In Manifest, Season 1, Episode 10, Crosswinds, we find out that Karen Stone’s gravestone reads “All good things”, a misquote of her favorite bible verse, Romans 8:28. At first, this misquote appears to be an inconsequential shortening of the verse, because it includes the same words as the correct version of the quote, “All things work together for good”. In fact, the difference in wording changes the meaning of the verse, and we have to question what that means for Karen’s state of mind.
Karen’s favorite verse, Romans 8:28:
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. (Bible, New International Version)
A typical interpretation of Romans 8:28, from Bible.org:
Romans 8:28 is one of the most familiar verses on this subject. The NASB reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Due to a textual variant, the ESV translates it slightly differently and, I think, more accurately: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” But either way the sense is the same. All things don’t just happen to work out for good on their own. Rather, God providentially works all things together for good for His people according to His purpose.
But while Romans 8:28 is a source of great comfort when it is properly understood, it is often misunderstood and misapplied. Some think that it teaches a Pollyanna positive outlook on life, that everything will turn out for our happiness in this life. But this denies or greatly minimizes the reality of suffering and evil. It insensitively says to those who are suffering: “Don’t worry, be happy, your loss isn’t really so bad.” But the verse isn’t saying that.
I haven’t been able to find any evidence that Karen’s use of “All good things” is common shorthand for Romans 8:28 (if I’m wrong, let me know). Instead, I find articles discussing the misinterpretation of the verse as written, with believers inclined to make the meaning of the verse more personal instead of global, as we saw Karen do in the pilot, before everyone got on their respective planes.
In the pilot, Karen used the correct phrasing, “All things work together for good.” (Manifest828.com) By the time she was dying of cancer and pushing Jared toward Lourdes, she’d changed the wording to “All good things.” (Connecting Flights, S1 Ep5)
So where did the new phrase come from?
It sounds like she conflated Romans 8:28 with the proverb “Good things come to those who wait.” There’s an older version of the proverb, “All things come to those who wait.” When you take that into consideration, the words on her tombstone sound like the beginning of “All good things come to those who wait,” which is a similar sentiment to the meaning in Romans 8:28, but it’s not the same. “All good things” only requires patience, and the subject will eventually be rewarded.
Romans 8:28 requires that one be a devout Christian and accept that God is directing the allocation of good things. As noted in the Bible.org quote above, the verse from Romans specifically means that things will work out eventually according to God’s plan and what’s best according to God, not what is best for an individual. “All things work together for good”, the correct quote, is a more global assurance that everything will be okay in the long run. “All good things”, the misquote that Karen turned to after Ben and Michaela were believed to have died, is more personal and doesn’t require a belief in God.
Karen took the sudden loss of both of her children hard, as any mother would. When she hears that the plan is missing, she says, “Not both of them. Dear God, not both my babies.” Then she begins to pray out loud. Perhaps, as time went on, and her prayers weren’t answered, Romans 8:28 ceased to comfort her as it once had. It became harder to focus on the good of God’s plan, when that plan included taking both of her children from her.
So maybe, instead, she quietly altered her thinking to “All good things come to those who wait.” She didn’t necessarily stop believing in God or God’s plan, but she did stop putting emphasis on it in her daily thinking. She stopped waiting for everything that happened in her earthly life to come together for the good.
Instead, she focused on Heaven, where, if she waited patiently through this life, she would eventually be reunited with her children. In episode 5, after she gives Jared an afghan she’s knitted and her blessing to marry Lourdes, she tells Steve that she’ll be with Michaela soon, and she wants to be able to tell Mick that Jared is okay. That’s the first time we hear her say “All good things”, instead of the correct quote.
Romans 8:28 requires belief and work with no promise of reward for an individual Christian. It focuses on God’s plan for the entirety of his people, a plan that might require large amounts of pain and suffering on the part of individual Christians. Karen had never fully internalized this aspect of the verse until she experienced the massive pain brought on by losing both of her children at once.
“All good things (come to those who wait)” restores the promise that Karen lost when Flight 828 disappeared. It’s a promise that’s open to everyone, whether their faith is gone or wavering, whether they are too heartsick or physically sick to practice their religion. All Karen needed to do was be patient and keep going. It’s simple enough to help get someone through the hardest days, and optimistic enough to give hope on the darkest days.
It would remind Karen that she’d see her babies again, if only she could be patient.
Images courtesy of NBC.