Many Christians would instantly say “Yes!” And a quick look at Romans 8:28 in many Bible translations seems to confirm their answer.
But is that what Romans 8:28 really means?
ROMANS 8:28 NASB 28 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.
ROMANS 8:28 NIV 28 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.
While several translations can give us a different view on this (like both of those above), it is not necessary for us to judge translations or learn the meaning of Greek words to realize some basic facts.
First, if everything that happened was good for us, then God would never tell us to resist or refrain from anything. (And He does!)
Therefore, everything is not God’s will for us. Neither can we consider everything to be good.
So this verse cannot be saying that everything that happens is good, or that it will cause good in our life. Instead, as the translations above reveal, God is working to cause things to end up good.
Yes, God is able to bring good out of bad situations. But God should be given the credit, not the bad things.
If you believe God is working everything out for your good, He will. But that does not mean God planned or desired bad things to come into your life.
The Bible teaches that some things are bad. Sin is bad. Sickness is bad. Poverty is bad. Selfishness is bad. Pride is bad.
Is God able to turn things around and produce good, even after bad things have happened? Yes!
God is always working to cause good. But that does not mean everything that happens is good.
I know this verse is a cornerstone of many people’s faith. For some it is really almost all they believe. This has been their comfort in times of trouble when they did not understand.
But we need to grow in understanding. Just because we required a pacifier as a baby does not mean we should always use one.
If all things work for our good, then why would God tell us to resist the devil, or to refrain from certain activities?
God is working all the time to make things turn out good for us who belong to Him. But that does not mean everything that comes along is good for us. No! There are things we should refuse. There are things we should resist.
Everything is not good and we should not accept everything as being God’s will. The Bible instructs us so we can know God’s will and resist all that is not God’s will.
Some may think bad things actually cause good, but that is not true. We all know stories of people who, in the midst of great trouble, turned to the Lord. Many use such accounts to claim that everything works out for good. But that requires you to ignore the greater number of people who turn away from the Lord because of trouble.
Some have been told that suffering bad things is God’s plan for them so that somehow others may be helped. But the Bible teaches that Jesus already suffered all that was required for people to be blessed.
The final end result for a believer who loves God and trusts Him is that all things will work out for their good. Even the bad things that come into their life will turn out to be stepping-stones to a higher level instead of stumbling-blocks. But it is dependent on that believer keeping their trust in the Lord, loving Him, and allowing God to work things out. It is not automatic.
Note that Romans 8:29 (the next verse) is a continuation of the same thought. What is being said in Romans 8:28 is only part of the statement. To get the right understanding, you need the whole thought. Romans 8:29 starts with “For” or “because.”
ROMANS 8:29 NET 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
The plan of God is that we become like Jesus. Bad things are happening on earth because mankind allowed the devil and his ideas a place here. Those bad things give us an opportunity to overcome, to walk in love, and to grow into more Christ- likeness. But bad things do not make us more like Christ. It is only when we turn to the Lord (even in the midst of trouble) and allow Him to work in us, that we are transformed into being more like Him.
Multitudes of people experience bad things in life, who instead of getting better because of them, get bitter and worse.
So do not take this one short phrase “all things work together for good” out of context. It does not include everyone, only those who love God, and it is only true in relation to God’s purpose in making us more like Jesus. And that does not happen because of bad things, but only when we love God and trust Him even when bad things happen.