And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I was reminded in the most wonderful way of a few of the truths that, together, define the blessings of God and manifest His amazing grace. So many truths, in fact, that it was difficult to choose today’s verse until I realised that this particular one from Romans encapsulates many of the others because it is foundational. It provides a solid and enduring reason to hang in there when waiting for God to move. It offers a critical perspective that brings clarity and deeper relevance to the others. It’s a truth that says, in simple terms, that God’s blessings will be found irrespective, and sometimes because, of where we are. With God even the deserts bloom.
Just this week, God moved to release a blessing in my life which, quite literally, has changed the entire course of my life. It came as an opportunity I could never have imagined. It came from the most unexpected source. It met an immediate and critical need, but also provides for other things that He has recently begun to whisper into my spirit, things I thought were simply for consideration. In one single release of blessing, my urgent need has been met and His purposes have been set in motion.
These two truths, on their own, are exciting. To see God move is wonderful, a joy beyond measure. But what is truly encouraging is to be able to see the ‘inner’ workings behind the outward manifestation of fact. It’s being able to discern and recognise the absolute truth of today’s verse – He uses all things, not just the good or comfortable ones. The backdrop of this present, amazing blessing is a dry, desert experience, a long and frustrating time in a wilderness situation where standing in faith and standing for Christ seemed an almost impossible and worthless exercise. Yet, for a very long time, there was no release until He finally made the way for me to leave and embark on my own editing business which He continues to bless, slowly and steadily.
But what is truly remarkable here is that this wasteland experience and the particular environment has provided me with much of the experience and background I will need to fulfill this new opportunity. I have a unique perspective and access to people that are absolutely invaluable going forward. Like everyone else, I would much prefer to ‘put the past behind me’ and forget about it, but I feel that He has been deliberately reminding me, and that it’s a truth from which so many of us will benefit.
We need to understand how all things work to the good with God.
That awful situation, that desert place that leaves you battered and drained and broken, that seemingly never-ending trial and impossible conflict – He has a reason for it all. It may be, as I now see it was for me, that He was growing my faith. He was teaching me to rely on Him, absolutely and completely, for even the simple grace to make it through – sometimes hour by hour. He was teaching me endurance and patience, those necessary virtues we’d all prefer to sidestep, if we could. He was immersing me in place of prayer and in His Word, because these alone were the only source of what I needed to get through. At the time, it was almost impossible to see that He was showing me what I see so clearly now – how all things work to the good.
But behind the scenes, He was releasing in me knowledge and experience that I didn’t realise I had. He was bringing key people across my path that I need in this new adventure. He was shaping a doorway into an opportunity for His purposes to unfold in and through my life. And He was preparing a blessing which, like His purposes, is truly exceedingly, abundantly far more than I could ever have asked or imagined.
I realise now, in looking back into what seemed, at the time, an utterly fruitless and useless time of darkness and near-despair, that my desert became a time of unexpected growth. Like the little plant that blooms in the dry, arid reasons, my little roots went deeper. What showed above ground seemed spindly and without promise, but the inside told a very different story. It was a slow process, often difficult, but that little root dug deep to find the only real source of life, nourishment and strength. And then, in His perfect timing, brought forth a flower that had seemed an impossibility. This is the process by which all things work to the good.
The absolute truth of this verse has been vividly revealed to me in a simple, practical and life changing ‘for instance.’ It’s so easy to lose sight of this when we’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s one that is incredibly difficult to comprehend, let alone take hold of, when all is bleak and and we seem trapped in a place of endless night. If this is where you are today, take hold of the truth that, if nothing else, it will become the place of total trust and faith and reliance on God if you turn to Him and hang on with everything you’ve got.
The key here is ‘all things work together.’ Unlike God, we cannot see each and every single detail. He alone can look ‘beyond the veil’ into the workings of the supernatural, and it takes time and patience to bring all those different details into play and create the perfect blessing. Living in a world of automation doesn’t help us. We’ve come to expect the instant and the convenient. The concept of waiting in patience is becoming obsolete. We’re a ‘here and now’ people, for whom even leisure time is often active. But God remains God. He is a God who will only produce the perfect, who will use every single tiny detail, and who will never, ever rush or compromise on releasing to us a blessing that is way beyond our limited abilities and power to comprehend.
‘For good’ needs clarity, too. It’s not for feel good. It’s for good. I have to confess that I, as a person growing into the image of Christ, needed that wildnerness time. Having been forced by a harsh life to become thoroughly self-sufficient, I had to learn the full measure and meaning of reliance on God. I had to come to a place of broken self, where my own work and ability became ‘all vanity.’ I had to reach the place of complete all or nothing surrender.
I can honestly say that I needed it all. It didn’t make me feel good, but it certainly was for good. This new blessing isn’t the good. It’s simply the outworking of the good through the grace and favor of God. The good was the knocking away and rubbing off the rough edges. The good was bringing me into a whole new place of fellowship and complete trust in Him, and learning to live only in His presence.
It also has to do with the fact that the all things and the good only apply to those who love the Lord. In my situation, the all things first had to bring me to the place of choice. I had to come to acceptance of the truth that nothing has relevance if outside of Him, that without Him, there is no life, no joy, no peace, no fulfillment, no purpose. I quite literally had to come to choose Him or nothing at all, to love Him above everything else that this fleshly life could offer.
Finally, it has to do with being called according to His purposes. Every single one of us is called to His purposes. Salvation is the what places us into the will of God. Yes, it’s for our blessing and benefit, but it is, first and foremost, the place where His will supercedes ours. The moment of truly choosing Jesus above all else is where we surrender to ‘Your will, not mine.’ It is the moment of letting me go and taking hold of Him, no matter what. Accepting the call to live according to His purposes is what releases the all things to work for good to those who love Him.
Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey Him. This sums it up most beautifully and simply. Obedience is surrender to His will, His plan, His purposes – even when, and especially when, it makes little or no sense at all. Obedience means recognising that, while everything may seem all darkness and despair, all chaos and calamity, it is rooted in divine purpose which exceeds expectation and defies logic. I have a love for old furniture and for restoration. I know that to bring out the glow and the grain of the wood means it has to be sanded, rubbed, and stripped before it can be polished.
I rejoice this morning in the overwhelming awareness of a God who takes care of all the details and whose perfect provision is way beyond what I could ever have devised or imagined for myself. But I’m humbled, too, because the nature of man so easily falls into impatience and resentment and resistance. We instinctively focus on the bad instead of on the possible good. We look for solutions instead of asking Him what the focus should be. And we usually try to prescribe to Him how we think it should be resolved. I’m all for being specific in prayer. Vague phrases are often open-ended and ineffective. But we also err on the side of stipulation and so exclude the possibility of His ‘exceedingly abundantly.’
The perfect plan, the perfect blessing, the perfect provision is the one that allows for the full and unhindered outworking of the will of God. That may entail a major overhaul of ‘me,’ but in the bigger scheme of things, let us always be encouraged by the eternal, abiding truth that all things, in His hands, are the raw materials of grace.
Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and favor, and for the blessings beyond measure You release so lovingly into our lives. Forgive us for the times of self focus and for not looking deeper for Your hand at work. Bring us to the place of surrender and total reliance on You. Teach us to trust, no matter what, and to be willing to learn even when the lessons are hard, so that we may live for Your purposes, no matter what.