A very long time ago, I worked for a wonderful church that went through a major building project. We purchased 63 acres of land three miles from our building and built a second campus with a thousand-seat worship center. Just months before we took occupancy of the building, the congregation was invited to write their favorite scripture on the concrete floor before the carpet was laid. Folks were encouraged to figure out where they would probably sit in the new sanctuary (based on where they sat every Sunday in the current one) and write their scripture in that spot. See! We understand how important “your pew” is to you!
The other pastors and I chose a place in the front where we anticipated sitting. I took the big Sharpie pen and wrote, “For God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him, and who are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I left that church 11 years ago, and those words are still there on the floor. I have experienced the truth of that scripture all of my life. No matter what comes our way….death, cancer, job loss, estrangement, pandemics….God can use those things for our GOOD.
If we let him.
And that’s the point.
Let’s back up a moment and look at that verse in its context:
Romans 8 (Contemporary English Version)
26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. 27 All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God’s people.
The power of these two verses is profound.
When we are weak, the Spirit is here to help.
When we don’t know how to pray, all we have to do is groan.
God knows our thoughts at all times.
He understands what the Holy Spirit is doing…and what the Holy Spirit is doing is praying the prayer you can’t form the words to say.
Feel better yet?
28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.
Here is the trick. God is always at work for our good, but we have to yield to his understanding of what is good. We have to train ourselves to have the faith and humility to lay down our concept of “good” in exchange for his.
When I left that church, I was convinced it wasn’t a good thing. I was wrong. When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I knew no good would come of it. Good things did come. When this horrific pandemic hit, I gave up all hope that there would be anything good in life again. Yet all around me I see evidence to the contrary. I see people reaching out to help others in ways they NEVER would have done in their pre-pandemic busyness. I see families slowing down and spending quality time with each other. I see ingenuity, creativity, compassion, and scientific understanding growing exponentially. People are reading more scripture and experiencing the presence of God in new and surprising ways. And as a nation, we are confronting and discussing centuries-old issues that we have suppressed for way too long. Do we see a lot of bad right now? Absolutely. But yielding to God’s understanding of “good” requires that we see beyond the bad.
Need more convincing? How about this:
Because we are driving less, places like Washington DC, Los Angeles, and cities in China are reporting the cleanest air they have seen in decades.
Less large ship traffic in the waters is providing relief during the annual migration of sound-sensitive animals such as humpback whales.
Walmart just announced they will be closed this Thanksgiving. Folks, that is not only good, it’s a miracle!
So is the pandemic good? Oh, heck no. But can God use bad things for our good in some way? Yes. Even in this horrific time, God is still and always will be working for our good.
Where can you claim the good today? What one thing has gotten better since this started? What aspect of your life would you not go back to when the pandemic is lifted?
Think on those things, and ponder them in your heart today.