Romans 8:28 is one of the happier, fuzzier verses in the Bible. It tells us that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” And that’s a nice promise to have – that no matter what kind of crazy circumstances are going on in my life, I can always know that God is going to use those for my good. I’d always read that verse and assumed it was referring to outside circumstances. The “all things” in question were things that were happening to me that I had no control over. And I guess that’s part of it.
But what if the promise of Romans 8:28 is bigger?
I’ve been reading through Genesis for the past few weeks, and I’m currently closing out the story of Joseph. Talk about some serious family dysfunction. Jacob plays favorites with his kids, and it’s pretty obvious. It wouldn’t be so bad if Joseph didn’t run around flaunting the visions he was having in which he ruled over the family. So finally, the older brothers have had enough and actually sell Joseph to some slave traders.
It’s an ugly situation, and everyone gets a piece of the blame.
But what’s crazy is that it’s this ugly situation that God uses to provide for Jacob’s family. Years later, widespread famine comes rolling in, and by now Joseph has managed to work his way up to the second most powerful man in Egypt. God uses Joseph and his position in Egypt to provide for his chosen people.
He didn’t have to do it that way. He could have told Jacob to make a special sacrifice that would give him supernaturally rich soil so that the famine didn’t even touch the chosen family. He could have given Pharaoh a vision, commanding him to send Joseph back to his family with all the riches of Egypt. That way, Jacob’s family would be united and prosperous again. Instead, God used their mistakes.
In all things, God works for our good.
Not just in the external circumstances that we have no control over.
Not just when sinful people are walking all over us.
Even in the colossal messes we make all by ourselves in our selfish, shortsighted fallenness, God works for our good.
God doesn’t have to work around the ugliness in our lives. A lot of the time, he chooses to use it.