“God works all things for good…” A verse that is quoted in a variety of situations.
People often quote it as a way to say that good will come from bad. Circumstances will turn around. And tragedy will produce some type of positive effect.
My husband died at forty-two. I watched the life fade from his body as I sat beside him in our wrecked van trying to offer CPR until the ambulance got there. His breathing became more and more shallow from the obvious internal trauma, until…
I lost him.
God works all things for good. Well, what does that mean for me? Good from my husband’s death?
After I lost my husband, I was forced to reforge my life and redefine where I wanted it to go. Everything changed. Through the years, I did forge that new dream and vision for my life — one I never had prior to widowhood —to become an author. Since then I have worked on many manuscripts, fiction and nonfiction, making progress toward that goal.
Maybe one day I’ll become a successful writer. Maybe one day I’ll see my books published and sitting on bookstore shelves and feel the satisfaction of knowing I ‘made it.’ Maybe one day I’ll have the term “best-selling author” applied to my name. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have fans, and book contracts, and acclamations from people loving my work. And I’ll know that I’d have never gone down this path without the death of my husband.
And some might say, “See, God works all things for good! Look what He brought about from your tragedy.”
Is becoming a successful author my definition of God working good from my tragedy? The idea that God took a broken, grieving woman and brought her to the worldly status of “published author”?
If so, my definition is too self-focused, my vision too small and my interpretation of the verse too carnal.
If I become a multi-published author, an easy target for people’s admiration and something that offers an innate sense of triumph after tragedy, it is too small a victory to apply to this verse. I don’t think my self-promotion, or rise to worldly success after heartache is what this Scripture is alluding to. I don’t think gaining a sense of comfort or achievement after a chapter of loss to make me feel happy, content or accomplished is what this Scripture is promoting.
Because that’s all my glory and my success.
In the famous story of Joseph in the Bible, he said, “You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.” The good wasn’t the fact that Joseph worked his way from a slave and prisoner to the second highest position in the kingdom. The good wasn’t the Cinderella story where he now enjoyed the benefits of wealth, success and honor after years being stripped of it. That’s all great. But that’s human focused good. And, unfortunately, that is too often how we think and where we stop digging into the meat of this verse.
The good was the fact that he was in the position to save people. God’s people. He was a tool for God’s predestined purpose to save the blossoming nation of Israel — out of which our Savior would later come. The good was amazing the world leaders with the supernatural wisdom of the one true God.
The good was the fact that the change in Joseph’s life was able to point to God — His plan, His worth and His power.
So I rise from grieving widow to multi-published author. Okay. Great. But is that really the good?
Did my story, my journey, my tragedy, my “good” attract people to Him? What strands of my life have been altered —changing the pattern of my life in such a way that the effect spilled into someone else’s life and created a combustion of cause and effect. Did it bring about a change in someone’s eternal destiny, or a change in my own purity toward God, or bring someone to the redemption they so desperately needed?
These ripples of change, from small to life-altering ones, all overseen by a master tapestry maker, is what the Scripture means by “all things work together for the good.” It’s not necessarily a promise that after bad things in an individual’s life He promises to offer cozy things. Or that after difficult times He’ll bring comfortable ones. Or after tragedy He will bring success.
God working all things for good is another way of saying He works all things for His glory. Not mine. The Bible states this over and over. In fact, the verse in Romans goes on to say “according to His purpose… to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
THAT… that is God’s good. THAT is His purpose.
For the good is when an event changes the whole weave of the tapestry of time and the destiny of lives by changing one single strand in someone’s life, knowing the ripple will eventually lead to an outcome He purposed: drawing someone to Himself — making someone more like Jesus — magnifying His name.
That’s really all that matters.
I never want to take this blessed truth in the Scripture and water it down to equate to my worldly success and achievement.
It is so much more than that.