“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Auguste Bartholdi traveled from France to Egypt in 1856. His artistic mind was stimulated by the grandeur of the pyramids, the magnitude of the mighty Nile, and the beauty of the stately Sphinx of the desert. While there, he met another visitor to Egypt, who was there to sell an idea to cut a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, which would save merchant ships the long journey around the tip of the African continent. Auguste loved the concept and decided to design a lighthouse to stand at the entrance to this canal.
It wouldn’t be an ordinary lighthouse. It would symbolize the light of Western civilization flowing to the East. In the ten years it took to build the Suez Canal, Auguste drew plans, made clay models, and scrapped plan after plan. Finally he came up with the perfect design. There was only one problem. Who would pay for it? He looked everywhere, but no one was interested. The Suez Canal was opened—without a lighthouse. Auguste went back to France defeated, ten years of toil and effort wasted.
You would have liked his idea. It was a colossal robed lady that stood taller than the Sphinx in the desert. She held the books of justice in one hand and a torch lifted high in the other to light the entrance to the canal.
After Auguste returned to France, the French government sought his artistic services to design a gift to America. The Statue of Liberty lighting the New York harbor demonstrates that what happens in the midst of disappointments can often be a prelude to good things beyond our imagination.
If, for Auguste Bartholdi, things that seem to be disappointing, difficult, and defeating can be processed into that which is magnificent and significant, how much surer is this process with the hand of our wise and powerful God guaranteeing the outcome? That’s what I find so encouraging about Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This oft-quoted verse packs a powerful punch in times of despair and discouragement. Because of Romans 8:28, we know that “good” is the ultimate purpose of the process of pain. And that’s just it . . . It’s a process.
The only way we can accept defeat and discouragement is to believe that God has us in process. Each of us is a work in progress. Though God loves and accepts us the way we are, He sees all that we can become. Pleasure has a way of making us satisfied with ourselves, while pain catches our attention so that God can develop us into His plan for our lives.
The process is defined in several dimensions. First, it’s an all-encompassing process. Since God works “in all things,” we are guaranteed that whatever He permits—whether pain or pleasure, bane or blessing—He is able to use it all to transform us. It is also a continuous process. The fact that God “works” indicates a present, continuous process. He will never abandon His purpose for us or the process to accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). We also can’t miss the fact that it is a divinely inspired process. Behind the scenes of our life story is the hand of God Himself—moving, changing, limiting, applying pressure, providing strength, rearranging. God is the one working all things for our good.
Once we understand how the process works, we always have to come back to God’s purpose: to conform us to the image of His Son. Anything that will bring us to a more accurate reflection of the quality of Jesus in and through our lives is good. Whatever it takes, pain or pleasure, it’s good if it conforms us to His likeness.
I can’t think of anything that would be more “good” than that!
- Think of a time you experienced a season of disappointment or despair. How did God work through that process to conform you a little closer to the image of His Son?
- Perhaps you are going through a painful process right now. What aspect of the process is most encouraging to you—that is all-encompassing, continuous, or divinely inspired? Ask the Lord to give you patience as He guides you through the process, and look forward with anticipation to the good outcome He will bring!
- Do you have the confidence to say with Paul, “. . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . .”? What is the “good work” He is doing in your life today? You can be sure He will finish the job!