All Things for Good
Life during the pandemic is hard. Christians (like everyone) are losing jobs, struggling with loneliness, and worried about the future. Even though we know God is in control we still ask questions like: Why is God doing this? How can God allow something so bad to happen to me/Christians? How can losing my job be good for me and God’s glory?
One way of answering these questions is by remembering Romans 8:28 ‘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.’
Romans 8:28 is the sole subject of this short book by 17th Century Puritan, Thomas Watson. Watson fleshes out the well-known portion of Scripture above in glorious detail, using simple English, descriptive language that speaks to the heart, and a host of numbered lists that make the reading easy to follow.
The book is available online as a free downloadable PDF.
Watson breaks down the text into three main sections: A glorious privilege (all things work for good), the people interested in that privilege (those who are called of God and who love God), and the effectual calling and its origin.
In the first section Watson clearly lists how and why absolutely everything in our lives – the best and the worst – work together for our good. I particularly related to ‘desertion’ (which was on the ‘worst’ list). As a Christian I have sometimes felt far from God, almost deserted by Him. Watson shows how and why even this can be for our good. Watson says ‘the Lord cannot be said to withdraw His love from the wicked, because they never had it. The being deserted, evidences you to be a child of God.’ (29) This flipping of what looks miserable into something positive is typical of Watson’s text and was heartening to my often pessimistic outlook. Watson goes on to say in colourful language that another reason desertion is used for good is because it ‘cures inordinate affection to the world’. We should use the world, he says, only as ‘an inn where we take a meal – but it must not be our home’ (30). In the uncomfortable world in which I’m living right now this exhortation was apt.
In the second section Watson explains what our love to God should be like, reasons for loving God, and signs of that love. One of the signs of our love for God, Watson says, is ‘crucifixion to the world’. While the ‘devil makes us look upon [the world] through a magnifying glass… love to God swallows up all other love’ (59). Like the example in section one, this image was particularly helpful and encouraging to me in a time in which the world and its inadequacies seem especially clear.
In the third section Watson shows, amongst other things, how God’s call on us is tailored to our individual personalities. And how election – a difficult concept to understand – is gracious, irresistible, precious, glorious and completely unchangeable. This positive view is both humbling and reassuring. It left me feeling covered on all sides by my God.
Reading, discussing and praying through this book with a friend was time well spent. As the truths in this verse informed our prayers it was a wonderful comfort to think of prayer, as Watson describes, as ‘a key which unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy…[a] sovereign medicine of the soul…[and a] dispeller of sorrow’ (12).
Armed with the knowledge that everything a day can throw at me, a child of God, is for my good, is eternally encouraging in this time of COVID-19.
Brenda Daniels and Robyn Turton