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 (KJV)
This verse has been one of my favorites since childhood. I’ve repeated it to myself many times in many different situations. It is a verse I can cling to in crisis. All things work together for good to them that love God (Do I love God? Yes. Ok, so that means me.), to them who are the called according to his purpose. (What if I’m not called to a purpose? Wait. In Ephesians 2:10 God says that he’s prepared good works in advance for us to do. All of us. So that means me, too. Ok. Good.)
Sometimes it is obvious how the things in my life work together for good. Sure, it make take a few years for certain situations to become clear, but often I get to see the bigger tapestry that the master weaver was making out of all those seemingly jumbled threads.
Sometimes, though, the good isn’t so immediately obvious. And sometimes, it may never be obvious. Or at least, we feel that we are straining to make meaning out of a situation that just seems just plain bad. And will always seem, well… bad.
If you’ve ever lost a child, or ruined a relationship, or failed at a business venture, or made a flop of a ministry opportunity, you’ve probably been comforted with words about how this will all “turn out for good” one day. But what happens when you never see the good? What happens when the new and better doorway doesn’t seem to open?
Does that mean God’s promise isn’t valid?
The other day, my son worked very hard on a school project. The night before it was due, we were packing his bags for class and realized that two of his notecards of information were missing. I knew he had completed them, so we looked high and low for the wayward papers, to no avail. After he went to bed, my husband and I scoured the house some more, and even took a flashlight out into the back yard to see if they had somehow been conveyed outdoors by a younger sibling. We didn’t find them.
I went to bed that night with a heavy heart, knowing I would have to wake my son early the next morning to re-do all his hard work before getting ready for school. Two notecards may not seem like a lot of work to some, but for my son, who struggles with handwriting and fine motor skills, it may as well have been two pages.
Needless to say, this was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved.
The next afternoon, after the project had been safely turned into school and new homework had been done, we were carefully packing schoolbags once more. I quipped to my son, “I wonder where those notecards could have gone? I wonder if we will ever see them again?”
Then, I got a funny feeling. The feeling you get when watching a movie and you know that something dramatic is about to happen.
My son replied, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll find them again someday.”
Just as he was speaking, I flipped over my daughter’s math notebook. While the words were still hanging from his lips, we found ourselves staring down at the two missing cards. We both looked at each other in disbelief.
I had checked this notebook several times. So had my husband. But there were the two cards, slipped between the notebook back and the clear plastic covering. Framed for all the world to see. One orange, one green. Conspicuous as can be.
“What was the point of that?” I asked God. Why didn’t we see these before? Why weren’t they found in the nick of time? Why did my son have to go through the trouble of seeing his hard work lost, losing time and sleep to recreate it? He worked hard on the project. He did nothing wrong. He had a good attitude and followed the directions, only to see it fall apart at the last minute. Now, here we have the two missing cards in plain view, mocking us with the fact that disaster was not averted for us this morning.
I was questioning, but I wasn’t angry. I was curious. “What, God, is your lesson in all of this?”
I felt like time was on pause. God’s message was plain and clear. Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28. I remembered that I heard my son chanting that verse this morning. He had been stressed about having to re-do his work before school. It was difficult for him, but as he was putting on his jacket to get ready to go, I heard him saying to himself, “Romans 8:28, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:28…”
On inquiry, I found that Romans 8:28 was his verse from Children’s Church that past Sunday. He was comforting himself in this situation the way I have for years.
Remind yourself that all things turn out for good. All the goofy little annoying things. All the tragic big life changing things. All the mildly uncomfortable, seemingly meaningless things. All things. For good.
God also reminded me that sometimes we may never see the good with our own eyes. We may never “feel” the good. We may never even be able to dream up the good in our wildest scenario. But we can know the good is there. Because we know God. And we know his word is true. And he says, All things work together for good…
Even if we don’t see it until we get to heaven.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)