Romans 8:28 is currently the background of the lock screen on my phone, to a cool edit that my friend made (thanks Kari!). If you live in Holland/West MI, you know that we’ve lost more people unexpectedly this summer than we thought possible, and the past months have been impossibly hard. Yet, when I pray and when I read my Bible and go about my day, the words of this verse keep popping into my head.
“He works all things for the good of those who love Him”.
HE works ALL THINGS for the GOOD of those who LOVE Him.
All things? Are we sure? In a world where teenagers attend multiple funerals for friends and teachers in one summer, where the news is based on bombings and threats and accidents, when days are overwhelming and long and there is not enough energy to do anything….all of these things are working together for GOOD?
I’ve been struggling with this verse for as long as I can remember. The first time that I remember feeling a sense of not-good was when I attended the funeral visitation for a boy that I had gone on a youth retreat with, who died in a car accident at 16 years old. I felt it again at the news that one of my sister’s roommates had passed away during her junior year of college when I was a freshman….and again, and again, and again. I have lost track at somewhere around 12 funerals in the past year and a half, with all but two of the people being under the age of 50. With this much loss comes the overwhelming feeling that this cannot be how life was intended to be – this cannot in any way be good.
It’s a feeling that starts deep in my gut, pulsing and pushing and hurting. It spreads to every fiber and muscle, something that feels like a cross between being antsy and needing to be sick. I know that it will make itself to my head, hitting with a headache and tears and shortness of breath, almost to panic attack levels. It is the without-a-doubt knowledge that something is not right, and the world is not even close to how it is supposed to be.
Yet, through that horrible feeling, my mind and my heart know that God is working things together for good. I have these words bouncing off the walls of my brain, trying to comprehend how God is working all things for good and yet I am holding friends and students in my arms as they say goodbye to teachers and friends. It’s trying to put together the pieces when the first funeral that I officiated as a pastor is for a 9-month-old baby boy, and yet, God is still good.
The words of Hillary Scott’s song “Thy Will” sum it up well – “I know You’re good, but this don’t feel good right now.” I’m at a spot in my community and my work and my world and my life where most things do not feel good right now. Maybe it’s the recent tragedies that have hit, maybe it’s the exhaustion that comes with fall programming, maybe it’s everything rolling together in to one big ball. I don’t know. What I do know is I’ve got a knot sitting in the bottom of my stomach because I know that what I see in my world is not good. I know the world is not good and not right and there is nothing that I can do about it.
But that piece is where I’m learning the beauty of Romans 8:28. Because there are so many days in life where the darkness is overwhelming and where nothing is good, but yet in all of the crap that this world there are still glimmers of light that poke through. There is strength to be found in grief and love found in pain that does not appear any where else in our lives. There are these moments that are so unexpected and surreal and perfect in the midst of pain – final messages left days before accidents, songs that speak the exact words needed, pictures that will live on forever – that I have to believe that there is something good coming out of bad. I’ve seen it happen first hand. I don’t know how to explain it, but I do know where it comes from. Because only the Creator of the Universe and the God who is over all things could possibly make something good out of our bad.
As humans, we don’t often see how there can be beauty from the ashes of our lives. We get caught up in the tragedy and the pain and the loss and we get blinded by the darkness that surrounds us. We forget that even though we are small and scared, we are loved and cared for by a God that can make good out of any situation, even when we see no good in it. There is a lot of bad in our world, and I’m not saying that these situations are good – because they are anything but good. What I am saying though, is that there is a chance that good can come out of the worst places, and that this is only possible through God.
When life does not feel good and when we have knots in our stomachs and tears in our eyes, there is not much good to hold on to. But the greatest part of our reality as Christians is that we follow the God who can create good from our tragedy and our loss and our pain. If there is any chance my darkness can turn into light, I am going to run head first to the One who can make that happen, because I know I can’t do it on my own.
How beautiful is it that we serve a God that not only sees and understands our darkness, but cares enough about us that He turns our darkness into light. It doesn’t change the darkness, and it doesn’t take away the pain that we feel, but it gives us the light at the end of the tunnel to hold on to and to run to. And that is the good for those who love Him.