Can I just say right off the bat it really bugs me to see this particular passage misinterpreted? Everywhere from mainstream Christian media to the local church, so many people try to flippantly explain away really tough stuff… and this is one of their favorite passages. Everything from God caused the Haitian earthquake to punish sinners to “God needed your child in heaven more than we needed her here.” It makes me want to bash my balding head against the wall. The logic is: all things work for good, which must mean God causes all things, which means God killed your baby, and you’ve just got to accept that… after all, “his ways are not our ways.” God is in charge. God calls the shots. EVERYTHING happens for a reason, so essentially, get over it.
Not sure that’s what this text, or the whole of Scripture says. Now, some Christians, and some in other religions, believe in various forms of predestination… If it’s written in Allah’s book etc… but my tribe doesn’t subscribe to that notion, and I’m glad.
One of the ways to translate this passage is, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” I am deeply indebted to Professor Al Truesdale for his treatment of the problem of evil. Essentially he says this: God may not ever answer the “why” question. We might not ever know why a tornado wipes out one house and leaves another intact. We may not ever know why children get cancer and die before their time. But what we do know is that God gives an answer when people suffer: God gives his own self in Jesus by the Spirit. God’s answer to suffering is incarnation. It’s suffering with us. Living and dying as one of us. And being raised, so we too can have newness of life in Him. (Sounds like Romans, eh?) In everything God works. Revealing God’s self. Offering hope. Walking with. Transforming death into life.
And remember this: God working in all things is not the same as God causing all things. Remember the “sighs too deep for words” from yesterday’s passage? The Spirit utters them because he is the paraclete… the one who comes alongside us when and where we suffer.