“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
This verse is one that is commonly misunderstood among Christians. The verse tells us that everything in the life of a Christian works out for the better. Many understand this verse to mean that if God loves you then you will have good health, wealth, and your best life now. However, many of us experience illness (like cancer, diabetes, or crohn’s disease), the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or many other horrible things that can happen during this life. So when tragedy strikes Romans 8:28 seems more like a broken promise or even a lie.
However, this is an improper understanding of the verse. Let’s look at it in its context. In Romans 8:18-25 Paul teaches that our present sufferings are nothing compared to what awaits Christians after Christ’s return. At this time, Christians will be glorified with their resurrected bodies, and Jesus will usher in his kingdom, a perfectly restored world without sin, suffering, and death. This puts all of our sufferings in perspective. No matter what happens in the life of a Christian, heaven will make all of it feel like nothing in comparison.
Paul tells his readers in the following verses (26-27) that until that time we are to rely on the Holy Spirit. Even though we may not be able to properly understand the struggles in our day-to-day lives, we do know for certain that everything will work together for good for those who are followers of Christ (Romans 8:28).
It doesn’t end there. Romans 8:29 helps clarify even more what this “good” is: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.” God’s definition of “good” is being conformed to the image of Christ. The “all things” in this verse is that everything that happens in our lives occurs to accomplish the purpose of being conformed into the image of Christ – to being glory to God, advance the gospel, and to teach Christians love, humility, and other things.
God is mixing together the great triumphs and tragedies in our lives for his sovereign purposes for the world, which include changing us to be like Christ. Even though bad things happen God is working it all out for our good. Pastor Eric Bargerhuff says it well:
“So even if great suffering and tragedy come to your door, please know that as a believer in Christ, God is orchestrating something for his and your good. And as he weaves his plan, we can rejoice in knowing that his plan is tailor-made for each of us as he seeks to make us more like him. Life for the believer may not always feel safe, but it is good (both in this life and in the life to come). There is no greater security than knowing this.”
The “good” in this verse does not deal with having what we consider “good” things in this current life (money for example), but has to do with being made in Christ’s image. This will be fully fulfilled when Christ returns to not only change us, but the rest of creation as well.
 Eric J. Bargerhuff. The Most Misused Verses in the Bible (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2012). 69-70.