When All Things Work Together For Good

That renowned theologian, The Pondering Pig, has decided the world needs more bashing of spurious inspirational verses. For instance, here’s a little verse I came across the other day…

Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.

I know I should just smile gamely and move on. But I can’t. Who wrote this? How can they believe something like that about God?

Let us consider one of my favorite Old Testament heroes, Job. Was Job blessed when God allowed Satan to kill his family and make his skin burst out with boils in a wager to see if Job’s love might falter?

“Oh, thank you God for this honor! Boils and pustules and my wife and family dead in a catastrophe and I’m sleeping in a garbage heap. I’ll just bet this is a blessing in disguise. In fact, I’ve got a feeling this is all going to work together for good!”

No, Job didn’t just smile gamely and move on. He was screaming! He was demanding an audience with the Supreme Being.

“You’ve got some explaining to do, Mr. Supreme Being!”

To me, Job was a real man. None of this “Oh dear. Well, if God has given me cancer he must have a divine reason…” He was going to fight it out to the end.

I prefer the fundamental perspective, as I learned it in YWAM. God doesn’t cause suffering nor want us to suffer so that we’ll be blessed. No, sometimes we suffer because of our own stupid choices. Sometimes we suffer because of someone else’s stupid or evil choices. Sometimes it’s the Evil One out sneaking around making our lives suck. And sometimes it’s germs, which have their own agenda and are no friend of ours.

My Mom, God bless her, when she got feeling down, would say “Well, all things work together for good.” She wasn’t quoting from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul has some serious qualifiers to his little overworked phrase. No, Mom truly believed that

1. God is good,
2. God is love,
3. He is the source of everything, and therefore
4. Evil cannot really exist. It must be an illusion. It was her philosophy, absorbed from all the Unity and Science of Mind books she used to read. Evil is an illusion.

I think Mom was either way deeper than I am or else she had the facts wrong. The reason I’m not totally sure is that Mom was a spiritual heavyweight. She directly changed people’s lives for the better. The power of prayer was never in better hands. She led a quiet and dedicated life. But, for instance, she impacted the lives of both my wives hugely. And is probably the reason my two wives (one is my ex of course) are such good friends today. She taught them both about the power of forgiveness and the power of prayer.

But for me, I gotta stand with the facts. As I see them. I know we evangelical Christians are supposed to say, “Oh, well that’s what the Bible says. End of argument” But I can’t do that. Maybe it’s because I was agnostic most of my life and had to think things out for myself.

For instance, Rwanda…

Beginning on April 6, 1994, and for the next hundred days, up to 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu militia using clubs and machetes, with as many as 10,000 killed each day.

Was this horror an illusion? Was this butchery a blessing in disguise? Are all the dead smiling down from Heaven and did the survivors really learn a lot because of how they butchered or how they suffered?

I believe, I KNOW, evil is alive and well in this world and, if you just sit back and go with the flow, your life ain’t going to get better and better. You’ve got to be prepared to do some serious kicking, like Job did.

I do, however, stand with the apostle Paul’s idea. He said, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose”. In my experience, people who have a tight relationship with God have a completely different take on the world. Like my Mom, reality filters into their hearts and minds differently. And if you are “called according to His purpose”, then your perspective on affliction and suffering is going to change considerable. The goal becomes, not to feel good, but to accomplish his purpose.

I think Paul meant loving the hurting ones, and feeding them, and drying their tears, and spreading the Good News about Jesus to everyone who hasn’t heard it yet. And healing the sick and busting the little girls out of the brothels and smashing the bastards who put them there.

And teaching kids how to play basketball or throw a frisbee so it goes where they want it to. And working to stop torture and bringing torturers to justice. Even if the orders came from the highest levels. And not be scared. And never stop.

I want to be like that.

William Blake’s illustration of Job’s Evil Dream from AllPosters.com

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One thought on “When All Things Work Together For Good

  1. When I was younger and a know-it-all, what I perceived to be Mom’s “evil does not exist” belief drove me crazy. She was an intelligent woman! She had eyes to see! She must have read the newspapers…Well, now I think she just understood it differently than we did. She certainly understood pain and suffering, or else she could not have been so compassionate to those who hurt. I know that she refused to participate in activities that would cause anyone to be hurt, spiritually or physically, and always chose the path of exhibiting unconditional love. If she harbored negative thoughts about anyone, I’m sure she took them to prayer until she changed her thinking, and she encouraged me to do likewise.Senile dementia took it’s toll, as all of us who loved her saw. Whatever was happening inside her brain wasn’t “good” – it was ugly! Yet I will always choose to remember my last meaningful exchange with her, very near the end of her life, when we took her for an outing to the park in her wheelchair. As she had done so many times in her life before, she turned toward the leaves catching the filtered sunlight, reached out her hand towards them and smiled. She tried to say what she often said to to me about light, but could not verbalize it. I held her hand and said something like “It must be hard for you not to talk about beauty anymore…don’t worry – I know what you are trying to tell me! She squeezed my hand and turned her face to the sun and smiled. That’s Mom in my memory.Dementia sucks. I don’t believe God “caused it,” but I know God spilled a blessing out on both of us that day in spite of it.

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