Every believer has at least a passing familiarity with Romans 8:28 which reads "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." If you're like me, you probably have lost track of the number of sermons you have heard and books you have read which make mention of these verses and the promise they contain. And truly they are verses of great comfort as they prove God's concern for every area of our lives.
While the promise in these verses is incredible, I think we often lose sight of what the Lord is really telling us. We sometimes seem to think that what God works for our good will always feel good, as if what is good for us will always make us happy. But what does God mean by the word "good?"
I believe the key to understanding what "our good" is, is found in the next verse. Verse twenty nine reads "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." God's desire for His children is that they more and more become conformed to the image of His Son. So when God tells us that He will work all things for our good, He indicates that all things work to make us more like Jesus. Those who have been believers for many years will know that this is not always a gentle or fun process. Sometimes God has to use radical, terrifying or even sorrowful measures to help us change. Sometimes we work in concert with God in our sanctification, but other times He has to reach down and force the issue. My pastor is fond is saying that "God is less concerned with your comfort than your character" and this is exactly what Romans 8:28 tells us. God will work for the good of His purposes, not necessarily our purposes.
This may sound like cold comfort for those experiencing trials and feeling the pain life can bring. It may be hard to believe that God's hand is in what is happening or what has happened. But God is consistent and will not lie. If he says that all things work for good - that all things will work to conform us to the image of His Son - we can have confidence that this is so. We may not enjoy pain and we may shy from difficult situations, but we can have the comfort that in all things, God is working towards His purpose in our lives. Thank God that no situation, no matter how dismal, is void of spiritual significance.