“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)
Paul gives us this verse, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to encourage us to trust in God’s ultimate plan for us in the midst of our struggles in life. He is reminding us that no matter what we are going through, God is in control and will bring us to an expected, good end.
On a bright and sunny day when all is well and troubles are a mile away, we can read this verse and say a hearty “Amen, Hallelujah!” And we would be right in saying it.
However, when the storms of life are raging; bills go unpaid; loved ones become ill or even die; you get laid off from work; your best friend spills a trusted embarrassing secret to everyone, ruining your reputation; you get a flat tire while you are late for an important meeting; you get mugged on your way to church; in spite of your best efforts, your only child rebels and winds up in prison. When it seems like all of creation is plotting against us, we tend to read Romans 8:28 and say to ourselves, “Yea, right… easy for you to say.” Our problems easily slip to the forefront of our minds and block out any remembrance of God’s goodness.
Such thinking is as irrational as saying the sun is not bright, all because the clouds have lingered too long. The sun is still there, and so is God’s goodness. Our problem is our perspective. We perceive only what we can see in front of us: our problem. And we lose sight of what we can’t see: God’s plan for us. Paul wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Elsewhere he wrote:
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. (17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
We have to trust God in spite of how things appear in the present. Romans 8:28 will hold true even if we don’t see it fulfilled immediately or even in our lifetime.
For example, in the Book of Ruth you will read of how a woman named Naomi lost her husband and two sons, leaving her with two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, and no grandchildren. Naomi told her daughters-in-law to return to their families, because there was nothing left for them with her. Orpah listened and returned to her homeland, while Ruth loved her mother-in-law and refused to leave her. Naomi and Ruth set out for the land of Naomi’s relatives, both having suffered a great loss. Naomi lost her husband and her two sons. Ruth lost her husband and was having to leave everything she knew and go into a country where she had nothing and knew no one.
We are faced with similar situations today. Loved ones die suddenly, jobs are lost, we are forced to sell our homes and perhaps move to a different place to start all over from scratch. Sometimes it seems as if the bad things hit us one thing after another, tempting us to think God may even be working against us instead of for us. We cannot see how any good can come out of the tragedies in our lives. We are tempted to become bitter and blame God. Naomi did this. When she first arrived at Bethlehem and people, recognizing her, asked if it was really her, she replied:
“…Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. (21) I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21)
Like many of us in times like that, Naomi couldn’t understand why God allowed such horrible things to happen to her. She couldn’t see how any good could come out of it. She couldn’t see how God, with all His wisdom and power, could fashion something wonderful out of her broken life. All she could see were her immediate circumstances. But God set in motion, through her loss, something more wonderful than the world had ever seen; something that would change the course of mankind and bring us back into our rightful place with God.
When Naomi and Ruth were in Bethlehem, Ruth went to glean ears of corn out of a field that belonged to one of Naomi’s kinsman, whose name was Boaz. While she gleaned ears of corn, Boaz saw her, and she found favor in his eyes. He began to take care of her and her mother-in-law. Boaz and Ruth were eventually married and conceived a son, whose name was Obed.
Well, what was so special about that? In the last few verses of the Book of Ruth, there is a short genealogy. The last few names in that genealogy reveal something interesting: Ruth’s son Obed is the father of Jesse; and Jesse is the father of David. And through the line of David we received the Christ.
At the time, Naomi and Ruth probably thought that nothing had really happened. They simply moved on with their lives, not ever knowing the great thing that would come as a result of their suffering. So we may not always understand at the time, why we are going through trials. But we should continue to hold on to God, trusting in His goodness, having hope in His deliverance and His redeeming power.
It is this hope, this faith, that allows us to overcome and gives us the victory: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
In the dark, I sometimes forget the light will come, the stars will shine.
In the rain, I sometimes forget the sun will come out, the land will be green and fresh.
In the rush, I sometimes forget how to slow down, how to be still.
In the noise, I sometimes forget the quiet will come, peace will return.
In the loneliness, I sometimes forget You are always here, You are holding me.
In the cold, I sometimes forget who warms my heart, who holds my soul.
In the fear, I sometimes forget to trust in You, to lean on You.
Forgive me God, for not remembering that
laughter will follow the tears; joy will follow the sorrow; healing will follow the hurt; day will follow the night; because I sometimes forget.