A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. (NLT)
It seems God does not stop bad things from happening, but rather that he seeks to work good out of the bad. In this case, the “bad” was the stoning to death of Stephen and the persecution of church members in Jerusalem.
The “good” was the widespread sharing of the good news of Jesus. The Jerusalem church members scattered as a result of what was happening, but it was not to be a defeat. They used the opportunity to speak about Jesus to those outside Jerusalem.
So often we need a setback or two to jolt us out of our comfort zones and do something different. One ministry might end so another can be birthed. One health scare can cause us to reassess what is truly important in life. One relationship may be severed but other relationships spring up in its place.
This is not to say the setback is in itself good. Stephen’s stoning was not good, but some good came out of it. The sovereignty of God is displayed not in his causing bad things to happen but in his working good out of them.
We may naturally grieve over our various setbacks, but let’s be sure we discern what advances may follow in the wake of those setbacks.