The other day I was going back through and reading some verses that I was given during some rough times. It led me to another verse, and then another. Anyway, I was contemplating what they meant to me then, and now. It really is amazing how our perspectives change and how God reveals Himself, all in His timing.
"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." Romans 8:28
This verse is a commonly quoted verse, in hard times especially. It is probably all too familiar to those reading this. I thought actually thought of this verse after reading some verses in Lamentations:
"Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." Lamentations 3: 37-41 (emphasize mine)
"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." Lamentations 3:31-33 (emphasize mine)
This all brought me to one conclusion. What if my perspective of "good" is wrong? See, I think that I had always thought of "good" in terms of getting what I wanted or what I thought I deserved. At the minimum, at least, I thought of it as God working things out in my favor somehow. Quite frankly, this is probably one of the most selfish possible interpretations of this verse. I believe in effort to comfort ourselves, many of us probably view the verse in Romans this way (I really hope I'm not the only one). This interpretation often leaves us empty, and even worse, wondering was God is in the midst of our pain. I'm sad to think this was ever all I got from that verse now. I'm humbled for sure by the revelation of what is really there.
So I invite you to imagine a new kind of "good". What if "good" simply meant whatever brings you closer to God? How would that change our perspective? After all, our highest purpose in this walk on earth, is to be close to God. Everything He has done, and will do, is in effort to restore our relationship with Him and bring me closer to Him. So that really crappy thing that is happening right now, or that really hard time you're having, it's actually "good". You know, the one deep down inside where you're raising your fist at God screaming, "if you love me, why is this happening to me?" Yeah, that thing, just might be "good". I certainly have found that it is in the darkest of hours that I am the closest to God. And I don't think that's coincidence. It's much harder to look outside yourself and give God any credit or any mind when all is going well.
I found it very interesting in the verses in Lamentations that it speaks to God bring forth grief and calamity. Yes, sometimes the yucky stuff is from God. What's more is I don't think He wants it to be that way. Unfortunately, we are often stubborn, hardheaded, egocentric creatures--at least I am anyway. We need the hard times more than we think. Hard times are where we learn, and how we find God and learn to be close to Him. Sometimes the worst situations are our own making and us facing the consequences and God's discipline (see Romans 12:5-13).
Sometimes "good" is not just meant for you either. Sometimes God is working out "good" for the body of believers as a whole--"for those who love Him"--that's pleural people. So sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves and look at the "good" God is doing in community, not ourselves personally. That's a tough pill to swallow for me. That God might give me a trial for the benefit of someone else. How is that fair? The truth is, God never claimed to be fair. And thank God for unfairness, otherwise I sure wouldn't be saved!
Now here's the disclaimer. Please don't hear that every bad thing that happens is from God. That certainly isn't true, nor what I'm saying. The truth is we live in a fallen world, and some of the bad is simply a result of sin. Plain and simple. Sometimes the sucky things just happen and we will never know why this side of heaven. Knowing the difference comes from knowing God and closeness to Him. He gives you the discernment to know which is which.
For now, my world has been rocked by a new kind of "good".