It’s one of the many wonders or paradoxes about God. Going against the expected, the obvious or the natural order of things.
It’s one of the reasons why I love Him.
Take this promise: God makes all things work together for my good. (Rom 8:28)
All things. Not some things or most things. Yes, especially the bad things.
It doesn’t mean that God caused or intended the bad things. We know that bad stuff happens for numerous reasons, including some that are totally inexplicable. And that, this side of eternity, he generally allows them to happen. Suffering happens in our fallen world.
But get this: No matter what occurs in life, God is able to turn things around, so that good can come out of something evil. It may not happen immediately, or we may not see the connection for quite some time. But the process mirrors his way of redemption and grace.
Nothing is irredeemable. Nothing is beyond the touch of grace. Just as a seed is buried and forgotten in the dirty earth, only to rise up as a beautiful flower or majestic oak, so too God is able to take the dark and awful places of our lives and bring about something that reflects His glory.
The story of Joseph in Genesis is the prime example of this. Joseph starts out with such hopes and ambitions, only to find his dreams shattered as he gets thrown in a pit, sold as a slave and ultimately put in prison. But even in the dank prison, God remains committed to Joseph and to fulfilling the purposes he has for his life. Opportunities arise, Joseph gets promoted and life starts to look good again.
Joseph endures a run of dire circumstances and mistreatment but remains faithful to God and doing the right thing. When he finally gets re-united with his brothers and reveals his identity to them, he says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT)
What an amazing picture of God’s intervention and grace! He didn’t prevent the actions of Joseph’s brothers who tried to harm him. He didn’t stop Joseph ending up in prison. But he turned those situations around and caused good to come out of them. Likewise, if we love God, he promises to make everything turn out for good in the end.
In my own walk of faith, I have seen evidence of this spiritual principle at work in my life. When my dad’s cancer returned and his prognosis became increasingly unfavourable, I felt compelled to invest time in writing a novel for my sons. The project had been on my mind for a while, but for some reason, my dad’s illness inspired me to write.
It was cathartic writing on the train home after visiting him in hospital. The more he deteriorated, the more I wrote. Despite the desperately sad feelings, and literally seeing him fade further away with each visit, I felt that I couldn’t just mope around depressed. When he died in January 2012 I had nearly finished the manuscript. In the days and weeks after the funeral, having already given up my part time teaching job, I focussed on completing the final chapters. When I went to visit my mother a month and a half later on her birthday, I stayed up late that night, sat at my dad’s table to type the last few pages of the first draft. I finished around midnight.
It felt significant to finish a project that I’d been working on for over a year in that very place at that very time. While I experienced immense loss, I also experienced overriding assurance that I had created something of worth, a labour of love. I know that I probably would not have started writing the story, were it not for the difficult circumstances in which I found myself. The anguish of losing my dad was still brutally painful, but his death didn’t have to mean only an end. For me it signified the beginning of a commitment to write – to start this blog, to pursue freelance opportunities again, to consider publishing my children’s novel. I had birthed something out of the most painful period of my life so far.
I’ve yet to find a publisher for the book. But, somehow that doesn’t seem so important any more. I mainly wrote it with my sons in mind, and technology means that the older ones have already been able to read it on a Kindle device. A hard copy isn’t necessary these days.
I love to be reminded of God’s ability to make good come out of bad, undermining the negative equations that should result from the natural order of events. The above song from Jesus Culture, that we sometimes sing at church, encourages me time and again that he makes ALL things work together for my good.
And what about the car crashes, the emergency operations, the major disappointments and all the stuff that just goes wrong? I don’t know. All I know is that through the trials of life I have learned to have compassion and empathy for others going through similar circumstances, where I might once have ignored their plight. And I have learned to trust, as Joseph did, that even in the dark times God is with me.
So I’ll continue to hold on to that promise, and revel in a God whose equations often don’t add up.