Article by David Mathis
Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Philippians 4:12)
He is not just the God of our good times. He is the God of all times. Which means he’s also the God of our worst times.
He is not just God when we abound, as Paul writes in Philippians 4:12, but also when we are brought low. He is God when we have plenty to eat and when we experience hunger. He is God in our abundance and God in our need. He is God in any and every circumstance, and this is wonderfully good news — because life is so much more than just the good times.
Even and Especially the Bad Things
When Paul says in Romans 8:28 that “for those who love God, all things work together for good,” his point is not to persuade us that all the good things in our lives work for our good. We already believe that. It’s easy to imagine that the good things work for good.
The point is that even and especially “the bad things” in our lives, and our hardest of times, are being worked for our eternal good by our almighty and merciful Father.
To make sure we get the point, the next few verses list some of the worst possible things: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword (Romans 8:35), even being put to death for the faith (Romans 8:36). Will these bad things, the greatest difficulties, the worst sufferings ultimately bring us down and work for our bad? “No,” he says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
It is true that the good times in life are for singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” God means for us to worship his holy name when life is good, when the sun comes up, when a new day dawns. He wants us to sing in gratitude and praise when all is well and when it’s easy to see his kindness and love and patience and goodness. In the best of times, yes, we should be on the lookout for some of the ten thousand reasons we have for praising him.
But the times that we truly sing like never before are when the “whatever may pass” is hardest, and the “whatever lies before me” is most difficult. It’s in life’s toughest seasons, as we feel life’s greatest losses, that we learn to worship at new depths and with thicker, richer substance.
Life’s most meaningful moments and the seasons of most soul-stirring worship typically come not when life feels at its peak, but when our strength is failing, even when our end, or the end of a loved one, is drawing near. These are the times when we discover like never before that God truly is with us and transcends the blessings of this life and really is all we need.
We may have ten thousand reasons to praise him in the best times, but this one reason can suffice in the worst times: He is God. And no matter what else we lose, nothing can separate us from him.
I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)