I bet the last time you were hurting, some well-meaning person quoted this verse to you - “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.” (Rom. 8:28, NKJV).
That’s a beautiful and comforting verse, and being in the Bible, we know that it is true, but I think it is often misused. I think when some people quote that verse to a person who lost his job, they treat it as a promise that they will find another job, one even better than the old one. Or if a person only loves God enough, their sickness would be healed.
Do you see? God does not promise that everything will always work out okay on our terms. He does not promise our choice of “good.” The good that He promises is that if we let Him, He can use any trial to make us more like Jesus.
How fantastic is that? God’s definition of “good” is Himself, and Jesus is the image of the Father. (John 14:9). Making us more like Christ is the very best thing that can happen to us, and God can use our worst times to accomplish exactly that.
Maybe there are things in our lives that we should cut out. God can discipline us through trials, and painful though it may be, discipline is a sign that we are His child - that He loves us. (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:7-11). God can use suffering to prune us, to address unproductive stuff that isn’t necessarily sinful, but if pared back, we could produce even more fruit. (John 15:2).
Pain can refine and purify us (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:3). And God can use adversity to teach us “the fellowship of sharing in [Jesus’] suffering, becoming like Him in His death…” (Phil. 3:10). All ways that God, through His endless, glorious grace, can use our disaster to make us more like His Son.
When we talk about things like discipline, we think of punishment. Certainly not all suffering is the result of someone being bad, and like Job’s friends, we tread on dangerous waters when we speculate about whether someone “had it coming.” Whatever the cause of suffering, the result is good.
A godly response to suffering increases our faith and produces perseverance. We trust God more and want to obey Him, not in some futile effort to win God’s favor, but out of gratitude for His undeserved love. And we start to look a little more like Jesus.
It doesn’t have to work out that way. We can choose to become bitter and resentful. We can let a trial drive us away from God. Then, we don’t look very much like Jesus at all. However, if we submit and trust, God can use any punch life throws at us to form us ever more into His image.
And how fantastic is that?
© February 19, 2013