One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the saga of Joseph and his brothers. You remember how the spoiled brat brother–smart aleck Joseph is stripped of his fine coat and, thrown into the pit, then sold into slavery? Then after much suffering in exile he is used by God to save his family from starvation, and in saving them he preserved that same family to eventually produce the savior of the world.
This story is the perfect story to show God’s mighty hand in ALL his works–even the stuff that is intentionally evil and even in the things where Satan seems to prevail and even in the suffering and sorrow of the world.
As a kid I had to memorize that sweet verse, “All things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
It is easy, of course, to turn this into a bromide–a caption for a poster with a sunset, a beach or a puppy dog or kitten. But there is much more to it than a simple, “Cheer up. Every cloud has a silver lining. Look on the sunny side of life.”
The real depth of the verse is in the fact that God’s providence rules over all in the end, and ALL things will bring about his glory. The hard truth is that even the damned in their eternal rage and fury prove his justice. C.S.Lewis wrote somewhere that in the end for the saved even their sin will have been part of the action God used to bring them home, while for the damned, even the good they did will be for their damnation.
Therefore, no matter what our personal circumstances, whatever our confusion and fear, whatever is going on in the world, whatever is going on in the church–we do not fear. God will prevail and even the evil will be used, in the end, to prove the power of his providence and the omnipotence of his Love.
It brings to mind that other passage from the same chapter of Romans which encourages us to never lose heart and never lose hope:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
On this Friday in Lent when we survey the wondrous cross, remember that this is the ultimate example of this truth: that we did the most horrible thing imaginable–we tortured and crucified the Lord of Glory, and he turned it into the mechanism of our eternal salvation.