Before I jump into this post, I have to tell you, I am no theologian. Bear with me…This is my feeble attempt at understanding and living out a verse that has caused me a fair amount of confusion.
Romans 8:28 is a verse I have struggled mightily with. It says:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Let me tell you about the image that came to my mind when I first read this verse as a new follower of Christ at age 18 or 19. I legitimately pictured myself walking down a busy street. All around me, chaos. The scene was almost cartoonish. I strolled along, blissfully unaware of the falling flowerpots that missed my head by mere inches, fire hydrants bursting open seconds after I walked by, cars swerving out of control but miraculously avoiding me. It was pouring down rain, but I had a little ray of sunshine following me around…You get the idea. There was chaos, but God was working it all together for my wellbeing, my safety, and my good.
Okay, that’s ridiculous. That is obviously not how God works. Even I, as I pictured this scene, knew that wasn’t what the verse meant. But just because I knew that my interpretation wasn’t right didn’t mean that I understood what the verse was actually saying.
Fast forward to 2016. I had already been sick for some time. I was working part-time as a barista, dissatisfied with where I was at, but unable to make the changes I wanted to make. Looking for hope in the midst of my despair, I stumbled upon this verse. Reading it, I thought to myself that although I was hurting and angry and physically weak, God would turn the situation around and use it for something good. In my mind, that meant healing. It meant using my experiences with sickness to positively impact others, once I was well. Maybe I would become a doctor (once I was well)! Or a medical interpreter who would be an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves (once I was well)! Or I would train therapy dogs for chronically ill people (once I was well)!
Are you seeing a trend? “Good” in my eyes meant healthy. It also meant being productive by society’s standards and positively impacting others…but mostly it meant healthy. I was so sure that God was good, and in His goodness, he would make me well.
Fast forward to today. I am not well, and in the past few months, I’ve been faced with the reality that I may not ever be. Confronted with this possibility, I’ve been left to decide if God is indeed still good.
This morning, The Lord and I had a chat as I mulled over whether or not He was holding out on me. I confronted Him and told him about all the good things He was keeping from me. As I listed off all the “goods” I was being deprived of, I envisioned what my life could be. I would have a career. I’d have tons of friends. I’d go hiking and camping every weekend and would travel frequently. I’d be confident in myself and my abilities. I would be recognized for the work I did. …And I would probably have the same surface-level relationship I’d always had with God where I thanked Him for the food in my belly and not much else, never growing, never changing, always complacent with my lukewarm faith.
Is God still good when things are not “good?” Yes.
Will circumstances always be “good” because God is good? No.
God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, and God’s ways are not my ways. Similarly, God’s definition of “good” is not my definition of “good.” My idea of good is shortsighted. God’s idea of good is focused on eternity. My idea of good places my own immediate comfort above all. God’s idea of good involves sacrificing His own Son so that I can partake in the Kingdom of Heaven, despite the fact that I was never “good” on my own.
And even in moments of pain, exhaustion, weakness, fatigue, confusion, or fear, I have to agree that His is the goodest good of all.
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