You’ve been there before, right? Your world seems to be caving in around your ears. Everything that can go wrong seems to be choosing to do so at exactly the same time. It’s like the perfect storm of trials, all converging on your miserable little life with a vengeance. And just about when you don’t think you can take anymore, a well-meaning, but not-too-sensitive brother or sister in Christ comes along side and gives you a good old heapin’ helpin’ of Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It’s at just such occasions that I find myself reverting to my old pre-Christ condition, struggling with a strong desire to punch my Scripture-quoting nemesis in the Adam’s apple. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not against the quoting of Scripture or the sharing of encouraging words. But timing is everything, and when it comes to Scripture, context is more than everything.
The past couple of weeks have been far from enjoyable around the Miller house. This past week my 91-year-old father had two Grand Mal seizures and spent six days in the hospital. While he was there, the AC in their home went out. On top of that, the dishwasher and garbage disposal back at my place both conspired against me and decided to go on the fritz together, leaving a puddle of water and a pile of dirty dishes behind as evidence of their joint rebellion. Not to be left out of the party, my back decided to go out on me as well. That fun began on Tuesday, the same day I took my car in for what I believed was going to be a few minor repairs, only to drive away the following day with a bill that left my bank account lighter and my mood darker. Today it was my daughter’s car that got to make an unscheduled trip to the mechanic. Not to be outdone, it decided to set a new record for repair costs, breaking the old record from Tuesday by a significant margin. A few minutes after receiving that good news, I was bumming a ride home from my oldest son so I could pick up my car, because my daughter’s car was going to take another day to complete all the repairs. On the way, a truck threw up a rock and cracked the windshield on my son’s car. It was a fitting finale to my week. But then again, it’s only Thursday. I have one more day to go.
It’s this kind of week that makes me really wonder if Romans 8:28 is some kind of a sick joke. Did Paul mean to say all things? Couldn’t he have really meant most things? When I think of that verse, I can’t help but wonder what it is about all that has happened the past week that was for my good. But then I have to stop and remember that my father is alive and well. He is home and enjoying his time with my mom. God answered our prayers and spared his life. And for six days, I was able to witness my father’s faithfulness on display in that hospital room. I was encouraged and challenged by what I saw. I learned I could trust my heavenly Father with my earthly father’s life. He loves him even more than I do, and He has my father’s best interest at heart – even when I can’t seem to see it.
And my back? It’s a constant, and yes, painful reminder of my own human weakness and the frailty of this body to which I am inextricably linked while I live out my days on this planet. I am growing older, but I do not have to grow bitter about it. There are things I can’t do like I once did. My back can leave me unable to bend over and struggling to stand up. But God continues to minister to me and through me in spite of it all. He is not limited by my limitations. He is not weakened by my weakness. And I am learning to trust Him more when I can’t even trust my own body to do what I need or want it to do.
As far as the cars needing repairs. They’re paid for, by the grace of God. Yes, their miles are high and their best years are behind them, but they belong to me and not the bank. And on top of that, God has allowed us to have the funds to pay for the repairs without having to go into debt. And while I can think of a dozen other things I would have preferred to spend the money on, I am learning not to put a high priority on money in the first place. I am learning to have the same perspective Paul had. “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NLT). Just this week, we had a dear friend from Ethiopia visiting with us in our home. He lives in a nation with skyrocketing unemployment, staggering poverty, radically high infant mortality rates and a growing AIDS epidemic. We live like royalty compared to him. So rather than complain about my broken garbage disposal and dishwasher, I am blown away at how much I think I deserve a life of ease and comfort when so many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ don’t even have dishes, let alone a dishwasher. What I shove down my garbage disposal as waste, they would consider a fine meal. So rather than whine about the cost of replacing my “conveniences,” I am learning to stop seeing them as some kind of earned privilege. I neither deserve or need a garbage disposal. And nowhere is it written that a dishwasher is some kind of divine right bestowed on western civilization to make their lives easier.
I have to be honest. I do NOT enjoy trials. I don’t look forward to them. I don’t ask God to bring them. But I am learning to appreciate them for what they are – tools in the hand of a loving God to make me more aware of my need for Him and His love for me. God has a purpose for my life, and it does not entail my ease and comfort. He is all about making me holy, righteous, and pure. He is constantly in the business of molding me into the likeness of His Son. And He sometimes uses pressure and heat to perform His work in my life. All things really do work together for good – when God is involved. And He is ALWAYS involved in the lives of His children. He is never asleep, distracted, caught off guard, surprised, preoccupied or disinterested. He can and does use all things to accomplish His will in our lives. So while the last week has not been exactly fun, it has His finger prints all over it. He is at work. He is engaged. He is by my side and He loves me. And it doesn’t get any better than that.