“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.” -Romans 8:28 (NIV)
To me, Scripture is a finely cut diamond. Every time you turn it or look at it at a different angle you’ll see something new.
Romans 8:28 is like that. I remember the first time that I saw it, I was shown it by a Pastor in rural Iowa in 2003 after I had just gotten fired from my job as a journalist in Freeport, Illinois. This was during one of my attempts at a Christian life. I frankly deserved to be fired from that job. I did not take it seriously and didn’t have the heart for it so, frankly, I did not invest in it like I should have. I made reporting errors and called the integrity of the paper I worked for into question so I deserved the ax.
What’s interesting to me now as I look back from the space of 14 years is that I had the audacity to take Romans 8:28 and apply it to myself as a victim. As if my editors didn’t have anything better to do than to pick on me and fire me. As if I had nothing to do with what happened!
As I write about my past and look back through the perspective of my relationship with Jesus, I often wonder “was that actually me?” Or “what was I thinking?” Or “you wouldn’t let Christ into your life because you wanted to act like that?”
But I digress.
The pastor was correct to give me Romans 8:28 as a verse of encouragement. But not because I was the victim of an injustice, as I thought when I was 24. Now, this 38-year-old sees that meaning of this verse from a different angle: “You screwed up. Time and again. On many things. God will use all of it for the good that He plans on doing.”
I’m seeing the verse in a completely different angle now.
Yesterday, I began a brief devotional called “Understanding God’s Purpose” by Dr. R.C. Sproul. As you may have read, this is a part of my effort to build my spiritual foundation on basics rather than my previous attempts at a Christian life where I looked for knowledge that would make me feel superior to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Goodbye to all that.
Joseph from the latter part of the Book of Genesis is a story that has come to my attention more a couple of times in the last year. When I started on the Dave Ramsey baby steps program in the middle of last year and was overwhelmed by the size of my student loan debt I began to feel despair. Ramsey was hawking the Max Lucado book “You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times” which dealt with the story of Joseph.
The constant refrain of the first chapter, Lucado wrote was “You’ll get through this. I don’t know how, but I know that God is going to work this our for good.”
Now it’s Dr. Sproul bringing Joseph to life again before me.
After his odyssey through his brothers’ betrayal of him; rising from the depths not once, but twice; and all of the setbacks, he finally came face-to-face with his brothers. And then came Joseph’s famous quote “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
In the devotional, Dr. Sproul wrote: “The divine intention was the exact opposite of the human intention. Joseph’s brothers had one goal; God had a different one. The amazing truth here is that the remote purpose was served by the proximate one. This does not diminish the culpability of the brothers. Their intent and their actions were evil. Yet it seemed good to God to let it happen that His purpose might be fulfilled.”
My situation is much different from Joseph as my wounds were largely self-inflicted. But as I think about my past, as far gone as I was in my sin, I see the statement “You meant evil…but God meant it for good” in another light. When I was in bondage to my sins away from my Lord, the sins I did, I did because I wanted to do them. I desired to commit evil. But I believe by faith that God will take the evil that I performed and turn it around to use it for His good.
To give me glory? No. To give Him glory.
I struggle with that as I sit here typing this. In the case of the women I used in my past, I hurt them. One of them was my ex-wife, someone I stood at an altar with and swore that I would love her forever. As I wrote before, I cheated on her with women I used for a cheap thrill.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
I understand that Jesus saved me, but I do not believe that gives me the right to be flippant about my past or my sins. People were hurt. I hurt them.
All I can do at this moment is pray that my terrible actions result in the glory of God working in their lives. I believe He will. He said He would.
And that gives me faith that I will get throught his. God will work all of this out for His glory.