One of the most encouraging verses in the entire Bible is found in Paul’s letter to the Christians living in extreme persecution in the city of ancient Rome. Paul says it like this:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
This passage brought me great hope for the first time when I was just a teenager and was experiencing some extremely difficult hardships at the time. And now that I have several more decades of life under my belt, I can say this passage means even more to me now than it did as a teenager. At this stage of my life, it is much more than hope. It is experience.
I’d like to share with you ten amazing ways I’ve found that God works things together for good in our lives, even when we wouldn't have expected it.
1. He Provides
One of the most amazing things I have discovered over the years is that God truly provides even in the midst of extraordinarily difficult circumstances. And He generally does so in ways that I never would have expected. Many times He has taken me through a path of loss only to bring me into pasture of abundance. God gives, and He takes away. But I have always found that He ends up giving me more than He has taken. And most of the time, He would not have been able to bless me if He had not first taken away those things I thought I needed at the time.
2. He Changes Hearts
God actually has the super-amazing ability to change hearts. At times he has changed my heart to conform with His perfect plan. At other times I have seen him change the hearts of others in order to accomplish His will in my life. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. Like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1, NKJV).
3. He Protects
Even as God protected the Children of Israel in the midst of the plagues in Egypt, I have seen God protect my family and other Christians who have been in the midst of extreme hardship. There have been times in my life in which I have felt like I was experiencing a set back. But after allowing time to sort things out, I was able to see that God was actually taking me out of the way of a greater harm that could have befallen me. He was truly protecting me.
4. He Empowers
Another profound thing I've seen over the years is that God has the ability to empower me through challenging events in a way that I never could have experienced otherwise. God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), and He tends to give us the greatest amount of his divine power when life is in those darkest hours.
5. He Befuddles the Enemy
When you feel that someone is tormenting you, and they just seem to be "getting away with it," you can dismiss that notion from your mind. Even when you cannot see what God is doing, you can rest assured that He is at work—even in the hearts and minds of your enemies. Justice reigns, and He has the ability to confound the works of the wicked.
6. He Strengthens
A famous theologian once made the statement, "Whatever doesn't kill us will make us stronger." OK, that was not actually theologian. It was Arnold Schwarzenegger! But God clearly uses adversity to make us stronger. The key is to run TO God and not AWAY from Him in times of trial.
God has used trials to strengthen me over the past several decades to the point that I can now withstand hardships that would have crushed me when I was a young man. I am thankful for His spiritual strength which He has imparted to me through those trials.
7. He Builds Your Character
Nothing purifies our character and motives quite like the fiery furnace of trials and tribulations. And it is important for you to know that we all NEED that type of refining. God uses pain to turn us into clean, pure vessels for His use.
8. He Heals
Just as God allowed Lazarus to die so that He could demonstrate His power over death by raising him back to life (John 11), at times God allows us physical maladies so that He can heal us for His glory. He is the Great Physician and has the ability to heal when that is what is best in your particular situation. And I have seen His healing in ways that have convinced me that He is truly in control.
9. He Develops Your Wisdom
I don't have an exact measuring tool here, but I would estimate that 90% of the wisdom I have gained over my last several decades of adulthood have come during hardship—and not when times were easy. When we are dialed in to God, He can use pain and difficult times to help us to learn about life in ways that we never could have experienced in times of bliss.
10. He Gives Purpose and Direction
God often gives us direction and purpose by pointing us on a certain path in the midst of hardship. God ultimately called me to pastoral ministry due to hardships that I experienced when I was younger. I know many counselors who were called to counseling after they had experienced seasons of deep pain. I know of youth/children’s ministry workers who were called to ministry after they went through difficult times in their own youth. God can pull you through the storm and into a bright new day of ministry like you've never experienced thus far in your life.
God is good, and He can work all of the events of your life into a great masterpiece—if you let Him.