And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 is one of the the most familiar verses in the Bible and one of the verses people most like to "claim." It also seems to be one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. All too often, the misunderstanding arises when someone refuses to simply allow the scripture to say what it says. The most obvious misunderstanding is the fact that the verse does not apply to everyone -- it applies to "them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." This is not a promise that a lost world is in any position to claim, as they do not fit that description. Rather, this promise is one given to true believers who know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
Sadly, even among Christians, there often seems to be major misunderstandings in relation to this verse. Some mistakenly take it to mean that nothing bad can come their way, and they then find themselves completely bewildered when something comes along that rocks their world. In a case like that, it is the first half of the verse that has been misinterpreted and misapplied. There are most certainly bad things that come into the lives of believers. Death is not good. Sickness is not good. Pain is not good. When God created the universe and found His creation to be "very good," those things were not a part of it. They were brought about because of the sin of mankind. The wonderful truth of the matter is, however, that an almighty, sovereign God can take bad things that were not a part of His original creation and use them to work for our good. If you will allow me, I would like to give you a personal account in which I found that to be true.
I will not go into the specific details of my experience because there were other people involved and I do not wish to say anything that would violate their privacy. Suffice it to say, I faced one of those situations that I spoke of earlier that rocked my world. I thank God that I was grounded in His word, because if I had not been, the situation that I lived through could have easily washed me out and severely damaged my faith. It was something that forced me to rely on God far more than I ever had before. It was also something that pushed me to action in something that I had said for years that I wanted to do "one day."
I stated in my introductory post that I have recently published a book. While I did not explicitly state this, if you read between the lines, you might have also deduced that I have a soft spot for kids. Children's ministry is, in fact, one of my greatest passions. I have taught kids' classes at my church since I was 19. I've been one of the sponsors that took my church's elementary school aged kids to camp four times. Vacation Bible School week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I could continue, but you get the point: I love kids. That thing that I said for so long that I wanted to do but never completed was writing a children's novel.
Ultimately, I truly believe that God held me back from doing in until the time was right. There were a few abortive attempts, but none of them ever went very far, and I never came anywhere near writing a full book. Then, my foundations were shaken. At that time, I decided to try once again to write a book, this time, in large part to keep my sanity. However, I did not want to write just any book. I wanted to write something that would be a help to young people who read it. I wanted it to be an entertaining story, but a story that would teach Biblical values. I wanted it to feature characters that were not ashamed of their Christianity. I wanted it to be something that might be edifying to its readers. Lo, and behold, this time it happened.
I would be lying if I said that there are no longer times that I struggle with what happened in my life two years ago. It was something that completely reordered large parts of my life, and in some very negative ways. I very much wish that what happened would not have happened. If I told you what it was, you would no doubt say the same thing. Even so, I would not undo what it changed in me. As I said, it helped me to learn to trust in the Lord much more than I ever had. It is my natural tendency to worry, but my experiences in these last two years has greatly cut that down. It also strengthened the passion that I already had for young people, and gave me an even greater desire to minister to them. When I think about my own troubles and how difficult they were for me as an adult, if makes me think about how much tougher they are for a child, thus increasing my level of compassion. Since then, I've found that new opportunities to do that, such as the book, have presented themselves, and I see other possibilities on the horizon, no doubt because God has used the trials of my life to give me a fuller understanding of the needs that exist. It is truly amazing to see how He moves.
All things are not good, but we serve a God that is more than capable of using even the bad for our good. He can use those things to strengthen us personally and to make us a better witness to others. Nothing catches Him by surprise, and nothing can thwart His will. I have learned not to say that something can never happen to me. I have been affected by things that I would never have believed could happen. But more than that, I have found that my God can use them all to shape me into someone whom He can more easily use. Yes, for the believer, all things work together for good.