At an earlier time and an earlier place, I believed that each event in life contained some good in it. I frequently would refer to Paul’s statement in Romans 8 “that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God” as somehow making my point. The point was that, if we just look closely enough, we will find good in all things. No matter what people faced in their lives, I looked for the hidden blessing in each life event.
Then tragedy struck our own family, and I suddenly found myself at a new place in my thinking. There is nothing good about losing Jeff. There is nothing good about my grandchildren who will grow up without their daddy. There is nothing good about my daughter’s loss of her soulmate and life partner. So Paul and I found ourselves at odds with each other. The great hope Paul speaks of in Romans 8 seemed to evaporate like the morning dew, and I could not see anything good.
At one point, I found myself recounting in my mind all the disappointment that 2016 brought to us. Within our family, we were told no about potential job opportunities. We were questioning whether we had bought the right house because it had more rooms than we really needed. I had applied for a clergy renewal leave grant that was denied. It seemed as if the year had brought nothing but disappointment. The brightest spot of the year was that we had two new grandbabies on the way.
Then on September 23, every disappointment we had experienced was forgotten in a heartbeat. Nothing was as painful as the new reality being thrust upon us.
So as I processed the darkness we were facing, I began to reflect upon all of the disappointment and tragedy that defined this year. Then my mind went back again to Romans 8, and as I looked back through that great chapter on suffering and hope, I saw the phrase again. “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God.” Only this time, I read it differently.
Nowhere in Romans 8 does Paul say that tragedy or suffering is good. He doesn’t say that all things are good. He said that all things work together for good for the ones who love God. So what does that mean?
It means my wife serves as a principal in a school district with a phenomenal superintendent and staff who more than covered for her and allowed her to be gone for two full months to take care of our daughter and granddaughter. It means that I serve as pastor in a church with a staff and a group of leaders who completely covered for me and protected me in such a way that I could be fully present with our daughter and granddaughter for seven weeks.
It means that we have room in our house for our daughter and granddaughter each to have their own rooms along with a room for a nursery for a baby due in January. It means that, when the baby comes, I will not be on renewal leave but will be fully present to help out with the grandchildren. It means that we have our son and his family living locally to broaden and strengthen the web of support.
It all suddenly became clear. All of these disappointments and seeming setbacks throughout the year had now become our blessings. Every “no” had become a “yes.” They had freed us up to be fully available to our daughter in her darkest time. Indeed, while there was nothing intrinsically good about any of these events, they did, in fact, all work together for good.
So as we discover the “new normal” that is beginning to take shape in our lives, I have come see that I can trust God … I can live according to God’s purpose even in this new reality. And yes, I can see that all things can work together for good and can provide for us a profound hope that, even during times of tragedy and grief, nothing can finally separate us from God’s great love!