All for Good

* This is a reprint of a meditation by the late Herman Hoeksema from the September 1, 1928 issue of the Standard Bearer and translated by Henry DeJong, a member of First PRC of Holland. The entire meditation is printed. The ellipses are part of the original article.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Wondrous knowledge!

We know, we are sure in our mind, that all things work together for our good, for us, who love God, whom He has called according to His purpose!

We know that beforehand!

We are convicted of it, without taking into consideration things as they present themselves to us; yes, even though it seems to be in conflict with all our experience.…

What wonderful conviction rising above all earthly things!

In relation to earthly things, who would ever dare to elevate himself so boldly, to have the courage, to possess the power, no matter how capable he still may be, so to boast? Who now would ever undertake something, put himself to the execution of a plan, to the realization of a goal, and not be conscious of the fact that achieving the intended goal depends on many things over which he does not have any control, so that he could never boast that all things must work together for good for him?

No, the presentation is even bolder here.

Place before yourself a ship in the midst of a violent storm at sea. Fiercely and wildly howls the storm, the raging sea is high and rough, lashed by a raging, furious hurricane whose huge waves destroy everything in their path, while they roll and tumble over the deck of the ship. Everything creaks and groans, and piece after piece of the vessel is carried away by the powerful waves into the gloomy, dark depth, until little more remains than a miserable wreck. In front of the bow, not far away, lie the rapidly approaching cliffs of the rocky coast on which within a few moments the ship, which has become rudderless and a plaything of wind and waves, will be dashed to pieces. The crew is desperate. But in the midst of all this, the captain stands calmly, and with a voice steady and strong, above the roaring storm, he calls out to his men, “All this (storm and seething sea and the menacing cliffs), all is for us and must work together, in order for us to sail into the safe harbor!”

So bold is the jubilation here, the triumph of the faith of the people of God!

All things!

Without any limitation!

There is not a single exception.

Things in the heaven and things on the earth and things in the depths beneath.

Living and non-living things, rational and irrational creatures. Angels (who are sent out for the service of those who shall inherit salvation), but also devils and evil spirits (who go about as roaring lions in order to devour what can be devoured). Brothers in Christ, but also the ungodly and enemies of God and His covenant. The course of the sun and the course of the stars in the lofty firmament; the shapes of the clouds and the falling of the rain; the eruption of the volcano and the shaking of the earthquake; fire and water, heat and cold; the roaring storm and the gentle wind; good and evil things; love and sorrow, the sweet and the sour, joy but also sadness, rejoicing but also grief; God’s Word (that is a lamp for our feet and a light upon our path), but also stake and scaffold, spear and sword; peace but also war; health but also sickness, riches but also poverty; the rumbling of the thunder and the flashing of the lightning, abundance but also scarcity, life but also death….

All things work….

And all things have their influence also on us and on the course and the direction of our life.

They cooperate, they work together, they combine into the end result of their work; they run and push, they toil and trot, they twist and turn themselves around and around, they roll and revolve, they seethe and burn; or they think and ponder, deliberate together and form their plans, they sneak and crawl, they flatter or threaten or bless….

But always in such a way that the total fruit of all the labor of all creation must be for our good. Consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, all things must work together in order to bring us to the Father’s house and to place us in possession of the everlasting good!

We know that; in our hearts we are assured of it!

Upon the wings of faith we may lift ourselves far above all the swarming of every creature, and in the light of God’s presence, by faith we may know that whatever moves works together for us for good!

What wondrous knowledge!

For good for whom?

For men, for all, for me and for you?

No, not for all is this knowledge, not for all is this boast of faith, not all have the right to boast like that.

For all things can also work together for evil. The ungodly, saith my God, have no peace. Indeed all workers of unrighteousness grow and flourish. They spring up as the green herb. They know of no restraints until their death. They are not in trouble as other men are. They are not vexed. They walk broad, smooth ways. They enjoy more than the heart can desire. Prosperity appears their portion. And all that, in order that they should be destroyed everlastingly….

They do not know this. Of this working of things they have no notion. As the brute beast, they are fattened for the day of slaughter. Yet they continue to rush to destruction, walking in their ungodliness. Though they exalt themselves in their wickedness over against the righteous, all things work together for their destruction!

But it is not so with those who love God.

Not as if they would pride themselves in that love for God, or would seek in it a ground for why all things would work together for their good. God forbid! Also, not as though they were transformed into lovers of God by the choice of their own will. If that were the case, then all this boasting of faith would of necessity be on their lips constantly. No, by nature, of themselves, they were exactly like the others, enemies of God, children of wrath, dead in sins and misdeeds, being hateful, hating God and each other. Also no call by mere human voice could ever bring about a change in them. Should a voice ever seek to call them to God, they would stifle that voice; should a hand ever seek to draw them out of the darkness into the light of God’s presence, they would cast off that hand from themselves, in order to stay in perdition. Filled with dreadful resentment against the living God, by nature they too would walk towards destruction….

Not any human work (precisely therein lies the power of the glory of their faith) brought a change in them.

But God called them! Called them according to His purpose. And that purpose lay rooted in the eternal love of the divine heart of the Father!

For God had first loved them, and their love is only the fruit of God’s eternal love. Therefore, they stand so firmly. Therefore, they know to be so triumphantly joyful. Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth revolved around its axis, in the timeless depth of eternity, God has loved them. Loved them with a love, the depth and height, length and breadth of which can only be measured by the fearful cross of the Only Begotten, the wondrous power of which the believer alone understands, though never fully, who by that accursed tree found redemption for his soul.

That love, that incomprehensibly free, that unfathomably deep love, is the source of all and the ground of the Christian’s boast of faith. Out of the wondrous depth of that love arises eternally God’s unchangeable purpose to glorify with the very highest glory that people whom He loves, to press them as children to His heart, as brothers of His Son to give them a place in the Father’s house, as friends of God to have them dwell in His tabernacle, eternally….

Out of that great love, according to that unchangeable purpose, He called them out of darkness into His marvelous light!

He called them, not with a human voice, but by divine irresistible persuasion. Called them by His all-powerful grace, by His Spirit and Word, laying hold of them in the heart, opening their blind eyes, piercing their deaf ears, pouring into their heart the wondrous love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Thus they came to love God.

For that reason they know that all things work together for their good.

For in that same purpose, according to which He called His people, not only lies their final destiny (the destiny of those who love God) eternally and unchangeably secure, but also the course and development of all things. Nothing stirs or moves, no angel goes out, no devil lies in wait for our destruction, no drop of rain ever falls, no drought burns, no star shoots in space, no little sparrow falls from the roof, except it always happens according to that same purpose. And thus everything lies firmly (in its nature and development, place and destiny and working) in that purpose, so that in relation with the great whole it must work together for good, unto salvation, to the everlasting blessedness of those who love God!

Therefore, because of the consciousness of faith, all things are so secure.

For this reason, in the midst of all the storms of life, in the midst of every disaster and pain and sorrow, in the midst of accident and suffering, the love of God makes us know that we are so secure.

Because that love did not arise out of ourselves, is not the fruit of our own choice of the will, but arose from eternal mercy….

And because by that same eternal mercy, all things were ordained before the foundation of the world.…

Therefore, faith rejoices triumphantly: we know that all things must work together for the good of those who love God, whom He has called according to His purpose! Therefore, that same faith does not hesitate to include all things, both good and evil, under His purpose.

All things for good! For whom?

For those who love God!

His called ones!

We know!

Wondrous knowledge!

Blessed assurance!

Joyful triumph of faith over all things!

O, if only our heart would continually participate in that jubilation and this exultant cry of victory would always be heard from our lips in all the circumstances of life!

Ah, how often it is otherwise with a child of God!

No, if all things go according to the flesh, if the heaven above us is unclouded, and no storms threaten; if the way is smooth and does not go through the depths; if there is no enemy in sight and there is peace and no danger; if prosperity on prosperity waits for us each morning anew and there is no misery, then it is not difficult, it makes no sense, it costs no battle, it does not sound wonderful, if we exclaim that all things work together for good!

But when the way changes, when the path rises steeply into the heights, or threateningly descends toward the depth; when in the distance thunder rumbles; when pain and grief in body and soul become our portion, sorrow fills the heart, suffering tears our flesh, the enemy gathers himself for battle, the sword is sharpened against us, and the bow is bent against us for Christ’s sake, the scaffold is placed in readiness and the fires are stoked at the stakes; when it is night and no help seems to be forthcoming….

Then to rejoice that all things work together for good, that is faith! That is the language of triumph! That is God glorifying!

And then, ah, then, we stand so often at first ashamed! Then in place of joyous exultation so often a fearful complaint comes over our lips! Then the half-hearted outcry rises so quickly from the oppressed breast: All these things are against me.

And yet, also then it is eternally true: all things work together for good!

And precisely then, there is the greatest need for that courage of faith.

Precisely then, by that jubilation of love, our faithful covenant God is most glorified!

Oh may the Lord, the Source of all good, the Fountain of all grace, continually and over-flowingly pour that love of God into our soul, whereby in the greatest griefs we are able to rest in the Lord! For, is it not so, as all things only work together for good for those who love God, so also the knowledge, the joyous assurance of this fact, is only to be enjoyed in the way of the love of God….

He holds us closely to Himself! And we fight the good fight, keeping His commandments!

For in love there is no fear! And walking in love, we shall also be able to speak the language of love, of faith, of hearty confidence:

All things work together for us for good!

Glorious knowledge!

Joyful praise!