Life is never perfect. Problems come. Sometimes, we can see their causes in our poor choices, but most of the time our struggles just seem to happen. In job loss, in grief, in rejection, in accidents, we can blame no one.
We search for a reason, thinking that will help. It doesn’t. No explanation can kill pain, replace a loved one, restore a wrecked career, or fix a broken marriage. St. Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, wrote “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) I struggle with St. Paul’s words. My own personal life experience, and my small knowledge of Jesus’ teaching, lead me to a slightly different statement of belief.
I believe, God can use whatever happens in our lives to bring goodness. When we trust in God, we will recognize that goodness. We can even contribute to it. It’s almost the same, but not quite. I understand Paul’s statement to set out a privileged few: those who love God and who are called according to God’s purposes. My interpretation adds two things:
- God brings goodness out of our lives with no conditions.
- We can choose to see or not see the goodness God creates.
Of course, we all want meaning for our lives, even the painful parts. Recognizing the goodness God is creating will help heal our hurts. A perfect example is Covid. We all know the misery, frustration, pain this pandemic has caused. In its midst, though, God has been at work. We used our cars less during the widespread lockdown. The healing of the earth with the reduction in green-house gases was evident to all. For some, two weeks of isolation brought peace. Many have been rethinking what has been happening around them. In the midst of grief, families have come together to heal old wounds. I’ve seen families work to bring change in society so that untimely deaths have been prevented. The goodness is there when we open our eyes to see it. Even in grief, though it’s hard, we can give thanks amid our sorrow.
In 1634, in his poem, “Comus,” John Milton said, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Goodness now is not impossible. Just open your eyes. If you try, you can see it. In and of itself, it won’t fix things, but it will help.