Romans 8:28- "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
As I think on the theology of this passage in light of the current issues and scenarios that all fit providentially into our Lord's amazing plan for the world and me, I'd like to pose a question: What can we learn from this present circumstance we find ourselves in? Almost every aspect of our lives have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic; we aren't able to gather together for corporate worship, we aren't able to send our children to learn in their schools, many are working remotely from home, and many aren’t working at all. It’s a difficult time for so many on so many different levels.
The Bible tells us that the trials in our lives, if responded to biblically, can bring spiritual growth and spiritual good in our lives (James 1:3-4). Many times, that’s exactly the purpose of the trial that has come into our lives: for our "spiritual good." Often in this passage, we distort the term "good" in this verse to mean what we want rather than what God wants - His will. The phrase "all things work together for good" refers to a process similar to that of a child taking bad-tasting medicine.
This good refers to a process where God uses "all things" - our present circumstances - to bring about growth in our lives. If we look closely, I believe we can find (at least) three "spiritually good" outcomes during these inconvenient and troublesome times.
We're finding time for our families once again.
Let’s face it, this is an unusual time. Without school schedules, spring volleyball practice, or baseball tournaments, we’re all "stuck" with our families every evening. Sometimes, all of the extracurricular activities, while not necessarily bad, distract us from one of the best gifts that God has given to us: our family (Psalm 127:3). Families are spending more time together than ever and to me, that’s "spiritual good." Realize that you have the most valuable blessings from God sitting right in front of you at the dinner table every evening. Please, use your time wisely; don't waste this experience! Pray and study scripture together, memorize a passage as a family, talk with your children about their fears, hopes, and dreams; read books, play board games, sing hymns, play outside, do chores and housework together; learn who your children are and what makes them tick. Take this time to shepherd their hearts toward Jesus (Proverbs 22:6). If this present situation brings our families closer together and closer to God and his Word, then we have found a good, spiritual blessing!
We find a longing and love for corporate worship
If our time apart from gathering in God’s house on Sundays creates a hunger and thirst to be together in worship, that is a good thing. Church attendance has been declining for years. I’ve watched it from a pastor’s perspective over the last forty years as the passion and love for gathering to worship on the Lord’s day has dwindled. Gathering together for corporate worship is commanded in scripture (Hebrews 10:25), but it should be much more than the completion of a duty, rather the soul's satisfaction of a need and desire (Psalm 122). As we "gather" online using Facebook Live or Zoom, or as we watch our friends or music artists sing worship songs on Youtube, you may feel uncomfortable; it just doesn't feel right. That is a good thing; online "church" shouldn't feel normal! God wants us to be together in person to worship His holy name. If being apart for what is hopefully a brief time creates within us a yearning and a longing to worship the God of our salvation together, then that is a "spiritually good" thing.
We find our love for each other
It’s always intrigued me that the early church, most likely formed by total strangers, had such a love for each other (Acts 15-16). Keep in mind they didn't "go way back" or have long histories of knowing one another. They didn't grow up in Sunday School together, hadn't attended each other's birthday parties or graduations, their children didn't get spoiled by the church candy man or receive kisses from the adopted church grandmother. Yet, from their apparent first meetings, these strangers, brought together by the grace of God, sold things they treasured to meet the needs of their fellow believers in this new community (Acts 2:45). This act of selling personal possessions to care for fellow believers was never demanded, nor instructed in the Epistles, it was a spontaneous act of love that they shared one for another. Oh, to experience that kind of sacrificial love for our fellow believers. If this time of being apart increases our love and care for and service of others, then that is a "good thing."
These are just three possible blessings that we may find during this unique time. Are you willing to look for the spiritual goodness in this difficult time? Are you willing to look for the blessings God has given you? Are you willing to submit to his will in bringing these circumstances about for your growth? Are you willing to confess areas of your life that need change? You might not like the process, but the outcome of surrendering His will means "all things work together for good."
-Guy N. Roberts