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.
Ah, those famous words. “All things God works for the good of those who love him…” Romans 8:28 are words that often seem to come up when we are confounded by life. They are tossed our way by other well meaning souls in hopes of offering genuine comfort or at the very least in hopes of placating our souls. For some these words do bring great comfort, for others, they can seem empty and even mocking.
I confess I’ve been in both camps at various points in my life. Sometimes, I’m able to lean and trust that God’s plans, even if they are not working out in my favor are still good plans… Other times, I’ve wondered how any part of a life burden could bring good?
It was reminded me this week that a little more than 6 years ago, I was in a pit of sorrow. I had just gone through one of the most trialing times ever in my marriage to that point. We had made it. But life was still raw and uncertain. Yet, God found reason to place in my womb a new life. And all I could figure was that He must have a good plan. God must know something that I didn’t at the time. He knew I could somehow handle caring for a new life when my own still seemed so fragile.
But, as the weeks went on… that life, that flutter of a heartbeat vanished. And I was left in the dark about God’s good plan. I was left with a vacant hole in my heart. I was left rocking and trying to understand how a “Good God” after so much hardship would strip away the very thing that might of been good, that might have testified “Restored,” from our lives.
Yeah, Roman 8:28 rang hollow in those days.
But, life steps forward whether we are ready to step forward with it, doesn’t it? Sunrise to sunset the days come and they go, and we move with them. And to some extent time does heal all wounds and God speaks again. Jesus softly whispers: “I didn’t do the destroying. I’m too good for that. I came for you to have life, abundant life.” (Ref. John 10:10)
And there were glimpses of the good plan again. If only in that I now knew the grief another might encounter. I could now better (I hoped) walk alongside someone, and mourn as they mourned.
Good enough, I suppose.
Leading the children in Sunday school last week, I found myself lead to the story of Joseph. You know him? Josephs story begins in Genesis 37, picks back up in Genesis 39 and continues until the end of the book.
Joseph: the favored son, the one who bared the envy of his brothers. The boy who at 17 was tossed in a pit, sold as a slave, later thrown into prison, and oh yeah, who God was with the whole time, yet he still couldn’t seem to catch a break.
As I read the children’s version of this story to these wide eyed 4 and 5 year-olds, I heard myself saying after every turn of the page, “But, God had a plan.”
I began to wonder, if Joseph ever questioned God’s plan? Did he ever think, “Seriously? Now what?”
It is true we don’t know his thought process in the whole matter, and sure, there is plenty to wonder about. Was it wise for him to so chipperly chat up his brothers about these prophetic dreams of his? Eh, maybe not. Should he maybe have second guessed working in the house alone with his bosses wife? Probably.
However, the theme that I kept catching as I went back and re-read the story. I began to see that whether Joseph was acutely aware or not, whether things were good or not, God was still with him.
God was with Joseph when everything he did prospered and God was with him when it all fell apart in his hands. God never at any point said, “Sorry, I’m out.”
In the end what did Joseph have to say about all that he had gone through? Essentially (and I am paraphrasing) he was able to say, “I can now see God had a plan.” (Ref Genesis 45:4-8)
You see, when we are in the midst of hard. When we are in the valley of sorrow, or pain, or whatever heartache we face. The thing I hope you will remember is that God has not left you. Whether we are the subject of the enemy’s cruelty or our own poor choices. Whether we are a victim of circumstance or have come to where we are by our own steps. God has not left. He sees. He knows. And He can and will bring us to the other side, however far the journey. Why? Because of the other part of that Romans verse. Because we love him, we have been called according to his purposes. He has a plan.
Later this week we are celebrating a birthday. Six short years after my time of deep sorrow, I will hold the hand of a little girl who will be turning five years old. I call her my “Rainbow Baby.” She is the child born after the storm. Born after grief and loss. She is our gift. And God didn’t skimp either. He gave her passion, and the light and love of several children. The very light of her smile is testimony that God overcomes darkness EVERY TIME.