Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times,…
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28
The astonishing truth of the apostle Paul’s life-changing words powerfully helps us navigate through our most significant problems and trials without fear or complaint.
Think about it: Everything in life that happens to us (everything!) is the raw material God uses for our good. God doesn’t smile benignly upon the evil that is happening around us. But at the right time, God uses his sovereign power to bring good out of the bad to suit his purposes.
Paul says that this is something that we know. From his carefully chosen words, we can conclude that he intends God’s promise to be regarded as trustworthy and reliable.
In other words, as faith matures, it moves from something that may at the beginning be somewhat tentative and unsure but becomes more and more a matter of genuine confidence and surety. It graduates from “I hope so” to “I know so.” That’s the natural progression of faith.
In his biography, World War 1 fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker writes that when pilots first go into the air as fighters, they’re too inexperienced to see everything going on around them. But as they acquire more training, they start to see the details that earlier escaped them, namely, enemy fighters over, around, and above them, shrapnel holes, and so forth. He called this maturity “vision of the air.”
Developing this new vision was, for them, the only way of coming out alive. If you couldn’t see what was there, it was the end. It is the same with what we call “eyes of faith.” After coming to Christ, we come to know things we didn’t know before. What was fuzzy is clear. With eyes informed by faith, we come to know in the truest sense of the word, and what we learn is the fact that God uses the bad that happens to us (all of it—every last trace) to bring into our lives the good that he intends, regardless of someone else’s intentions. They may intend to harm us, but God turns it for our good.
The whole idea of “bad into good” isn’t unique to Paul. In the Old Testament, Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Or, to put it another way, God chose to take charge of the approaching chaos and force it toward order and a good purpose. In a way, this summarizes the entire history of the Old Testament.
So the good that God intends to bring us is not in spite of, but because of, the bad that occurs. God has a way of entering into and transforming situations so that their end is surprisingly out of line with anything expected. He is the great alchemist who creates gold out of anything but gold, and he transforms things into what he wants and what we need.
He’s the same God who took jars of plain, not very good water and turned it into vintage wine that pleased the palate of the most discerning connoisseur. He’s the God who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing).
Let me list just a few ways this promise applies for your and my good today:
– Long-term illness
– Loss of marriage
– Financial disaster
– Social disintegration
– War or threat of war
– Loss of job, family, or marriage
– Death of a dream, a hope, or a loved one
– (Add your situation)
So, where does that put us in terms of staying positive in a highly negative, despair-ridden world? If we take to heart what Paul has said in his letter, it leads to a revolution in the way we see and approach everything. If God is involved in everything that affects us, if he turns right-side-up our upside-down world, then we may move forward in life knowing the glorious end from the beginning, the conclusion of the plot before the story is over.
We can say, Okay, if this is the way things are, if God truly is our Overseer and Friend who holds all power in his hands and controls all that happens, what’s there to fear? How can anything truly defeat us, and what failure or disaster could really harm us?
Then, we can rejoice and boldly proclaim with the apostle: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).