Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
The preceding passage is referred to ALL THE TIME by people who are trying to have a positive outlook on their circumstances or who are trying to encourage others going through tough times. It’s comforting to think that everything is working together for our good, that there’s a “good” outcome to some of our most trying experiences.
There are a couple of points I want to make about this passage. First, I believe it’s talking about followers of Christ (“those who love God”), redeemed by His blood, saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone. This point will hopefully become more credible when I present point two. I only mention it because I fear that people often use Scripture to encourage unbelievers that was meant to encourage the Church. Please don’t interpret that as a selfish form of “keep away.” Look at it this way: if all the passages in the Bible that are only true for believers are presented as applicable to unbelievers, there would be no need for salvation. So, it is dangerous to encourage a lost person as if they are alive in Christ. Rather, we should communicate to lost people that they are in need of Christ.
Secondly, the “good” or advantage that Paul is talking about is conformity to Christ’s image. It’s right there in verse 29! We know all these things work for the advantage of believers because (“for”) God has determined that we be conformed to the image of Christ (this is the “His purpose” that we’ve been called to). Becoming more like Christ is our “good!” It is to our advantage to be like Jesus. Paul isn’t trying to encourage us by saying our tough times and low points will lead to our idea of happiness sometime down the road and we just don’t see it, yet. He’s saying that we can become more like Christ through our trials and that very conformity is our good!
This perspective is what allowed Paul to rejoice during tribulations (Philippians 3:10) and is the key to our joy in tribulations, too! If you’ve been struggling to find joy in suffering because you can’t see the “good” that you’ve been hearing about in Romans 8:28, take heart! KNOW that suffering in the lives of God’s children allows us to become more like Jesus and there is nothing better or more “good” than that! It’s for His (God’s) purpose that we’ve been called, not our own!