Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This is one of the most quoted verses in the whole Bible, but we still pay it far more lip service than we do actually believe it. When things happen that we don’t like, our usual choices of action seem to be panic, anger, despair, or something similar. The idea of thanking God for whatever it is rarely progresses beyond the theoretical stage. From here through the end of the chapter Paul pounds home the truth that God is bigger than anything that could possibly face us, so when we commit ourselves fully to Him, there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Because this is so hard for us to grasp on the emotional level, Paul touches on it again and again. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) That peace, incidentally, is something every person alive desires and seeks, whether they realize it or not. When we have that peace, it becomes easy to follow something else Paul said very famously. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20) It is only when we are convinced that God is God and we belong to Him that we are able to thank Him for everything He allows in our lives. It is never that He desires evil for us, but rather that He sees the end from the beginning and orchestrates everything so that it turns out for our good, just as this verse says. Even in the Old Testament Joseph famously said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Over 20 years ago now I was lying in bed thinking, not actively praying, “There are so many things I wish were different.” At that point I heard the Lord say to me, in words that I don’t think anyone else could have heard but which might as well have been audible, they were so clear, “How do you think I feel?” That was a powerful lesson that God never desires evil for us, but He often allows us to experience the consequences of sin, our own and that of others, as well as simple mistakes, to teach us and grow us to be more like His Son indeed, for our blessing and His glory.
I am in the middle of another training incident in this. Yesterday morning I was rejoicing in all the little pleasures and joys of being home again, but then after lunch I went to the cell phone store to see about correcting a problem with my phone. I had taken my Chinese phone (that I had happily been using for over a year in Japan) to the US to try installing an American SIM card in order to use it there. At a store in one city I did get such a card, and it seemed to work in the store, but it never worked thereafter. In another store in another city, I was told that phone was simply not compatible with the US cellular system, so I gave up and bought a cheap phone to use for the duration of the trip. However, for the rest of the trip I had to eventually turn the power off completely to the phone I had brought from Japan, because it kept rebooting at regular intervals. Yesterday at the Japanese phone store I discovered that the phone that I had used happily for over a year would no longer recognize that it had a SIM installed at all, making it useless as a phone, and since I had used it that long, it was out of warranty. My instant frustration and depression was quite interesting, from an objective standpoint. Here I was so upset at something that was essentially a luxury, that 20 years ago I would not have dreamed of. I have looked down at those who have seemed glued to their phones, yet I am being shown that I am in no way superior to them, regardless of differences in degree. I am to thank God for this experience and allow Him to show me what He wants me to have, in all humility and gratitude, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this experience. It is an expensive one financially, but in various ways You have been showing us that it’s never about money, it’s about hearing and obeying You. Help me walk in gratitude and trusting obedience at all times, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!