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What Makes Things Good

“What makes life good is not a particular set of circumstances but how the heart interacts with them.”

Tim Keller

Like many families, we have spent some time doing puzzles over the years. Some family members got into it more than others. We had an opener who got things going by putting together the border. We had a closer who always found a way to get those last pieces together to bring it to completion.

Sometimes life feels like a puzzle. Sometimes it feels like it is taking forever for things to come together. There can be lots of pieces that don’t fit. Sometimes it seems like you are with the wrong batch of pieces or like things are just all mixed up. It can make you wonder - Where is our closer? Who can put everything together and make things right?

If you have been through some hard times you know that there is no easy answer to these questions. Sometimes Bible verses are shared to offer hope or comfort and sometimes they do. One verse is often shared: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28). The sentiment is that everything is going to be okay. But how?

As I took a fresh look at this verse, I learned something. One Bible teacher noted that the original Greek text may be better translated: “that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.”* Another scholar believes that the best translation of Romans 8:28 is the old RSV: "God works for good with those who love him"** The good comes in being with him. We can trust that God is with us and that God is at work and that his work is good.

This is so helpful. It’s not that all things work together for good by themselves. , It’s not that all our circumstances will be good. It’s that things become good with God. Our work and our struggles can lead us to be the kind of person who is more able to be with God. We can also trust that God works out God's purposes in ways that are bigger than our circumstances. We may not see it or understand how, but with God, and in God, things can become good because the very character of God is goodness - a comprehensive goodness. The very essence of God is good. Goodness comes through all that God made and is in all that God does.

Looking back at his life, the psalmist says, "You are good [God], and what you do is good. (Ps119:68) When we look back we can see God’s goodness in our lives. We can see how God has been at work in ways that we did not understand at the time. It’s so important to remember this because often not all of the pieces of our lives fit together in the moment. We have unanswered prayers and while we may believe that God is with us and capable of everything, we may not see how things are going to come together. That little verse in Romans 8 is a reminder that in all of life’s circumstances, the good things and the bad things are not ultimately the main thing. As the psalmist tells us, " But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name's sake, out of the goodness of your love " (Ps 109:21) The main thing is God's love.

God's love is surprising. It is hard to understand. Paul prays for help to grasp God's love - how wide and long and high and deep it is. (Eph3:18) God's love is so great that he came to us and died for us and wonder of all wonders, the cross was not the end of the story for Jesus. It was the beginning of something beyond what anyone thought possible — resurrection life. Everything we face in life changes in light of the resurrection. In his great love for us, Christ has done what we cannot do — he has overcome evil and death itself. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Tim Keller says, “What makes life good is not a particular set of circumstances but how the heart interacts with them.“ When we carry the conviction and the hope that in everything God works for good with those who love him, it allows us to rest rather than fret. It allows us to relax rather than worry. It allows us to trust rather than be anxious because we know that God is with us and at work, even though we may not see it or understand it yet. Whatever you are facing today, know that there is one who loves you and is with you. God is with you. No matter what the future holds, God is in control with a power greater than death - love. That is good.


* Tim Keller, Bible Study with Tim Keller, The Center For Executive Leadership, June 3, 2021

** N.T. Wright offers this translation


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