Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Read part of my book, Enduring Trials God’s Way, to learn how God causes all things to work together for our good.
Table of contents
- My Brother’s Death
- Biblical Examples of All Things Working Together for Good
- At First (or Sometimes Ever) We Can’t See How All Things Work Together for Good
- Abraham Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
- Joseph Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
- Job Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
- The Need to Walk by Faith
The text in this post is from Enduring Trials God’s Way: A Biblical Recipe for Finding Joy in Suffering, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and audiobook to strengthen your faith and exalt Christ!
My Brother’s Death
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If I had to choose only one example of this verse coming true in my life, it would be my brother’s death.
My only sibling, Jason, was fourteen months younger than me. Growing up we were similar athletically and academically. But during high school he started partying and abusing drugs. He dropped out of school and received his GED. We were encouraged when Jason enlisted in the Army. He joined the 82nd Airborne, which involved jumping out of planes. He said he developed pain in his knees. We don’t know if that was true or an excuse to obtain prescriptions from the military hospital. Either way, this is when he became addicted to pills.
Jason separated from the Army after four years of service. He started breaking into people’s homes and raiding their medicine cabinets to satisfy his addiction. He was arrested and I still remember how difficult it was the first time we visited Jason in jail. We had to speak to him on opposite sides of the glass. He was released, but soon after was arrested again. Unable to find a job because of his criminal record, he moved across the country hoping to rejoin the military. That was the last time we saw Jason. A few months later, I received the phone call from my dad that Jason had overdosed in a motel room.
How Did “All Things Work Together for Good” When Jason Died?
I was in my early twenties, single, and teaching elementary school at the time. I threw myself into my work, hoping to stay distracted from the grief. It didn’t work. I was struggling.
A Christian friend who worked with me said, “My pastor lost his brother when he was about your age. You should come to church with me and speak to him. It might make you feel better.”
I had no intention of becoming a Christian. I thought I was a good person who would go to heaven. The idea of being saved or born again was foreign to me, but going to the church to speak to the pastor was attractive. I had never attended a Christian church before and during the sermon, for the first time in my life, God spoke to me through His Word. Though I did not meet with the pastor about my brother that day, I already looked forward to returning the following Sunday. Soon after, I repented of my sins and put my faith in Christ.
A few years after my conversion, I reconnected with Katie. We were pleasantly surprised to find the other had also become a Christian. Less than a year later, we married. Around the same time, my heart for teaching decreased and my heart to be a pastor increased. I started working part-time as an associate pastor, and when the church grew, they hired me full-time as an associate pastor.
My Parents’ Salvation
My greatest desire during that season was seeing my parents become Christians too. After praying and sharing the gospel with them for about five years, they surrendered their lives to Christ:
“[God] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”Ephesians 3:20
This verse was fulfilled in my life when I baptized my parents. They moved to be with us in central California, and when I received the senior pastor position at Woodland Christian Church, they followed us up to Washington. Dad serves as a deacon in the church, and I dedicated, Marriage God’s Way, to him because of the courageous, faith-filled way he has endured his trial with Alzheimer’s.
My brother’s overdose was the darkest, most painful situation I have experienced, but I can say God brought forth more good from it than any other event in my life. Jason’s death, as tragic as it was, led to me visiting a church where I learned the gospel. My salvation, my parents’ salvation, the privilege of raising seven children to serve the Lord, and over ten years of pastoral ministry are a few ways God made “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). I could not see it at the time, but I can look back now and recognize the wonderful end intended by the Lord.
Biblical Examples of All Things Working Together for Good
- David killed Goliath, but then he went from being Israel’s greatest and most popular hero to a fugitive with his life daily in danger. By the time it was over though, God had delivered him through it all and he became the greatest king in the Old Testament.
- Daniel was captured by the Babylonians and brought into exile with three of his friends, but he ended up being the right hand man to multiple kings in two different kingdoms (Babylon and Persia).
- Ezekiel spent his life training to being a priest, but he must have figured his ministry was ruined when he was taken into exile. That’s when his ministry really began though, receiving the most famous and dramatic visions in the Bible, second only to The Revelation given to John.
At First (or Sometimes Ever) We Can’t See How All Things Work Together for Good
The Book of Job is forty-two chapters long. The first two chapters reveal the conversation between God and Satan that sets in motion the following forty chapters. James 5:11b says, ““You have heard of the perseverance of Job.”
Who is “you”? It is us! We can read the discussion between God and Satan to see why Job’s suffering took place, but who could not see how things would work together for good? Job! He experienced trials that did not make sense to him because he had no idea what took place behind the scenes.
Abraham Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
Since Genesis 22:1 says, “God tested Abraham,” we know it was a test, but Abraham did not have this knowledge. All he knew were the words of Genesis 22:2: “Offer [Isaac] as a burnt offering.” He had to wonder why God would make this request. He must have struggled with the morality of taking his son’s life. Abraham did not hear from God again until verse twelve when the Angel of the LORD said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad…for now I know that you fear God.” At that moment, Abraham learned it was a test, but he did not know that earlier during the three most difficult days of his life.
Joseph Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
Later, Joseph was thrown in prison after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. The cupbearer was released from prison, but he “forgot” he promised to help Joseph. Joseph was separated from his family for twenty years, not knowing who was alive or dead.
While Joseph suffered, did he have any idea what God was doing? When he was in the pit or prison, he could not say, “God wants me in Egypt, so I can save the known world from starvation. Later my descendants will produce the Messiah who will save the world from sin and death. All the while I can serve as a tremendous type of that Savior.” He didn’t know God was working all things together for good.
Joseph’s trials were made worse by his lack of knowledge. Like Abraham, Job, and us, Joseph was forced to walk by faith. He was blind to what God was doing until the end, but did God have an intended end? He most definitely did, and it was supremely about Jesus.
Job Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
While Job’s trials would have been difficult regardless of his understanding, they would have been more bearable if he had the insight we are given. Much of his frustration during the conversations with his friends came from the confusion he experienced. Job’s friends said he was a terrible sinner, but God’s assessment was: “There is none like [Job] on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8, 2:3). We know God said this, but Job had no idea. He was forced to wonder, “Are my friends, right? Why is this happening to me? Is God angry with me? Has He forsaken me?” These are the same questions we might ask when we are suffering.
Even though we are privy to the conversations between God and Satan, we still have questions: “Why would God let Satan do anything to Job? God stopped Satan from doing certain things. Why did He not stop Satan completely?” We do not know. The Bible does not tell us. When some people experience a particularly difficult trial, they feel as though God owes them an explanation. If God did not need to explain Himself to Job—a man who experienced the worst trials imaginable—He does not need to explain Himself to us.
The Syrian Girl Couldn’t See How Things Would Work Together for Good
Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.”2 Kings 5:2-4
This Israelite girl became one of the greatest unwilling missionaries in history. She was captured by the Syrians and made a servant to the wife of Naaman, the commander of the army. By the end of the chapter Naaman made a genuine confession of faith, and second only to the prophet Elisha, God uses this young girl to see that happen.
God beautifully used her to accomplish His purposes; she was captured by the Syrians, probably wondering why God would allow something like that to happen, and through her circumstances He brought about one of the greatest conversions in Scripture. It wouldn’t be too much to say many people have probably felt like her at times, only to later be used by God in dramatic ways.
Horatio Spafford Probably Couldn’t See All Things Work Together for Good, But He Could…
What about someone not recorded in Scripture—someone who applied the truths of God’s Word to his trials? Horatio Spafford (1828 to 1888) was a devout Christian and wealthy Chicago lawyer. He had a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters, and a son. In 1871, at the height of his financial and professional success, Horatio lost his young son to pneumonia. Later that year, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of the real estate investments he owned.
Two years later, Horatio wanted to give his wife, daughters, and himself time to recover from the tragedies they experienced. He decided they would take a vacation in England where he could visit his friend D.L. Moody and hear him preach. Horatio was delayed because of business, so he sent his wife and daughters ahead, letting them know he would join them a few days later. His wife traveled with their four daughters: Tanetta was two, Elizabeth was seven, Margaret was nine, and Anna was eleven.
A few days later, on November 22, 1873, Horatio received the news that another vessel struck the ship his wife and daughters were on, and 226 people lost their lives, including Horatio’s four daughters. Only his grieving wife survived. Horatio sailed to England to see her, and as he traveled near the location of his daughters’ deaths, he was inspired to write the hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” Part of it reads:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
What allowed Horatio to have peace during such an excruciating time? First, he reflected on the work Christ accomplished for him and the forgiveness of his sins:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Like Job, whose “heart yearned with [him]” as he thought about his Redeemer, so was Horatio overwhelmed by the “glorious thought” of his redemption. As much as Horatio considered what Jesus had done for him in the past, he also thought about seeing Him in the future:
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Horatio knew his suffering was temporary and one day he would be with his Savior. Regardless of the trial we experience, reflecting on what Jesus has done for us and looking forward to being with him in the future can give us peace during any suffering.
The Need to Walk by Faith
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse was true in Abraham, Joseph, and Job’s lives in a way we will never understand. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, but these men lived before he was born. They faced trials without Scripture at their disposal. They could not be encouraged by the heroes of the faith. Abraham and Joseph were busy being two of those heroes (Hebrews 11:8–11, 17–19, 22).
We are often in the same situation Abraham, Joseph, and Job found themselves in—we can’t see how all things work together for good. While I can look back now and see the good God brought from my brother’s death, this has not been the case with other trials in my life. Most of the time I have been forced to simply trust God. On this side of heaven “we see dimly [and only] know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As a result, we need to walk by faith like Abraham did. Enduring trials is not an issue of strength, intelligence, or money. Whether trials make sense or seem fair is irrelevant. The only question is, “Will I trust God?”
Unlike Abraham, Joseph, and Job, on the other hand, we have the entirety of God’s Word available to us. Even if we do not understand what God is doing, we can walk by faith as we lean on these truths:
- A spiritual, eternal perspective allows trials to be viewed with joy (James 1:2, 1 Peter 1:6).
- Trials prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:7).
- Trials produce patience which produces maturity (James 1:3–4).
- There is blessing for enduring trials, whether in this life or the next (James 1:12, 5:11).
- There is an end intended by the Lord—He works all things together for good (James 5:11, Romans 8:28).
- God is still being very compassionate and merciful (James 5:11).
- Jesus, the bread from heaven, gives us eternal life (John 6:32, 47).
Our suffering is not meaningless. God loves us. He is for us. He works in our best interests. When we become discouraged during trials, these are the truths we need to remember.
- Would you share when God was able to “work together for good” an event in your life?
- Can you provide an example from Scripture when God was able to “work together for good” something that initially seemed terrible?
- Unbelievers and some genuine believers ask, “Why would a loving God ____?” How would you answer this question, considering 1 Peter 3:15 says we must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [for] a reason for the hope that is in” us?
- Which of the bulleted truths above most encourage you? Why? Are there any you would add?
- Has this post helped you view trials and suffering any differently? If so, how?
- When has God used a trial in your life to bring forth good? In other words, when have you been able to look back on a trial and see the end intended by the Lord? Provide two examples.
Another comment on your brother and God….so he had to die and go to hell so that you and your parents could enjoy the good life and go to heaven….and also a murderer who repents and accepts Christ goes to heaven while his victim who does not accept Christ goes to hell…see….this is view of God from the Bible that does not suffice for me any longer. It just cannot acccommodate the world as it is…I was a deacon and adult SS teacher until watching my wife die untimely…the most stressful event a man can suffer…and after seeking a belief that explains the world as it is and not as I want it to be I discovered theofatalism…nothing from atoms to galaxies can happpen outside the will of Most-High GOD – generator, operator, destroyer…please google my name and visit my website…comments welcome…thanks..lewtag
First, I do not believe my brother went to hell. I could be wrong, but one of the few possessions he had that was mailed to us was a Gideon’s Bible and he had signed his name in the back associated with praying for salvation. I am not one of those sentimental people who believe that every loved one goes to heaven. This Bible serves as evidence to give me confidence in my brother’s salvation. But perhaps I am wrong and his profession was not sincere. If that is the case, I still trust God to do what is right and just.
Also, even if Jesus did go to hell, I do not look at it as Jesus went to hell so we could be saved. Instead, as I read about in the post I look at it as God took something terrible (my brother going to hell) and used it for good or produced good from it.
I do believe that nothing can happen outside of God’s will. We see this especially in the book of Job when Satan needed God’s permission to do anything to Job.
Thanks for your life history. After three decades of trying to reconcile a loving God with all the suffering in the world when I lost my wife to breast cancer, I have developed a belief in GOD as generator, operator, destroyer – the supreme force in the universe. You and your brother illustrate this belief. You have benefited from GOD as generator – consider your family – and your brother suffered by GOD the destroyer…they both are the same SOURCE. ergo theofatalism. If there is only one source, then everything comes from that source. Please google my name for reference and visit my website to compare my story with yours….by the way, I wonder how your parents have accommodated their two sons….the necessary opposites…thanks…Lewis Tagliaferre
Thank you for reading my post and commenting. If I understand you, you came to a new belief about God and it looks like it was shaped by your experiences and observations. Your observations about the suffering in the world and your experience of losing your wife. Do you believe that your beliefs about God came from Scripture? If not, do you believe that all of our beliefs about God should be shaped by our experiences and observations?