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“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)
Expectations are a tricky thing. On the one hand, they can help us live life with purpose, goals, and hope for the future. But when we stop and reflect, we often find that so much of our bitterness and disillusionment in life has come because of expectations we placed on others – spouses, parents, friends, coworkers – that they did not meet. And this is just as true of our relationship with God. If we’re not careful, we can end up bitter at God because of expectations that we put on Him to do something that He has never promised.
One of the clearest ways this is true is in our belief that if God is a good God who loves us, then He will certainly bring about good things in our lives, like NOW. Certainly, a loving Father, if we ask Him sincerely, will heal our diseases, restore our relationships, and turn things around in a positive direction, right? After all, didn’t Paul write in Romans 8:28, “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”?
The answer comes when you continue reading after verse 28: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” When you read Romans 8:28 in its context, what is the “good” that God is working for? The good, according to verse 29, is to conform us to the likeness or image of His Son. God promises here that no matter what comes our way – good times or bad times, victory or suffering, disease or good health, marriage, singleness or divorce, obedient or disobedient children, job or unemployment – He will work through all of it to make us like Jesus. You know, the one who was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, and murdered, but also saved the world through His sacrificial love and is now exalted above every name. Clearly, God’s definition of “good” does not always line up with our definition of good.
But keep on reading: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:30-32). Paul goes on to promise in verse 30 that those whom God has called will not only be justified – declared not guilty – but will one day be glorified, or made perfect. And in verses 31-32, he promises that if God is for us, who can really be against us? Paul encourages us that if God gave us His Son, He will also certainly provide us with everything we need.
The bottom line is that the promise that God is working all things for good is not a promise that everything will go the way you hope it will go, that every disease will be cured and every marriage restored and every promotion granted. It is a promise that if you trust in Him, then He will use anything and everything that happens in your life to make you more like Jesus. If you will submit yourself and your circumstances to Him, then He will mold you into a person of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In Romans 8:28-32, the promise is that every one of your sins has been forgiven, and that one day you will be made perfect, without sin or brokenness. Until that day, God asks you to look to the cross and be assured that He will give you everything you need in this life – not everything you want – and that nothing will ever separate you from His love.
If you find yourself bitter or disillusioned in your faith, pause and consider that maybe it is because you are putting expectations on God that do not line up with what He has actually promised. Read His Word again in context, and choose to put your trust in the God who truly is working all things together for a good that is far greater your limited perspective.