When I was in high school, there were a number of us with 4.0 grade point averages, and thus it was an eight-way tie for valedictorian. Rather than each of us making a lengthy speech, we worked together to make one speech split up eight ways. Each of us had a different topic and three to four minutes to cover said topic. But there was one quote that tied everything together. We all referenced a quote attributed to Corrie ten Boom: “Every experience God gives us, and every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
Remember, Corrie ten Boom was in a Nazi concentration camp for some time. Her family died there. I can’t even imagine the horror of that. And yet, years later, she was able to say that all of her life experiences were preparing her for a future only God could see. She went on to be a powerful speaker who spoke of forgiveness and God’s love. Many people heard the Gospel message through her, even if they only came out of curiosity to hear her concentration camp stories. She perceived that God was using those horrible experiences of her youth to prepare her for greater things as she got older. I doubt she would have chosen to see her life lived out that way, but God used even those terrible experiences to bring hope to others who were hurting.
Now, I’ve been through a lot in my life, but nothing remotely close to a Nazi concentration camp. I sincerely hope I never have to endure such a thing. And my misfortunes in life are nothing compared to that. Most of us will probably never speak to large audiences about our experiences like Corrie ten Boom did, but God is working through our lives nonetheless. Look with me at 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.”
In all things? Really? Because I can think of a few things that sure don’t look like they’re working out for my “good.” In my college days, I naively thought this passage meant I would have smooth sailing in life. I underlined it and put a cute smiley face next to it and everything. But that’s not at all what this passage is implying. One of the basic maxims of biblical interpretation is to “Let Scripture interpret Scripture.” Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
You see, Jesus never promises that everything in life will be “good.” He actually tells us we can expect trouble in this world. But He encourages us to take heart, for He has overcome the world. He has defeated our worst enemies for us already. Sin, death, and the devil have already been overcome. They cannot harm us eternally.
So let’s return to Romans 8. Another principle of biblical interpretation is to take a passage in context. You can’t just pull one verse out at random and make it mean what you want it to mean. Read on in Romans 8:31-39. Paul asserts that despite “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or the sword,” we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). You see, that’s the “good” God promises us—the unending love of Christ. He’s talking about our eternal good. We may have a really crummy life this side of eternity, like the poor beggar Lazarus from the story of the rich man and Lazarus, but no temporal circumstances can snatch away the eternal victory Jesus won for us.
So take heart, dear one. God is working in all things toward your eternal good. Yes, “every experience God gives you and every person He puts in your life is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Sure, that can apply to circumstances on this earth as well, but far more importantly, God is preparing you for a future that only He can see—a future in heaven with Him forever.