And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
This may be one of the most quoted verses in the Church today, and for good reason. This verse contains a wonderful promise; but it’s not the promise we sometimes claim from this passage.
This verse is frequently taken out of context to provide hope amidst difficult circumstances. Have you lost your job? Did your business fail? Has your spouse filed for divorce? As your brother in Christ, I am terribly sorry for your difficult circumstances, but I beg of you not to use this verse to claim that God must have something better in store for you. That is not what this verse means.
When circumstances are not what we would choose for ourselves at work or at home, we must remember three things.
First, God is sovereign and in control, even when our circumstances might suggest otherwise. As Job said in the midst of his agonizing trials, “I know that you [God] can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Second, we must remember that God is the author of “good” and He alone is the one who gets to define what goodness is. And all throughout Scripture, He makes clear that what is good for you and me is our sanctification—becoming more like His son.
Finally, we can take heart knowing that (as Romans 8:28 makes clear) God is working “all things”—even difficult circumstances at work and at home—for our good. For our sanctification.
Oftentimes, it is difficult circumstances that enables the Lord to most effectively change our hearts. Sometimes the best thing that can happen for our sanctification is to lose a customer, experience a bad performance review, or be forced in some other way to rely more heavily on Christ. As Joseph said in response to years of professional and personal trials, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
We can not allow our circumstances to teach us about God. We must allow God’s character to teach us about our circumstances. His character is that He loves His children and He alone knows what is ultimately good for us. Thus, we can view any circumstance at work with great hope, knowing that God is working all of it for our ultimate good.