When Bad Things Happen (Part 2)
The good that Paul writes about is a commitment of life to the sovereign will of God. It is complete trust in God. It is a conviction that cannot be blurred even by the reality of human suffering.
Unfortunately, unlike Paul, many of us do not trust God as our sovereign Lord. We spend so much of our time and energies running around trying to reason things out and only running into dead end streets. We have enormous difficulty understanding and accepting the obvious spiritual truth that being good does not mean only good things will happen to you. We think being "good" as it were, should exempt us from troubles and when it befalls us, we frantically search for hidden meanings. It is because we cannot find satisfying answers that a multitude of us are quite willing to toss our faith and God aside and spend the rest of our lives groping helplessly in the dark.
I have witnessed, and I am sure you have too, individuals crack under the strain of personal tragedy. We have all observed the aftermath of accidents and other unexpected deaths which claimed the life of one member of a family and functionally end the lives of five others. Because of some illness, or injury or rejection or disappointment or death, I have seen people undergo radical personality transformations. They were unable to reason out their circumstance. Their faith was shallow and predicated on reason.
If God is on the throne, then we can live confident that all things are working out for our good. If God is on the throne, we will see a good that goes beyond our finite understanding. This is what faith is. Faith is most clearly demonstrated when bad things happen. But we have trouble relying on God and trusting His sovereignty. We want to know everything. We want to know what we can't know and keep ourselves confused and pessimistic. Seneca expressed this tendency well when he said, "We fail to know what is necessary, because we utilize our time studying unnecessary things; we do not know what is good for us because we are consumed in studying only what injures us."
We can struggle to ascertain all the answers and it will always be an exercise in futility for "who can know the mind of God?" Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 13:12; "Now we see but a poor 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."
The life of faith covers every single situation. Our endeavor to explain everything, establishing our own sense of well-being, will only throw all of life out of kilter. The affirmation comes at the point that we trust the sovereign God who created us, sustains us and offers us salvation through His incarnation and redemption in the person of Jesus Christ. For Christians, all things do work together for our good. We do need to be very advanced in years to look back and see how things we thought were so disastrous, worked out to a be a greater blessing than we could have ever hoped for.
Now, we must note the fact that according to Paul, things work together for the good only to those who love Him. If we love and trust and accept God; if we are convinced that God is the all-wise, all-loving Father, then we can accept and manage any difficulty that comes our way, regardless of how trying it may be. Epictetus once wrote: Have courage to look up to God and to say, "deal with me Lord as you will. I am yours. I flinch from nothing so long as you think it is for my good. Lord, lead me where you will; put on me what you will; I will love and defend thee always before men."
And Paul added another attachment to his assertion; things work together for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The called are not merely those who receive an invitation, but they accept it, were born from above and know from experience the love of God.
When bad things happen, the faith that had been idle while good things happened, kicks in. When the road gets rough and the hills become hard to climb - faith; when we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death - faith; when our world crumbles around us and we cannot see any way out of the mess - faith; When we hear of tragedies visited upon the innocents - faith. When we cannot understand the why's - faith.
Christians understand that the Bible does not state or even intimate that we will not suffer. Jesus' life is our example life and His was a life of suffering. What the Bible does make clear is the promises of God. God has promised to be with us in our suffering and struggles. God has promised victory over temporal suffering in eternity. And that, my friends, is the key to understanding the reality of God's promise that all things do work together for good. God is present with us. He is in our every circumstance.
God takes the pain, the hurt, the difficulty and walks with us through them - transforming our whole perspective on life. The essence of a surrendered life is the knowledge, the confidence, the faith that all things do work together for good in God's eternal plan to those who love Him; to those who are called according to His purpose.
When bad things happen - FAITH!
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification, browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall or review our recommended books you may want to add to your personal library.
Blessings to all!
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