There is a song I heard on the radio this morning. The group is “Jesus Culture” and the song is “Your Love Never Fails.” The line that really got to me was “You make all things work together for my good.” It didn’t get to me in a good way. There was a very strong emphasis on the word “my.” And the verse didn’t sound right. So I looked it up.
Here’s the problem. That isn’t the verse. It is – “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.” (NIV, Romans 8:28) This was written by the apostle Paul.
There is a big difference in these lines.
Yes, God works for the good. Not your good, necessarily. Good. The good. The good of all. All things work out how they are needed to work out to fulfill the will of God.
I want to yell – stop having a self-centered theology.
God didn’t even rescue his own Son. Defiled, reviled, spat upon, abused. Killed in a gruesome, painful, agonizing way. For nothing. For raising the dead. For healing the broken. For letting people know that they have within them the ability to mend the brokenness in the world if they but call upon the Holy Spirit.
Now, this verse from Paul is very good. It is very healing and hope-fillled. It is a good verse to hold on to when things seem to be falling apart. Divorce. Job loss. Cancer diagnosis. House fire. Tornado. Death of a friend. These are all terrible things to go through.
This verse reminds us that it isn’t our plan that is important. It is God’s plan. Remember the Lord’s Prayer? We say “Thy will be done.” Not “My will be done.” The prayer is a reminder to ourselves that we aren’t in charge. Thank God for that. Look what we’ve done to mess this place up already. We don’t know what we are doing. We shouldn’t be left in charge. But we remind ourselves every time we say that prayer that God is in charge. We aren’t giving God the power – we are acknowledging that He has it. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” It isn’t ours. It is God’s.
To say that God makes everything work out for our good isn’t true. We aren’t special because we love God. Yes, God loves us. God loves everybody. He went to the trouble of making everybody because He needs us and loves us. Sure, you are special, along with all 7 billion other people. Don’t start getting a big head about it. There has to be a balance – you are loved and special, but so is everybody else.
Let’s look at the story of Joseph, starting in the 37th chapter of Genesis. His brothers aren’t very nice to him, to put it mildly. He gets stripped of his cloak, thrown into a cistern and then sold off to traders who were headed to Egypt. It wasn’t looking very good there for him. His father was convinced by his brothers that he’d been mauled by a wild animal. He spent some time in jail because he was falsely accused to trying to entice his master’s wife. Eventually he got out and was seen as wise because he correctly interpreted a prophetic dream that Pharaoh had. Because of that dream he knew that a famine was coming and they had to conserve food.
Near the end of the story we find out that it all was for the good that all this bad stuff happened. In Genesis 45:4-7 (NIV) we hear “4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
He forgave them. He told them that everything that he had been through had been so that his family would be saved. By extension, it meant that the entire future nation of Israel would be saved. If he hadn’t gone through that hard time, all the Jewish people would have failed to come into existence.
But he didn’t go through all that so that he, Joseph, would benefit.
There is a big difference.
God is awesome, and powerful, and amazing. But God doesn’t work things out so that we have a great life or an easy one. God does what God does because it needs to be done. We have to live through difficulties. If we love God, we trust Him. If we trust God, we know that it is all going to work out the way that it needs to. There is something Zen-like in this trusting, this faith. There is something very difficult and yet very easy about this. It seems very passive, but it is very active.