And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. We use this verse over and over to help ourselves and others feel better when things are going downhill. We want to be able to take what feels bad and turn it into something good. But we can easily slip into a distortion of the truth.
For example, I heard a preacher say, “God planned for you to be here today. You’re each here for a reason. Are you going to embrace that reason or not?”
I disagree. God certainly knows where I am and works where I am. He works through all the choices I make. He meets me where I am and isn’t content to leave me there. But I can’t say that where I am is exactly where God planned for me to be.
I don’t always choose well. Do you? I don’t want to get lazy and begin to think that regardless of what I choose or how disengaged I am, I’m where God planned for me to be. Because I have a choice, I can follow God’s plan or not. I can take a step toward God or a step away from God. I can go where God wants me to be or where He doesn’t want me to be. In that moment…and in the next moment and the next. The choices I have go on and on, and each affects my relationship with God.
If I always take what I’m doing and rationalize that it’s part of God’s plan, I take my ability (and responsibility) to choose out of the equation. I become passive, because I accept that whatever is happening in my life is God’s plan, not accepting that I can respond outside of the will of God.
I can choose to step closer to or farther away from God. Yet, even if I’ve chosen to step away from God, and I’m not where I’m supposed to be, God planned for me to be right where I am? Perhaps it’s just semantics, but I believe that God working through my choices, despite where they’ve taken me, and God planning—or longing—for me to be somewhere are two different possibilities. Hopefully, in obedience, the two are the same place. I’ve chosen what God wanted me to choose, so there’s no difference between where my choices have taken me and where God planned for me to be. But the reality is my choices often take me somewhere God didn’t plan for me to be. Sometimes I’m way off track and sometimes I’ve taken a short detour.
God knows where I am at all times. He never leaves me. He’ll continue to guide me to help me get back on track, but part of that process involves choice upon choice, and I can take the steps to get back on track—or not.
Yes, God works through every situation we’re in. Yes, He works all things together for good, but that doesn’t mean everything we do is good. God causes it to work together into His good. It’s not our good, not our understanding, not our effort. We choose, and God uses it. He’s not happy about our disobedience, but He’s not surprised. He’d rather have us in the center of His will, but He’ll work with what we give Him to get us there.
God’s good doesn’t just have to do with us personally. He is a personal God—at the same time that He’s a kingdom-minded, body of Christ God. God’s good is about the kingdom perspective. Our individual moments and choices weave together, our individual lives weave together with our communities, and our communities weave together throughout the world and beyond the time in which we live. We need to widen our perspective. God is invested in where and who we are, but He doesn’t place us in the center of His plan or will. He fills that place already. And I am certainly thankful.
Dear God, it’s so easy to hang onto teaching that I’ve heard time and time again. I want to read Your Word in a way that reveals the truth of who You are and what You want me to know about You. Help me to see that’s it’s not just about how I can live Your Word out loud but how I can know You and glorify You in my response. I am pursuing You, Lord, because You are worthy to be pursued. Teach me Your ways, and let me settle for nothing less than obedience.