There was once a day where I wanted not only to say those words, but punch them into someone’s face. That day was December 6, 1999, and it was the day of my sister’s funeral and the day my grandfather died. Why did I want to say that (and do that???)? Well, here is what had just been spoken to me:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
No. This isn’t good for me. How can my sister choosing to die by suicide be GOOD for me???? How can fresh grief that has just had salt poured on that gaping, open wound by adding the death of my grandfather, one of my main caregivers over the years, be GOOD??? Shut up.
I wanted to scream all that. But I didn’t. I shook hands, and stood there, completely numb. So much anger and confusion on the inside, and just going through the motions on the outside.
I so was not ready for Romans 8:28 in that moment…
And even moreso now, I see how out of context that verse is, and we misuse it all the time. So let’s go deeper.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those 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 among many brothers. 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 shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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.
So here is what I have learned and observed in these verses: I am weak. Oh yes, I am weak. I am so weak that there are moments I have no idea what to even pray for or about. I throw my hands up in the air and surrender because life has just gotten the better of me. In that moment. Then God reminds me, “I’ve got this, Kara. You can be weak because I am going to be your strength today and everyday. Rely on me.” I know this because He tells me He has called me since before time began! I am predestined! I am CHOSEN! God chose me. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Even that day, December 6, 1999, with so many people speaking Romans 8:28 to me, was written in my book before it even happened. God knew. He knew the events that were going to unfold. He knew the choice of free will my sister would make. He knew that it would be too much for my grandfather’s heart when he saw her in the casket during her visitation. He knew that I would be angry and unable to receive His words of truth.
And here is what else I have observed in Romans 8:26-39: God did not spare His own Son from death. God KNOWS grief. He has experienced it! In that moment, He had such great compassion and empathy for me, because He knows loss. I can see that now. I couldn’t then. But today, how comforting it is for me to know that I serve a God who KNOWS the hearts and minds of His people, because He truly has walked every path imaginable.
I want to look at that verse a bit closer too: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ALL THINGS. God graciously gives us all things. Every experience. Every job. Every encounter. Every situation, good or bad. Graciously, God allowed me to experience every day I have had thus far. Even that day. In the moment of that day, I had no idea what God could possibly do with my grief. I wasn’t even ready to comprehend that. Time has softened my wounds and dulled the salt that falls upon them. He has allowed me to see how He has orchestrated the safety net that caught me. He had that net in place well before the events began to unfold that would cause me to fall into that net to begin with! He graciously saved me with that net. He graciously has worked on my heart every day since. He graciously took my mistakes and used them to teach me, coach me, and ultimately reveal to me the need for Jesus to cleanse my soul. He used that net to remind me that nothing will ever separate me from my Abba Father. Nothing. And so many times I have quoted King David, because I am in awe of all the Father has done for me: “Who am I that You are mindful of me???” (personalized Psalm 8:4)
Who am I? I am adopted into God’s family. I am CHOSEN by God. I am His creation. And I am so loved by Him that He made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that I could have a relationship with Him. And despite the pain, despite the anger, despite the confusion of grief, God has carried me and drawn me close to Him. He is my conqueror!
It has taken years to understand this: God has used the brokenness and pain of my past to grow me. He has allowed the fires to burn the dross, to purify my heart. He is allowing me to minister to others because others ministered to me. I am able to share these words, that God gives us not what we want, but ALL THINGS WE EXPERIENCE, because of the Truth God has spoken to me.
God is not a vending machine. He is not our go-to when we don’t have everything we want. He is more than that. He is indescribable! He is omniscient! Sometimes, we have to experience the pain in order to understand blessings later.
I want to share some great songs with you now, to bring this entry to a close. Grab some tissues…and listen carefully to the lyrics. And remember: we will rarely understand the why, but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust the WHO. So let’s throw our hands up in the air and let Him pick us up and bring us through the fires.