“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 MKJV)
When we find ourselves discouraged and upset by life’s often unpleasant or stressful events, fellow believers recite this familiar verse in attempts to offer encouragement.
I have meditated on this verse quite a bit recently. I have turned it and pushed it and pulled it and tried so hard to make it mean exactly what I need for it to mean in order to make me feel better about my current situation. I have even quoted this scripture in reference to the recent events of my life, as proof that things are far from over because all things have not yet turned out the way I think they should. So, that must mean that God is not yet finished and has more to do to turn things in my favor. The more I meditate on this verse and the more I talk to the Lord about it, the more I am coming to realize that I (and countless other believers) may be misinterpreting this piece of scripture and therefore, missing it’s true meaning entirely.
While it is true that our Lord can, and does bring blessings out of bad situations, things don’t always have to work out in the way that I want them to or even in a way that I perceive to be good for me or those I love.
At some time in each of our lives, we all find ourselves right in the middle of a chaotic, stressful or painful situation. It may be in direct result of some action we have (or in some cases, have not) taken, or we may have done nothing at all to deserve our troubles. It surly is true, life is not always fair.
Sometimes we search so hard trying to find the silver lining in the thick dark clouds that hang above us, but we never find it. We look for the bright side, but sometimes the search is in vain. We wait and we pray for the happy ending. The end of our trial will eventually come, but it may not be a happy one. The trial is over and life is getting back to normal. We have endured the suffering but we somehow missed the blessing that we expected to come out of it.
Sometimes there is no happy ending. Sometimes all that was lost is not restored. Sometimes we are not able to pin point a blessing and say THAT is what it was all about! THAT is the reward for my suffering! Sometimes the reward is simply survival; enduring to the end of the trial. Sometimes bad things happen to good people… to God’s people. Sometimes we are hurt. Sometimes we lose things that are dear to us. Sometimes there is restoration and sometimes there isn’t.
This thought leads me to another. Think about Job for a minute. Think about all he endured through no fault of his own. If ever there was a man who could be described as, [one of] those who love God… who are called according to His purpose, it was Job. Even God Himself had this to say about Job, there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil (Job 1:8).
I wonder if Job thought his situation worked out to his good? His material possessions were replaced, even increased. He had more children. He was once again well respected. And let’s not forget, he proved his accuser wrong (even if he didn’t realize it). But was getting it all back worth worth what he endured? Did his new children replace the memory, the pain of losing the previous ones? Was his relationship with his doubting and un-supportive wife restored?
I wonder how long Job endured the pain and ridicule of that trial before everything he had lost was restored or replaced? I have read some commentators who say that Job’s suffering lasted about a year. Most don’t give us a timeline. We do know that Job lived 140 more years after his trail ended. He lived to see his children and grandchildren up to four generations. But I am sure that during those 140 years, there were days when the pain of missing the 10 children he lost was unbearable. I bet there were times that he painfully remembered his wife’s hurtful and discouraging words to him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (NASB Job 2:9) His children were dead. He had lost everything except his wife. The one person he had left, the one who should have offered love and encouragement, suggested that he curse his God and commit suicide! Those had to be hard words to forget! I wonder if their relationship was ever the same after that? I wonder if Job ever looked back on his suffering and thought to himself, “I see why it all happened! I see the blessing that God brought about because of that horrible time of pain and loss.” I’m sure he made his peace with it, just like he made his peace with God at the end of it all, but I don’t think he ever really understood the ‘why’ of the whole thing.
We may never suffer to the extent that Job did. But just like Job, we will all have trials that never quite make sense to us. We will lose possessions and even loved ones throughout our lives and we may never see the way God uses it for our good.
I have always been taught, and always believed that every trial that I face will somehow come out to a happy ending for me, until now. I don’t think that the promise is that every situation will work out to my advantage if I love God. After many trials, much study and a whole lot of prayer, I believe that there are going to be trials that just don’t work out for my good. I am going to go through hard times that make no sense. I am going to be hurt by people I trust and by situations that are unfair. I am going to face trials that start out cruddy, stay cruddy all the way through and end up cruddy. And, my friend, so are you. Everything isn’t always going to make sense and it’s not all going to work out to your advantage every time. I don’t believe that our Heavenly Father ever promised us that it would. I believe that His promise is this; Our All seeing, All knowing, All powerful and loving Father will take everything that we face during our time here on earth, the good things, the bad things, the painful things and the unfair things, and He will weave them all together into the beautiful masterpiece that is our life. The good and the bad times will be used to make us into the image of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even the things that don’t work out in our favor will strengthen our faith and help us to grow closer to our Lord if we let them. We will learn from our mistakes and our painful trials and we will grow in wisdom. For, it is in the toughest trials and the most painful of heartaches; it is in the deepest valleys and through the darkest nights, it is in our weakest moments that we learn to rely on and to trust in the constant faithfulness and the perfect strength of The One Who carries us every step of the way.
He truly does make all things work together for our good!