Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If I had to choose only one example of this verse coming true in my life, it would be my brother’s death.
My only sibling, Jason, was fourteen months younger than me. Growing up we were similar athletically and academically. But during high school he started partying and abusing drugs. He dropped out of school and received his GED. We were encouraged when Jason enlisted in the Army. He joined the 82nd Airborne, which involved jumping out of planes. He said he developed pain in his knees. We don’t know if that was true or an excuse to obtain prescriptions from the military hospital. Either way, this is when he became addicted to pills.
Jason separated from the Army after four years of service. He started breaking into people’s homes and raiding their medicine cabinets to satisfy his addiction. He was arrested and I still remember how difficult it was the first time we visited Jason in jail. We had to speak to him on opposite sides of the glass. He was released, but soon after was arrested again. Unable to find a job because of his criminal record, he moved across the country hoping to rejoin the military. That was the last time we saw Jason. A few months later, I received the phone call from my dad that Jason had overdosed in a motel room.
How Did Jason’s Death “Work Together for Good”?
I was in my early twenties, single, and teaching elementary school at the time. I threw myself into my work, hoping to stay distracted from the grief. It didn’t work. I was struggling.
A Christian friend who worked with me said:
“My pastor lost his brother when he was about your age. You should come to church with me and speak to him. It might make you feel better.”
I had no intention of becoming a Christian. I thought I was a good person who would go to heaven. The idea of being saved or born again was foreign to me, but going to the church to speak to the pastor was attractive. I had never attended a Christian church before and during the sermon, for the first time in my life, God spoke to me through His Word. Though I did not meet with the pastor about my brother that day, I already looked forward to returning the following Sunday. Soon after, I repented of my sins and put my faith in Christ.
A few years after my conversion, I reconnected with Katie. We were pleasantly surprised to find the other had also become a Christian. Less than a year later, we married. Around the same time, my heart for teaching decreased and my heart to be a pastor increased. I started working part-time as an associate pastor, and when the church grew, they hired me full-time as an associate pastor.
My Parents’ Salvation
My greatest desire during that season was seeing my parents become Christians too. After praying and sharing the gospel with them for about five years, they surrendered their lives to Christ. Ephesians 3:20 says:
“[God] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”
This verse was fulfilled in my life when I baptized my parents. They moved to be with us in central California, and when I received the senior pastor position at Woodland Christian Church, they followed us up to Washington. Dad serves as a deacon in the church, and I dedicated, Marriage God’s Way, to him because of the courageous, faith-filled way he has endured his trial with Alzheimer’s.
My brother’s overdose was the darkest, most painful situation I have experienced, but I can say God brought forth more good from it than any other event in my life. Jason’s death, as tragic as it was, led to me visiting a church where I learned the gospel. My salvation, my parents’ salvation, the privilege of raising seven children to serve the Lord, and over ten years of pastoral ministry are a few ways God made “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). I could not see it at the time, but I can look back now and recognize the wonderful end intended by the Lord.
We (Often) Cannot See How Things Will “Work Together for Good”
The Book of Job is forty-two chapters long. The first two chapters reveal the conversation between God and Satan that sets in motion the following forty chapters. James 5:11b says:
“You have heard of the perseverance of Job.”
Who is “you”? It is us! We can read the discussion between God and Satan to see why Job’s suffering took place, but who could not see how things would work together for good? Job! He experienced trials that did not make sense to him because he had no idea what took place behind the scenes.
Consider Abraham. Since Genesis 22:1 says, “God tested Abraham,” we know it was a test, but Abraham did not have this knowledge. All he knew were the words of Genesis 22:2: “Offer [Isaac] as a burnt offering.” He had to wonder why God would make this request. He must have struggled with the morality of taking his son’s life. Abraham did not hear from God again until verse twelve when the Angel of the LORD said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad…for now I know that you fear God.” At that moment, Abraham learned it was a test, but he did not know that earlier during the three most difficult days of his life.
While Job’s trials would have been difficult regardless of his understanding, they would have been more bearable if he had the insight we are given. Much of his frustration during the conversations with his friends came from the confusion he experienced. Job’s friends said he was a terrible sinner, but God’s assessment was: “There is none like [Job] on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8, 2:3). We know God said this, but Job had no idea. He was forced to wonder, “Are my friends, right? Why is this happening to me? Is God angry with me? Has He forsaken me?” These are the same questions we might ask when we are suffering.
Even though we are privy to the conversations between God and Satan, we still have questions: “Why would God let Satan do anything to Job? God stopped Satan from doing certain things. Why did He not stop Satan completely?” We do not know. The Bible does not tell us. When some people experience a particularly difficult trial, they feel as though God owes them an explanation. If God did not need to explain Himself to Job—a man who experienced the worst trials imaginable—He does not need to explain Himself to us.
Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section
- Would you share when God was able to “work together for good” an event in your life?
- Can you provide an example from Scripture when God was able to “work together for good” something that initially seemed terrible?
- Unbelievers and some genuine believers ask, “Why would a loving God ____?” How would you answer this question, considering 1 Peter 3:15 says we must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [for] a reason for the hope that is in” us?