOOD. Someday, somehow we will understand.—S. Jade
I have to admit, it’s a whole lot easier to trust the Lord when things are going well—when we’re in good health, we have what we need, and we and our loved ones are safe and secure. But when things are not going well, it can be a whole lot harder to trust the Lord. The temptation is to worry, stress, complain, work harder, and try to “fix” the problems in any way we can. But we know that’s not the solution.
We don’t always understand at the time why the Lord allows some heartbreak or tragedy in our lives, and in many cases, we have to trust Him in spite of not being able to see the full picture. Edward Teller reminds us: “When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” Here is some excellent insight on this from the late Reverend Billy Graham:
It’s easy to believe that God loves us and cares about us when things are going well, but when life turns against us, it becomes much harder to believe He cares.
Why should we keep trusting in God, even when nothing seems to change, and it looks like He isn’t even listening? One reason is because no matter how many changes have taken place in our lives, God has not changed. The Bible’s statement is true: “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).
And if God doesn’t change, then that means His promises don’t change, either. He promised to be with you in the past—and He still is. He promised to guide you in the past—and He still will. Know His promises, study His promises, believe His promises, and trust His promises. In the Bible “he has given us his very great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).
Don’t let your faith be overcome by your circumstances, but let your circumstances be overcome by your faith.4
If you’re suffering with a debilitating illness or a loved one has passed away, quoting and meditating on Romans 8:28 doesn’t change the situation and may not do much to ease the pain immediately. We live in a fallen world, and when we or those we love suffer loss or tragedy, it hurts! We weep. We grieve. And it usually takes time for us to see the good that comes from the bad things that happen, which often test our faith as we continue to trust in Him in trying times. In his book Why Us? Warren Wiersbe states that God “proves His sovereignty, not by intervening constantly and preventing these events, but by ruling and overruling them so that even tragedies end up accomplishing His ultimate purposes.”5 Let the following story encourage your heart in this regard:
I do not know if Louis Braille was a believer, but his life is an example of a sovereign God causing all things to work together for good. In the French Academy of Science there is a rather plain, old shoemaker’s awl on display. The story behind the awl is quite extraordinary. To look at it, one would never suspect that this simple tool could be responsible for anything of consequence. In fact, it caused tremendous pain.
This was the awl that one day fell from the shoemaker’s table and put out the eye of the shoemaker’s nine-year-old son. The injury was so severe that the boy lost vision in both eyes and was enrolled in a special school for children who were blind. The boy learned to read by handling large, carved-wood blocks.
When the shoemaker’s son became an adult, he thought of a new way to read. It involved learning a system of dots translated into the letters of the alphabet that could be read from a piece of paper on any flat surface. Louis Braille actually used the awl which had blinded him as a boy to form the dots into a whole new reading system for the blind—known today as Braille.6
Of course, we may not personally experience such a visible manifestation of the good that God has promised to work in our lives. During such times when our faith is being sorely tested, it comes down to placing our lives, our loved ones, our health and livelihood in God’s hands, and trusting Him to care for us. Even when the Lord appears to be silent and the trials seem to be endless, or the losses we suffer are major, God is merciful and faithful, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.
In the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, we are given a beautiful example of how God brought good out of a seemingly hopeless situation. As R. W. De Haan commented:
[I am reminded] of the biblical truth that there are no accidents in the lives of God’s children. In Scripture, we read how Joseph interpreted a difficult experience that had seemed like a great calamity. He had been thrown into a pit and then sold as a slave. This was a great test of his faith, and from the human standpoint it appeared to be a tragic case of injustice, not a providential means of blessing. But Joseph later learned that “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).7
We can also take a lesson from the prophet Habakkuk, as we review these well-known verses:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.—Habakkuk 3:17–19 NIV
It’s important to remember that there was a lot of evil going on in Habakkuk’s time, and the future did not look bright. In fact, the situation looked pretty grim. But in spite of such trying circumstances, Habakkuk proclaimed his trust in God, saying, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” He was not only trusting God, he was rejoicing and remembering that the Lord was his strength. He acknowledged that while he might lack his basic food needs, he would never be without God.
I think it’s most challenging to trust the Lord to cause all things to work together for good when you feel it’s your fault that you are in a difficult predicament. When you feel you’ve made mistakes or misjudged a situation or made unwise decisions, and therefore things have taken a turn for the worse, you can feel like you deserve to suffer the negative consequences. You get that sinking feeling in your gut and you can feel you are not “qualified” to receive God’s grace and mercy in the form of Romans 8:28. But we need to remember that this fulfillment of God’s Word is a manifestation of His grace! I am encouraged by the concept of “divine reversals” in the following message from Jesus.
I am the God of divine reversals. I can derive good out of evil: My master plan brings victory out of an apparent defeat. Come to Me just as you are—wounded from battle—and expose your wounds to My healing Light…
When you experience a divine reversal in your life, you are thrilled to observe how masterfully I operate in the world. Your suffering gains meaning because you know I can—and do—bring good out of evil. Ultimately, My plans will not be thwarted. I have the last word! As you see how utterly beyond you are My wisdom and ways, you get a glimpse of My Glory. This inspires you to worship Me—bowing before My infinite intelligence and limitless Power. As you open your soul to Me in worship, you gain assurance of My unfailing Love. “I know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).8
No matter what is going on in our lives, no matter what difficulties we are facing, we need to remind ourselves that we still have God. He will never leave us or forsake us! God is good! He is love! He allows us to experience difficulties, tests, and trials, but it doesn’t end there. He also brings forth beautiful blessings. So, if we are tempted to doubt and wonder why things are not going as we hoped, we can take a lesson from Arthur Ashe, as explained in the following testimony:
Tennis superstar Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. More than a great athlete, Ashe was a gentleman who inspired and encouraged many with his exemplary behavior on and off the court. Ashe could have become embittered and self-pitying in the face of his disease, but he maintained a grateful attitude.
He explained, “If I asked, ‘Why me?’ about my troubles, I would have to ask, ‘Why me?’ about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?” Ashe’s attitude rebukes those of us who often grumble, “Why me? Why is God allowing this to happen?”
Even if we’re suffering acutely, we must not forget the mercies God pours into our lives—such things as food, shelter, and friends—blessings that many are deprived of. And what about spiritual blessings? We can hold the very Word of God in our hands and read it. We have the knowledge of His saving grace, the comfort of His Spirit, and the joyful assurance of life everlasting with Jesus. Think about God’s blessings and ask, “Why me?”—Vernon C. Grounds9
What an important reminder! We have so many blessings in our lives. Praise the Lord! As you place your trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him, you can be confident that He will strengthen you, bless you, provide for you, and lead you in His will, and one day, whether in this life or the next, you will see the fulfillment of His unfailing promise to cause all things to work together for your good!
PS. After this was posted, we were notified that there are some inaccuracies in the story of Louis Braille quoted above. We apologize for that. But the point of the story remains true that even tragedies can end up accomplishing God’s ultimate purposes.
1 Psalm 34:19.
2 Romans 8:28.
3 “‘All Things Work Together for Good’—3 Things You Never Noticed About Romans 8:28,” https://www.preaching.com/articles/things-work-together-good-3-things-never-noticed-romans-828/
4 Billy Graham, “Don’t let your faith be overcome by your circumstances,” Gaston Gazette, October 12, 2012, https://www.gastongazette.com/article/20121012/Lifestyle/310129772
8 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).