“What makes life good is not a particular set of circumstances but how the heart interacts with them.”
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6
Like many, during Covid, we spent time doing puzzles. 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. Sometimes it feels like things are just all mixed up. Life is often messy and unexpected and sometimes, it even feels cruel. It is then that the question looms: How can this be? Where is our closer? We need someone to come and put everything together.
There is a verse in the Bible that is a comfort to me when I am feeling like that: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purposes.” (Rom 8:28).
First of all, notice the phrase “for those who love God”. What does it mean to love God? I think we love God when we make a commitment to live for God. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, is the one who loves me.” (Jn 14:21) Loving God means setting your heart and your mind on Him. Loving God means living with Him and working to please and honor Him in all that you do and say.
I recall hearing someone talking about Romans 8:28. He noted that the original Greek text may be best translated: “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”*
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 God makes all things good, in his time and in his own way. We may not see it or know it or feel it today or tomorrow or 5 or 10 years from now. But with God, and in God, it will come. It reminds me of the very beginning. When God made everything - from the seas to the earth, to the creatures of the sea to the birds of the air - everything was good. When Moses asked to see God, God said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.” Moses saw the glory and the goodness of God. The very character of God is goodness. The very essence of God is good. Goodness comes through all that God made and is in all that God does. Paul tells us that apart from God, no one does good. (Rom 3:12)
When I look back at my life, I see God’s goodness. I can see how God has been at work in ways that I 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. We will 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. May we not know how we are going to get through things. That little verse in Romans 8 helps remind me that all of life’s circumstances — the good things and the bad things will ultimately have a good effect because of God.
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 all things God works for the good of 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 at work, even though we may not see it or understand it yet.
The cross was not the end of the story for Jesus. It was the beginning of something greater, something beyond what anyone thought possible — resurrection life. Whatever you are facing today, know that there is one who loves you and is with you. He is able to do more than we can ask for or imagine. He will take whatever good or bad that you are experiencing right now and ultimately make it good. He has done what we cannot do — he has overcome death itself. Nothing is impossible for Him. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ( Phil 1:6)
* Tim Keller, Bible Study with Tim Keller, The Center For Executive Leadership, June 3, 2021