A friend asked me recently if we could sing the song "Your Love Never Fails" (Anthony Skinner & Chris McClarney) in our church. I'm generally open to song suggestions, so I listened to the song and read the lyrics. It's a pretty good song, with some great references to Psalm 30 and Lamentations 3. Overall, the song speaks solid, Biblical Truth. Yet one line really struck me. It's found in the bridge, and is repeated several times:
"You make all things work together for my good."
At first, I thought it sounded a little odd; perhaps a bit too colloquial or everyday. And maybe it seemed like a slight over-reach, but not altogether theologically unsound. Consider Romans 8:28, as found in the New International Version:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Carry that statement to its logical conclusion: I am one of "those who love [God]" therefore God must work in all things for my good. Thus, with a little re-wording, it's not a gigantic stretch to arrive at the line from the song. Still, that lyric didn't sit well with me, so I kept reading.
The NIV includes a very important footnote for this verse. It states that in some manuscripts, this sentence reads differently. The note indicates the line could be translated as "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God" or "that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good." Both of these alternatives imply a very different meaning. Furthermore, Romans 8:28 in the English Standard Version reads significantly differently:
"And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those are called according to his purpose."
From the ESV and the alternate manuscripts, I have a very hard time getting to the line penned by Skinner and McClarney. Those translations tell us that God has a greater good in mind, a benevolent plan that transcends our finite comprehension. As we struggle through life's painful experiences, we still know that God is in control, that his purposes will prevail. Even in the NIV translation, the corporate language seems important. To me, God working for the good of his people, is not exactly the same as working for my good. In any case, one other thing stuck in my mind, too.
In Question and Answer 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism, there is a reference to this verse. Though I've never read the original German, the approved translation is that all things work together for my salvation. My salvation is a much bigger concept than my good. Salvation is the ultimate gift from God, a gift we have already received, but will only realize in the future.
So what do you think? Even if you can accept the theology of this lyric, does the subjectivity of the word good cause you any doubt? That word can be fairly imprecise, especially in modern usage. I worry that most people will think first of pleasure and worldly success. That's unfortunate, even if many people see, upon further reflection, that good means something else in this context. Have you used this song in your worship? If so, did you discuss this line with anyone? I'm curious what others think of this song, and whether they are using it.