Romans 8:28 is one of the most uplifting verses in all of Scripture. However, it is also one of the verses most often taken out of context. There is a sense of comfort provided in a situation knowing that the circumstance amount to a larger purpose but is this always true? The implication of the statement “everything happens for a reason” is that the reason everything happens is good. Romans 8:28 is often used to prop up this reasoning, and I have certainly done this in the past. But a closer examination of the text undermines this lofty notion that everything happens for a good reason.
Upon further reading of the text, we see numerous surrounding the statement “We know that God causes all things to work together for good” The indirect object of the sentence is “those who love God.” And this indirect object is further elaborated by stating “to those called according to His purpose.”
The sentence upon its simplest read in the NASB 1995, places a massive limitation on the scope God works all things together for good on. In other words, this verse does not apply to the general population. It only applies to those who love God. This is an entirely different category of human being. Mankind in is basest state is at enmity with God (Romans 5). Therefore those who love God refers to Christians, as the rest of the verse elaborates.
Romans 8:28 is about the elect, not the general population. Romans 8:29 continues by saying “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined” revealing God’s love for us long before we were born. Therefore the meaning of Romans 8:28 ties in to predestination stating that God predestined all things to work together for the good of His elect.
This is rather comforting for the elect; however, this verse offers no comfort for those who are not.; In the video I show a clip where Romans 8:28 is misquoted using a pop culture example. And the lesson is that when we say “everything happens for a (good) reason” we make an argument that fails under scrutiny. We simply have too much of a burden of proof when offering a defense for our faith. However, if we say that God works things for the good of those who love Him, the burden of proof is far more subjective and personal. We do not have to explain “God’s reason” for every little action or historical event.
What Romans’ 8:28 says is far more meaningful and realistic than benign sentiments. The truth of Scripture is far more meaningful than fortune cookie theology such as statements like “everything happens for a reason.”