“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Christians cite this verse a lot during difficult times, but are these circumstances really “bad”? The answer, according to Romans 8:28 has to be “no” when we consider that God is working out ALL things for our good. So then, how do we process the seemingly bad things that inevitably come into our lives? Let me tell you that the fault lies not with the circumstance, nor with the God of the circumstance (may it never be!), but rather with our definition of good and bad.
To understand this, we first need to understand the definition of “good” and “bad”. When we define something as “good”, we are always defining it in terms of its conformity to a particular standard. For example, when I say that this meal tastes good, I am comparing the taste of the food to how it conforms to the particular tastes of my tongue. If my taste buds find it pleasing, then the food is “good”. If the food is not pleasing to my tongue, then the food tastes bad. Similarly, in the sporting world, we often judge whether an athlete is good or bad depending on his or her performance to a particular score or objective.
In the realm of everyday life we tend to define the quality of our circumstances by how they conform to OUR standards. Does this make me happy? If it does, then we consider the circumstance to be good. If it does not make us happy, then it is bad. The problem is that the standard we are using to define our happiness is different than the standard for which we were created to find our happiness – God Himself. We look to relationships, health, money, control, looks, comfort, and a million other things to make us happy when God is saying, “Be like my Son to be happy”.
One such example in my own life would be the motorcycle crash I was involved in a few months ago. If the goal (god) of my life was comfort or good health, then this circumstance would undoubtedly be “bad” since the crash neither resulted in my comfort nor my good health. But if (since) God is causing all things, including my motorcycle accident, to conform me into the image of His Son, then the accident must be considered a “good” thing.
Do you begin to see that what is really on trial during a difficult circumstance is not the circumstance itself, but rather our hearts? You see, my judgment that a circumstance is bad is really a judgment that my heart was looking to the wrong thing for happiness to begin with. And it then becomes my responsibility to turn from (repent) of whatever idol was ruling my heart and return to God (Christlikeness) as my true Ruler.