"All Things Work Together For Good"
"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." Romans 8: 28
It seems that any time there are difficulties or challenges or downright rotten things happening, somebody brings up the phrase "all things work together for good" and that it's in the Bible. Many use the verse to conclude that God does these things and that we're missing the silver lining. Maybe a philosophical attitude that "life ain't fair" or everything will come out okay in the end. In this time of the Wuhan virus and the resulting attention on the reality of death, one might well wonder how any of this could be true.
To begin, this is not some Pollyanna, rose-colored-glasses statement. Evil exists. Satan has influence and the world is in a fallen condition. So evil, selfish behavior, deadly animals, accidents and storms all exist. There's nothing in Scripture to refute that, in fact it gives the most clear-cut explanation of these facts. All things are not good in and of themselves, and it would be mockery (as well as foolish) to say that they are. But God allows, rather than causes dreadful events (refer to the book of Job). Why? I draw your attention to another part of the passage. The verse says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” All things work together. By itself, sodium is a deadly poison, and so is chloride. But put them together, and you have table salt. It makes preservation of food possible, which in turn made lengthy exploration possible, which in turn.... We need some salt for health and life. We cannot live without salt in our systems. It even flavors food. So, if something else must need to work together with the crummy circumstances-- What?
Any time we have a difficult event, we have a choice: Either to come closer to God in trust and humility or to get farther away in anger, despondence, blame or lack of trust in God and some resulting skewed self-reliance. God allows events to give us another chance to come to him. And adversity gives opportunities for building trust & relationship, just like soldiers sharing hardship who can grow life-long closeness. Or families that share & overcome the challenges of --camping! So part of all things working together is that we turn to & immerse ourselves in God's presence & promises and see how he guides us through. However, the outcome is God's design & goals, not necessarily ours. God's word to us says "all things work together for good". I've noticed that it's natural to lose focus on the Eternal when faced with a problem. But God does not forget that we're here to be more like Christ. That’s the goal. That is this "good" for which all things are working together. To make us like Jesus. There is no higher good than to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly, Christians I talk to typically recognize that things they initially thought to be very bad, were turned into things very good. Not because of "sour grapes", but because of God's transformation of their lives and their Spirit-led realization. Oh, and this is a good place to point out that things we recognize as "good" can also work to this end (God's purpose mentioned in the verse)--after all, these verses say "all things"!
Lastly, we need to point out for whom this working-together-for-good happens. It is for "Those who love him (God) and...are the called according to his purpose". When those who reject Christ or the concept of being like Him try to "use" this to make a bad situation tolerable or educational- without God- it is sad because the entire purpose and power are already rejected. The Eternal opportunity is unwanted & wasted. Sigh...They need to know the Truth. (My space is overflowing, for an illustration, review Joseph in Genesis 37-46.)
So, no, the virus is not good. It is the product of a fallen world and probably of people with nefarious intent. But God is more powerful and can use even such a thing to draw people closer to Him. I'm not the Holy Spirit, so I can't necessarily tell you your personal possibilities in this. But it seems that this is a time to reacquaint with people (they're home!) and the Bible in more thorough ways (being careful of what you see online). Regain quiet time with God as the treasure we are often kept from in the typical busy schedule. Especially, tell folks why we're careful, yet we're not as worried about this virus--or death--as are people who don't know Christ. Individually, dreadful events can be devastating & crushing, as Christ's they can be transformed. Pastor Geoff