Does God turn bad things into good?
I am hearing this everywhere, and it’s really bothering me. Podcast hosts, podcast guests, pastors, and friends saying, “God turns bad things into good.” Usually, they are paraphrasing or basing their remark on 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. But we need to be careful.
God does not turn bad things into good.
Bad things stay bad. Lying, cheating, adultery, rape, racism, greed, pride, unbelief, and favoritism are bad, and they stay bad. What this verse means is that
God works all the bad stuff for good.
Big difference. Hang in there with me, please.
On the day Christ was crucified, horrible things happened. Satan had entered Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus and turn him over to be tried and crucified (Luke 22:3). Members of the religious community – chief priests and elders – accused and mocked Jesus for identifying as King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11). A crowd was persuaded by the religious leaders to release a criminal but have an innocent be crucified (Matthew 27:20-22). A weak leader, Pilate, succumbed to the crowd and allowed an innocent man to be suffer the most gruesome of criminal deaths (Matthew 27:22-24).
If it were true that God turned bad things into good…
- It would mean that God was up in the heavens that day and not in control of what was happening on earth.
- It would mean God was wringing His hands and saying, “Oh, no. Something bad has happened. My Son has been killed unfairly. How can I make this good?”
- It would mean God would make the bad thing good by saying something like, “I know! I will change the plan and let His death count for the forgiveness of everyone’s sin. Whew! The bad day is now a good day!”
I know this sound preposterous, but with lazy language, that is what we communicate. All along, while the bad was happening, God had well established boundaries around the evil of this world. Yes, a disciple betrayed Christ, the crowds were riotous and easily persuaded, and a leader was weak. But God was working all of that bad stuff for His good all along by getting Jesus to the cross in order to die for the sins of the world.
All along, the evil was being worked for the good of the world.
- God was never out of control.
- God never changed His mind.
- God never called a bad thing good.
Whatever people or Satan are doing today in order to undermine, interrupt, discourage, or stop God from accomplishing His purposes is literally being worked for God’s purposes and our ultimate good, just like the day Christ was crucified.
COVID is bad.
It is a result of the fall of mankind when death and decay (and viruses) entered the world. God isn’t surprised by it. He has His hands all around it and is working the bad for His good.
COVID is being used for God’s good.
As we face the lack of control we have on our lives, we have an opportunity to consider who has been in control all along. As our country struggles, we can grapple with the truth that our country could never keep us safe and we were never powerful enough to determine our nation’s destiny. As our leaders lead imperfectly, we can be gaining a better understanding of the perfect leader in heaven, as in “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” As people are getting sick, and some are dying, we face the reality that our life has always been but a breath compared to eternity. We must face the purpose of this life and decide to life for what lasts forever.
All of the questions. All of the uncertainties. All of this chaos. These things cause us to consider larger truths that we can otherwise miss in our busyness and false sense of power and control over our lives and this world. COVID – like all difficult circumstances – is being used to guide us toward truths that make this life matter.
This promise isn’t for everyone.
Though God loves everyone on earth, and is chasing everyone with His love so that they can spend eternity with Him, this particular promise is, for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. In the life of a believer, difficulties and suffering have boundaries that allow all things to be worked for the good.
Let’s not keep this promise to ourselves. Tell others.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)
Picture Explanation: While my state swelters; while ice melts in our coolers so quickly that the cold water we packed is quickly lukewarm; while stepping outside feels like walking into an oven; while picnic tables sit empty and kitchen tables in air conditioning are full; these flowering trees thrive in the heat and direct sunlight. They bring beauty to the landscape and a smile to my heart every year.
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