I once listened to Bill Cosby give one of his classic comedy routines comparing God’s creation of the universe to human inventions. It went something like this…”Man invents. God creates. Man invented the AUTOMOBILE. Called it AMAZING! God made a tree and said it was good. Man invented the REFRIGERATOR. Called it INCREDIBLE. God made a rabbit and called it good. The wheels fell off the car. The refrigerator lost its cool. Tree’s still up and rabbit’s still runnin’.”
We westerners are the masters of overstatement. I don’t know if this has come from the increasing importance of marketing and advertisement to our lives or the denigration of language to the point that everything is backwards. It’s probably a combination of lots of factors.
Anyway, the thoughts of this post developed after a couple of conversations I had with different friends on two separate occasions. Both of these individuals were going through very difficult circumstances. Both of them are Christians who hold to the truth that “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 ESV) And both these dear friends were experiencing very little comfort and hope from this truth.
It was not the first time I had seen people (including myself) say these words like a child eating their veggies. Good just doesn’t sound that good to us anymore.
When we hear that God is working all things together for our good, we tend to think of God more as an opportunist than a grand orchestrator of all human history. Bad things come into your life and you find some small measure of relief in thinking that God will at least make some lemonade out of the lemons. If you’re really blessed He might even be able to add some sugar. He sort of takes the edge off the pain of life in this fallen world.
I would argue that God is doing so much more in our lives than simply making bad times better. His promise encompasses so much more than simply the promise of escape one day from the pain of life in this world. In God’s economy “good” is perfection. It is not the bad with a band-aid over it. Good is how He described a newly created universe that reflected His own glorious image. Good is how He describes His own character.
Think about the sinful consequences and failures that have come into your life either from your own sins or the sins of others. We tend to suffer through them looking for that small silver lining somewhere along the way. What we fail to recognize is that even these human failings are sparkling with silver all the way through. The very fact that God ordained such sin to touch your life is the clear evidence that good has already begun its work. Don’t believe me? Think that God works in spite of your sin not through it? Honestly answer these questions: Are you as sinful as you could be? Have you suffered as many consequences for all your sinful actions and choices in the past as you could have suffered? I sure haven’t! Why does God protect us from some sins and give us over to the pain and consequences of others?
The answer is that He is working out the absolute best plan for each of His children according to His purposes for us as His treasured possession. When God brings suffering into my life, the source, intensity and duration of that suffering is the absolute best thing for me to accomplish my greatest joy in Christ. As I battle with the weakness of the flesh, God is at work protecting me from some sins while giving me over to others in such a way that His providential workings are producing the best of all possibilities for me and my family.
To truly believe that God is working past, present and future for my good is to live a life of faith mixed with contentment, trust mixed with peace. We still ask “why” from time to time. And we still need to remind ourselves of the promise of good He has made to us. But now we do it with a taste of divine sweetness that leaves us wanting more.