For Our Own Good
The past couple weeks have been fairly trying times in my life. With the majority of my classes in full-swing, I do not anticipate any alleviation of coursework or study to occur, which will inevitably increase the stress level throughout the rest of the semester. So if you would, please say a little prayer for me when you remember. Pray that I above all else seek Christ as my sufficiency and trust that He knows what He is doing, especially when I think He has lost control.
I am fully confident in the fact that college is going to prepare me for life after graduation. I hear and read a lot of things about recent graduates unable to find work, moving back in with their parents, and struggling to really achieve the full-fledged independence of adulthood, but even in my limited view of my life, I do not think that will be the case. Despite living off-campus and having access to a certain degree of freedom not dreamed of in the dorms, I cannot claim to be fully independent in the slightest sense. I am not paying for my rent, my groceries, my gas, or my insurance, so when it comes to the financial aspect of life, I am still very much under the authority of my parents. But when it comes to matters of how I spend my time, I am very much in control of how I allocate it. Take this for example:
I am currently enrolled in five classes; three of those classes require a good amount of daily work, two of those classes being language classes. Of my five classes I have two upper-level courses, and one honors course. The language classes require nearly five hours each, per week, in order to ensure that I fully grasp the material, including about an hour each over the weekend to maintain retention. For my honors class there are extensive readings over primary philosophy sources and a two to three page response to those readings. Scattered throughout my week are daily quizzes in nearly every class, over different assigned readings and material. It all adds up to a very strenuous educational experience, fueled by black coffee and the grace of God, definition: working for the weekend.
If I were to fail in spending the time studying, attending class, taking notes during lectures, and completing every assignment, my academic performance would surely suffer. But with the statement, "significant things often come from the work of seemingly insignificant things" spoken by my Hebrew professor, I am led to the realization that it is through my stewardship of the time God has given me that will truly prepare me for life after graduation.
But therein lies the problem. Insignificant things take up a lot of time. And when we do not have our eyes fully focused on the final goal or accomplishment, those insignificant things can become extremely irritating and frustrating. They can become so mind-consuming that these small things grow from a molehill of inconveniences to Mt. Everest discouragement. And discouragement almost always leads the Christian to echo the question of so many before him,
We look at the mass of messes in our lives and stare up at the heavens; hands raised in perplexity, calling out, "Why is this happening to me God? Why are You allowing such difficult times to persist? I thought You loved me? I thought You would never forsake me?"
The verse I love to hear taken out of context the most can be found in Romans 8:28 where the Apostle Paul writes,
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
We write it on sympathy cards, get it emblazoned on tee-shirts, and some even get it etched into their skin. But do we truly realize what Paul is trying to say? Do we understand the weight this verse should carry in our lives? Are we able to read this verse with full assurance of its truth when we are sick? When we lose a loved one? When we feel as if there is no hope?
I hope I do not portray myself as cynical when I quote this verses because it holds incredible strength that we should find great comfort and boldness in, but to strip it of its context and supplement our own interpretational definitions for the phrase "all things work together for good" is to do a great disservice to the text.
The conclusion people come to when they read, "God works all things together for our good" often does not reflect a true understanding of what Paul intended to write. By the time Romans had been written, Paul had suffered many things for the advancement of the Gospel. In his letter to the church of Corinth he explains in greater detail his past sufferings.
How could Paul possibly write that God worked all things together for good? Was he not justified in raising his voice to God and asking the question why? Why O God, did You allow me to be beaten with rods and whips? Why O God, did You allow me to be stoned by the people I wanted to help? Why O God, did You allow me to shipwreck and be stranded at sea? Why O God, did You allow me to experience such difficulty?
Those questions never appear once in the writings of Paul. Never would he ask God why because he already knew the answer. The Apostle Paul understood that the "good" he was being inspired to write did not mean earthly comfort or carefree existence. He understood that death was all but inevitable and would be the testimony to the life-changing transformation he experienced through the love and grace of his Lord Jesus Christ. He understood that the ultimate good meant being conformed to the image of Jesus and if that were to occur, all suffering was worth it.
I write not only to remind you of this truth but to really remind myself that God is good even when we believe otherwise based on circumstances or difficulties. When we see every present trial, suffering, or hardship as an opportunity to be more like our Savior, we will never lose sight of the goal, we will never forget that God is refining us into better representatives of His Son.
Expect hardship, expect difficulty, expect defeat. But rest assured in the truth that God is faithful and will certainly see us through all things, no matter the burden it places on our hearts. It is only in Christ that we will find victory, and it is only in Him we can have hope.