Read Romans 8:28
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)
This is a wonderful text that can bring no end of comfort and no end of bewilderment. We need first to recognise that it is not saying that all that happens is good. Nor is it saying God causes everything that happens. We all know bad things happen, and hopefully we don’t believe God is the source or cause of evil.
Even so, we might still be tempted to think that God allows cancer to occur so as to strengthen our faith, or that he stands by while our children shipwreck their lives in order to teach them a lesson. Indeed faith may become stronger in trial and our children may learn valuable lessons from their mistakes.
But God is not some puppet master pulling the strings. Our faith might be strengthened or lessons learnt as a consequence of adversity, but the adversity is not ‘sent’ by God for that purpose. I might fall ill and as a result develop deeper trust in God. But that doesn’t mean God has caused the illness to achieve that purpose. God allows good and bad to happen in our lives and pledges to weave some good out of all that happens.
In the end, perhaps the best understanding of this text is that the ‘good’ that happens comes as we respond to our setbacks. We are not to call a bad thing ‘good’. But we trust God can so shape our responses to the bad things that good comes from it. None of us can ever control circumstances, but we can control our responses. I can’t predict what will happen to me or assume it will always be good. But I can trust that God will help me respond in such a way that good ultimately triumphs.