In the title you likely recognized a very familiar passage from Romans often ripped from its context and applied to different life situations indiscriminately. When that happens the meaning of the verse in the larger passage becomes muddled, and even lost. The idea of God working all things for good can adopt a diminished connotation, taking on the secular definition of good — a positive, pleasing outcome.
So where was God at work for those who love Him when the shooter in Charleston entered His house and began making martyrs with a pistol?
The answer requires that you travel back months and years in the faithful journey of the pastor and the disciples of the church who were mindful of preparing their hearts and souls for an event that they never imagined would be visited upon their church. They took seriously what the Lord taught in the Beatitudes and shaped their souls with his command to love your neighbor as yourself. They knew the necessity of recognizing the heart as the wellspring of life and were diligent in prayer and study to strengthen in shape that heart.
The good that God had worked in his people in the AME Church in Charleston was seen almost immediately in the aftermath of the shooting. A feverish news media descended on the crime scene looking high and low for someone who would shout words of racial division or a demand for the scalp of the shooter. Disappointed, all they received from the remaining members of the church were Christ-like words of forgiveness and love for the young man who had made such life shattering decision.
This is a challenge to understand until we grasp what Paul is saying in this verse in its context. The good that God works for is those things that increasingly conform us to the likeness of our Savior. It may be positive things and it may be life-changing events. Both stretch and test our souls in different ways giving the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to shape and mold us into the people that our Father intends us to be.
People whose first impulse is to love and forgive when hateful revenge seems to be the most appealing course.
image by Ken Wilcox