Romans 8:28 says "28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." What exactly does this mean?
There is a false assumption made by some that if we give our lives to Jesus, we will be free from harm; I think this is a dangerous position to take. Think on this a moment (And read Romans 8 at the end of this post); God did not spare the life of His own Son, whom Isaiah calls a man of constant sorrows (Isaiah 53). The people of Israel in Jesus' time were not looking for a suffering savior, but a conquering King, and I think, at times, we do the same. Don't get me wrong, He IS coming back, and He WILL conquer, but this present age is still broken, we live in a fallen world with fallen people who do fallen things to one another. So how is this for my good? Think on this, as we grow closer to Christ, Jesus promises we will have trouble (John 15:18), and the more we live for Him as we ought, we will see suffering and persecution HOW we respond to that persecution is important. Take a look at Acts 5, as the Apostles were told not to speak the name of Christ: " 40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the name. 42 Every day in the temple complex, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that the Messiah is Jesus. "(Acts 5) So is all suffering related to our walk with Christ? No! Some of it occurs because we live in a broken world. There is sickness, death, and sorrow. It happens. We can't control it, and not do we always have answers (Job is a big indicator of this!). But James tells us to count it all joy when we go through trials of various kinds, as such suffering produces in us steadfastness (Perseverance is another good word). When we seek to get in shape, our body suffers for a time. Our muscles ache, sometimes we get physically ill, and we usually do not like the workout! However, the results speak for themselves. These trials, and trials they are shape and mold us; God uses them for our good! We may not be who we want to be, but we are for darn sure not who we used to be! In the hottest part of the fire, the impurity burns away from the pure gold...and the finished project is more powerful and pure than the raw material pulled from the ground! So life doesn't feel good right now. I'm sorry to hear that, and I'm praying for you. So you've messed up. Repent. Come home, and turn away from your vices. People stop talking to you. Rejoice! To suffer is to feel a small part of what Jesus did for us, and our suffering (and how we respond to it) will show others how Jesus can change a person! We may not understand; but we don't always understand the pattern until the painting or weaving is done. Once the product is finished, there's no denying the skill of the artist. Take a deep breath, pray, and trust that God is working it all for your good.
Romans 8:18-39 English Standard Version (ESV)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God's Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[c] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[d] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.