In Romans 8:28 the Bible states, "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." Does that mean good things as well as bad things? I think the word “all” includes both. But how can bad things ever be good?
Sometimes we can recognize that bad circumstances turn out to really be good. My Mom woke very early one morning and thought she was having a stroke. Her head hurt terribly and she could not stand because she was so dizzy. When we rushed her to the emergency room we learned that she was suffering from vertigo.
However, the tests and scans they did to diagnose her showed she also had almost a liter of fluid in her lungs. She was on the edge of pneumonia and having difficulty breathing. What a blessing that the episode ended with her receiving the treatment she needed for the problems she wasn’t even aware of! She wouldn't have known about the problem if she hadn’t been in the hospital for the dizziness. Was the problem of vertigo good? No, but good certainly came from it.
In other situations, it may not be so easy to see the good. For instance, when my daughter died a few years ago, I didn’t see any good side. Especially since I had lost her for so many years and we were finally coming to a good relationship. How was God working the loss of my firstborn to my good? Understanding her death in that context came much later, as I realized how it forced me to rely on God for comfort. It also led to a reevaluation of my life and a new realization of what was truly important. Many people were losing children, young and old, every day – and many of them died without knowing Jesus as their savior.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. In 1973, when my then 2 year old daughter was kidnaped by her father, I was devastated. Yet God worked out a way to use it for good. It brought me the opportunity to offer comfort and healing to others who had experienced the same pain and loss. It became an opportunity to show God's amazing grace and power.
That’s you–not me.
Before you think, "That hasn't happened to me. Nothing good has come from my situation!" remember that God's plan for you is different from his plan for me. But he loves us both. He has created "plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11) for each of us. The “good” he has planned may differ a lot from your definition, but it will ultimately bring good into your life if you are open to His leading.
I realize that, in some cases, we won't see or understand those good results until we reach heaven. But God has made a promise, and he always keeps his promises. Trust that he is at work in your life and circumstances, and that he loves you. Choose to say, as Joseph did so long ago in Egypt, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good .” The key is choosing to trust God while we're in the midst of the “bad,” and praying that he will allow us to see the “good” that results.