What Is Good?

Glenda DuranoBy Glenda Durano6 Minutes

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. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28-29).

The Oxford Dictionary claims that the English language has 171,476 different words. This does not include 47,156 “obsolete” words — but, hey, who’s counting? Oh, that’s right. I am.

Of all those words, “set” has the most definitions — with a whopping 464 different meanings. “Run” places a distant second with 396 designations and then comes “go” with 368. No wonder we have so much miscommunication!

Many words have multiple meanings. Most of those definitions are found in dictionaries, but some aren’t. Some definitions are very unique — so much so that the precise connotation of a word may only be found in one place: your head. For example, the word “good.”

The dictionary defines “good” as “to be desired or approved of.” Yet, because we all desire different things at different times, our definition of “good” may be quite distinctive. Additionally, our own meaning of “good” may change depending on the situation. Is a snowstorm good? (If you’re at a ski resort, yes; if you have to drive to work, no.) A new job? (Is it a promotion or a demotion?) A new car? (Did you have a wreck?) A funeral? (Was the person a believer?) Depending on the precise situation, any of those circumstances could be viewed as good or bad.

And that’s the problem.

Romans 8:28 states, “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.” In all things? For the good? Really? Sometimes it just doesn’t seem that way, does it? Like …

When the doctor says you have cancer.

When your spouse asks for a divorce.

When you file for bankruptcy.

When your home is destroyed by a natural disaster.

When a fellow Christian is raped or robbed or killed.

How can that be?

Honestly, I don’t know. But that’s where another important word comes into play: truth.

Truth is what God says about the matter. It’s His Word and His Way. Unchangeable and undeniable. Truth is truth, regardless of what you think or feel, and regardless of the circumstance. And because Romans 8:28 is found in God’s Word, it’s the truth — even if we don’t understand it — because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).

During difficult situations, a lot of Christians are confused by Romans 8:28. It’s hard to understand how an absolutely tragic situation can eventually work “for the good of those who love him.” However, one of the main keys to understanding God’s truth is more of His truth.

Romans 8:28 is easy to misunderstand unless you read the verse in context, using verse 29 to clarify the meaning of verse 28. Immediately after Romans 8:28, Paul writes: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” In other words, all things really do work together for good as we become more and more like Him.

So, can God use suffering to conform us to His image? Absolutely. Can he use pain? Certainly. Does that mean God brings tragedy to our lives? Not necessarily. But if God does allow pain and suffering in your life, you can trust that He will certainly cause it to work “for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

James 1:2-4 encourages believers: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I pray that when I meet my Sovereign Lord and King face to face, I will not lack anything, but the only way that’s going to happen is if I am indeed “conformed to the image of his Son.” That probably means that at some point in my life I will “face trials of many kinds.” But praise God, He is faithful to stand with me during my trials in order to help me become perfect and complete. And that, my friend, is definitely “good.”