In troublesome times, whether it be a physical trial, a financial crisis, an accident, disease, or another difficult circumstance, Christians often quote this verse to try and bring some comfort, "All things work together for good..." If it is not given in genuine spirit filled concern or received with genuine spirit filled humility, it can come across as a trite cliche. Of course that would never be one's intention.
As is so often the case some people rip verses out of context or ignore the surrounding verses completely and come up with a misunderstanding of the proper interpretation or application of the verse altogether. This is one case where it really pays to keep reading. The above quote is part of Romans 8:28. Lets take a look at both verse 28and part of 29 and see if there is not deeper truth that will help us understand this verse better.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." Rom 8:28-29A
All things work together for good in order that we might be conformed to the image of Christ. There are a lot of ways that we can be Christlike. One that stands out in my mind is that we have a passionate desire to do the will of God, as did Jesus. When he was in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me." Some may argue the proper interpretation of that phrase. Was Jesus afraid to die? Was he asking the Father to let him out of the impending crucifixion? Its not my purpose to discuss this here because of the subsequent dialogue. In Luke 22:42 Jesus goes on to say, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
Jesus was absolutely determined to live according to the will of the Father. He came to earth as a man in order to fulfill the Father's will. He was sinlessly obedient to the Father's commandments all his life in order to fulfill the Father's will.
I might goes as far as to say that we are never more in the image of Jesus Christ than when we are fulfilling the Father's will.
In our church we sing a wonderful hymn titled, "It Is Well." The story behind this hymn is repeated often in our churches. It is a wonderful and convicting story of Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna. As the story is normally told, with Horatio delayed in America Anna and their four daughters were on a trans-Atlantic voyage to Europe when their ship sank. Anna survived but their four daughters tragically perished. Horatio set sail for Europe to get his wife. When his ship reached the area of the Atlantic where it was thought Anna's ship went down Horatio penned the words to the famous hymn, "It is Well."
Often the story stops there and no other details are offered. Please allow me to give you a few more details surrounding the story of the Spaffords. Prior to the shipwreck Horatio and Anna's four year old son Horatio Jr. died from Scarlet Fever. They lost nearly all their fortune due to the Great Chicago Fire. After the loss of their son and four daughters God gave them three more children. They named another son Horatio but he too died at four years of age with Scarlet Fever. Talk about tragedy. These events would have destroyed most people, but not the Spaffords. They moved to Jerusalem and started a ministry to the poor and orphaned children.
Can you imagine after all they had been through and they desired to serve God. Out of such tragedy they still desired to do the will of the Father more than anything else. They truly were the image of Christ.