This is Good!
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
~ The Apostle Paul | Romans 8:28 (NLT)
What is Good?
Each of us longs for a perfect life. Plenty of money, peace, love, no worries, healthy, fun! Perhaps it’s life on a beautiful sunset beach? Or living on a gorgeous estate with gourmet dinners, fine wine and servants at your beck and call? Or a simple and quite life in a small cabin in the woods? What does it look like for you?
We want our perfect life so much that we obsessively work to obtain it. We might get close, only to find that when we get there, it’s moved. So, we buckle down and go for it again… only to find our dream remains elusive.
Maybe all is going well in your pursuit, then suddenly a jolt hits out of the blue. Bam! A bad diagnosis, trouble with your child, the loss of your job… You cry out to God, “If you love me, why do you let these things happen?” …but they do.
You remember Romans 8:28, “there must be some good to come out of this. Somehow God will fix my mess so I can get back on track toward my perfect life. Now that would be good!” You wait, and wait… nothing. You rationalize that maybe some good came, but not directly to you, while in the back of your mind you wonder, “… maybe God is not so good.”
“Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good.”
Matthew 19:16-17 (NLT)
The rich young ruler sought to obtain his perfect life by doing good works, so easy to believe! Jesus’ response bursts his dream, in a sense saying, “what you seek is too small, and not truly good.” In doing so, he raises the question, “What is good?”
“one with the One”
“Good” from our standpoint is anything that helps us live out our perfect life. “Bad” is anything that comes against it. Though I know God would not consider himself our adversary, he has an overarching goal for our lives that often conflicts with our dreams. He seeks oneness, a restored relationship with him to what he originally intended. He knows this is far better than living out our worldly dream life.
I was speaking to a friend who has emerged from a long and heavy health battle, one he would not wish on his greatest enemy. It took everything he had to hang onto God in the midst. His life will never be the same. More importantly, his relationship with God has been forever altered. No one but God could understand what he went through. Only God was at his side the entire time… holding him in his pain, accepting his angry outbursts, leading him through it. From that dark battle came deeper oneness with God. I could sense it in my friend. I wonder, could this have been obtained in any other way? Our omniscient God must not think so.
“In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”
The Apostle Paul | Romans 8:17 (NLT)
You proclaimed that Jesus is the leader and ruler of your life, right? Perhaps you were like me back then, only envisioning my future glory. In fact, if you had asked me, I likely would have thought that accepting Christ as my leader would make my perfect life here even more possible, thinking, “Doesn’t a good God want this for me?” I don’t recall having any thoughts of enduring a path of suffering, let alone that suffering could yield good. Did you?
What is “good” then?
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
The Apostle Paul | Romans 8:29 (NLT)
Jesus said, “There is only One who is good,” referring to himself, the firstborn. Paul understood that we all must ultimately fall in line behind Jesus and that requires becoming like him. When we accepted him as our savior, we committed to follow him. Jesus suffered, so must we. But a good God ensures that our suffering yields good.
So…what is good? Becoming one with the One who is good.
God did cause my friend’s battle, as difficult as it was, to yield good. He is now more “one with the One” and this is truly good!
Loosen Your Grip
Our longing for the perfect life can be so strong that we are prone to resist God and this prolongs our suffering.
“The yoke that God gives is easy to bear if you accept it without struggling to escape. You make life more painful for yourself when you resist God in the least way.”
Francois Fenelon | The Seeking Heart
I remember in the midst of driving through blizzards back east, suddenly realizing my hands were in a knot. A “white knuckler!” For some reason our instincts make us think that a tighter grip helps. In fact, the tightness hinders, making us more vulnerable. The grip on our perfect life is a white knuckler. The more threatening the scene, the tighter the grip… who wants to embrace suffering? Our resistance intensifies, our pain increases as we envision our dream life escaping. Like the tense driver, failing to trust God creates knots in our lives that make us more vulnerable. It will pay to loosen your grip on your perfect life.
Love à Purpose à Oneness
The good news is that God does not make the path to Oneness a secret. We don’t like the thought, but suffering plays a key role in getting us to where he wants us. Paul teaches that the “good” (i.e., Oneness) comes to those “who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Love comes first and while in the midst of your struggles, God will clarify your unique path to oneness with Jesus. Ironically, your purpose could come from your suffering. That’s one way God works.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
The Lord | Jeremiah 29:11
How deep is your love for God? Great enough to pursue what he created you to do while you’re here, even in the midst of struggle? Obedience to his call on your life will deepen your love for him. God says, “Embrace me! I have a plan for your life and it is good. Pursue it! As you go you will encounter struggles. Embrace them! I will use them to lead you into Oneness with Jesus. This is good!”
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