How many times have you heard someone say, “All things work together for good”? You may also have heard that that verse (Romans 8:28) is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. But how often have you opened your own Bible to see what it really does say?
Sometimes in the midst of a difficult situation, it’s hard to consider any good coming from it. Whether it’s a car breaking down (again), losing a job, or having a loved one die, it can be hard to see the good, or even the potential for good.
With all the difficulties we’ve experienced over the past two years, I’ve often found myself asking God, Why? Why am I failing in my job? Why has my time on the church board been marked by conflict and divisiveness instead of effective ministry? Why, why, why?
I won’t pretend to have found answers to all those questions, but I have been driven time and again back to God’s Word in search of answers…or just reassurance. Recently I’ve been listening on the radio to an excellent series of messages by Chuck Swindoll on the book of Job. Let me share some of what I’ve learned….
1. God is in control. One thing that strikes me is that God is always in complete control. In the first two chapters that set the stage for the whole book of Job, we find Satan loitering in the throne room of heaven, just looking for some way to taunt God and belittle His creation. Notice that it was God, not Satan, who first mentioned Job’s name. It was God who gave Satan permission to test Job. It was God who put limits on what Satan could do to him. God was in control the whole time. Even Satan’s impact in the world is completely under God’s control.
2. We don’t always understand God’s purposes. I am convinced that Job lived his entire life without knowing the events described in those first two chapters. He probably never knew that he was basically a pawn in a cosmic chess game, the object of a wager between the King of Kings and the Prince of Darkness. Job wanted to understand; he cried out several times for the opportunity to face God. His so-called friends suggested a host of reasons for his suffering – all of them way off the mark and spoken without a hint of grace or gentleness. But even when God finally does speak to Job, there is no indication that He ever explains why He allowed the suffering.
3. God can handle our emotions, doubts, and questions. Spurred on by the graceless accusations of his guests, Job’s emotions flowed freely. He expressed his doubts and openly questioned God. He was angry about God’s silence. He longed for the days “when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (29:4). He accused God of afflicting him (29:11) and wronging him (19:6), of ignoring his pleas for an audience with God (24:1). When God finally does speak up, He definitely sets Job straight about being able to stand and defend himself before God, but He never condemns Job for his questions and doubts. In fact, God Himself defends Job’s words and condemns the words of his friends (42:7).
4. When in doubt, see Point #1. Throughout the story of Job, we see this broken, hurting man remaining faithful to God and confident in His control. Sometimes, all we have to hang onto is that confidence. We long to understand what’s happening; we yearn for some reason, some lesson we can learn from the difficulties; yet we are frustrated because we can’t see the reason or the lesson. That’s when faith kicks in. That’s when we have to remember all of what Romans 8:28 says, “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.”