Do All Things Work Together for Good?
I think that anyone who doesn’t have his head completely in the sand, knows that bad things happen in this world, and they are actually bad things, not just things that look bad, but the end result brings about good. Why is it then, that a significant number of Christians quote, “All things work together for good” from time to time as though it is some recognized truism in life? They quote it in contexts where something bad has happened, but they are expressing their expectation that good will come out of the situation. Perhaps it will, but “all things” are not part of God’s plan to bring about good.
They think they are quoting the Bible. Actually, they are, but only part of the sentence and without regard to the context. The line appears in Romans.
Romans 8:28 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.
The “quote” is incomplete. It isn’t all things working together for good in whatever situation for anyone. It is all things working together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. But even so, are all things that believers experience actually good regardless of how they appear? Of course not. I have known wonderful believers who have died of cancer or who have suffered extreme adversity. No good came of it.
I was speaking with a friend recently who had just been in the hospital. The doctors had cleared her of the major problem they suspected, but the prognosis was not entirely positive. There were other issues, and the hospital stay was expensive. She expressed her thankfulness that the really bad thing was not an issue. She spoke of how well the hospital was maintained and what good care she received. She related that a number of her caregivers were believers, and she had been able to speak God’s Word with them. She expressed her thankfulness for all these things and concluded with the line, “all things work together for good.” She was trying to claim that her malady and necessary hospital stay was really a good thing. One must appreciate such a positive attitude and resilience. But let’s be honest. The circumstance was not good, and it didn’t work together with other things to bring about some other greater good.
So what is the story with Romans 8:28? Let’s back up a bit in the section to see what the statement is referring to in its context.
Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
It is apparent that this section is referring to eternity, the glory to come. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” OK, I got it. The crap that happens now is nothing compared to all the really great stuff that will be ours for eternity. I am most assuredly looking forward to eternity, but that still doesn’t mean that the bad stuff that happens now is actually good. It isn’t. It is bad.
Is it good that the whole creation groans and travails in pain? No. It is good that God will one day rectify this situation. Likewise, in like manner, we have adversity today, but the spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Is it good that we have adversity? No, but it is good that we have the spirit interceding for us. All things are not good, and they don’t necessarily work together for good in this life, but in eternity if not before, God will more than even the score. It is neither Biblically correct nor even sane to deny the existence of evil. When adversity comes, if we pray in the spirit and trust our heavenly Father, we will see deliverance. If we don’t, we will suffer loss but will be rewarded in eternity. I personally prefer the former, and I don’t believe the rewards will be any less for choosing that path. Either way, all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. This is true not because evil is working toward the good, but because, as I said, God will more than even the score either now or in eternity or both.
Rather than looking for good in evil situations, let’s look for God’s deliverance from those situations. If we fail to trust God for His deliverance, we can still look forward to eternal rewards. But let’s not accept evil as a stepping-stone toward good. It isn’t. It’s evil and should be conquered not excused as part of the process of working toward good.