Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent Day 27: Coming Together for the Good

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:28-39

I am used to reading these words in two particular contexts: first, the context of what is called in church the "assurance of pardon," or the "assurance of God's forgiveness." And the second paragraph above, verses 31-39, is perfect for this purpose. It addresses the issue in two ways. First, it commends the faithful reader/ listener into complete self-release into God's benevolent care. Many times I have read or heard these words-- proclaimed them together with the worshiping congregation-- and taken precisely that encouragement from them. God in Christ doesn't condemn me, but wants my salvation, my wholeness, my life.

Today it's the second thing that paragraph does that attracts my attention, however: it encourages the faithful one to not mind the judgment of other people. and this is where I'm living, folks: in the fear (some days more, some days less) of the judgment of other people. Good people, people who today love me, but who may... in the course of a few weeks or months... come to the conclusion that I am not who they thought I was, and turn their backs on me.

I keep coming back to what friends have said. Several have noted that this will likely be a time of stark contrasts... the possibility of hatred and anger, at the same time as there will likely be real and unexpected beauty. Love. Unexpected acceptance.

Which takes us back to the beginning of the passage... all things work together for the good for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose. Recently I reacted angrily to someone who said to a grieving man, "God never gives us more than we can handle." Bullshit. People get more than they can handle all the time. And no one gets to interpret my tragedies to me, or your tragedies to you. Or your struggles, challenges, etc. But I DO believe... God works (I initially typed "words"... and that works too) good out of even ugliness... not because that was "the plan" (as in, God made this terrible thing happen so that I could have AFGO), but because that is the nature of God... to create what is good. No matter what life does to us.

Oh my friends. I feel your prayers. Thank you.


Just me said...

I believe God is a transforming God. That he can redeem the worst situation - bring hope and a deeper understanding of his love from it. But I like you do not feel God chooses suffering or trials as his first plan to refine us, but that human nature and a fallen world often mean God works for good within the situations in which we find ourselves - as far from perfect as they maybe. I have a close friend who lost her girlfriend suddenly in a car crash - it has been 17 years and she is not over the grief - no one can define how someone should feel about or deal with tragedy - what the time limits are - nor to say that God gave her this trial. However, newshoots of renewed hope and love in time have come from this tragedy. I don't think this was his perfect plan - just that even in the most desperate situations he can work good. It was refreshing to hear your take on this. Christians can be so sanctimonious and trite about the trials of other's - I chief amongst them. I have learned, am learning. Thank you.

Jan said...

Thank you for stating that how much we have to handle has nothing to do with God, except how God is with us in it.

Songbird said...

In experiencing a different kind of discernment struggle this winter, I had moments of feeling--okay, days of feeling--abandoned and ignored by God. But in every case, someone appeared to represent the Divine Presence. I not only came to have a deeper appreciation for those individuals, but also to remember again the wide array of ways God reaches out to us.

Sarah S-D said...

still praying. glad you can feel it, friend.

peace to you.

Kate said...

I don't stop here often enough, but when I do -- your blog is a holy, transforming place to be this Lent, and I feel honoured to be here.

Praying for you hun.

Processing Counselor said...

Hope you are doing ok. I nominated you for an award at my place. Come over and claim it!