Romans 8:28: “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.”
This week’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of my favourite passages of scripture. I quote it often. God works for good in “all” things. Not just in some things; but in “all” things!
It is the phrase “in all things” that sometimes gives me pause and wonder. Really God, in all things? Maybe that is where our faith is suppose to kick into action. However, sometimes it is hard to see how anything can be viewed as good while we journey through our circumstances.
I went to a funeral this week of a really good friend. He fought against social justice issues his whole life. He was a remarkable combatant for those marginalized by society. Always fighting against the injustice he saw throughout society. Two or three years ago at the age of 60 his wife was inflicted with dementia. He went from provider to care giver. And then he himself was hit with cancer. He fought the good fight but alas succumbed to the dreaded disease this past week.
He was always smiling. Upbeat. An encourager. Even in his last week of life he was encouraging his family and his friends. And through it all he spoke of the wonders of his relationship with his Lord. He saw the good that God delivered IN ALL THINGS. A remarkable witness even in the depth of adversity.
This week has made me sit back and recalculate on our trials with this pandemic that we are enduring. As we approach 5 months of dealing with this Covid-19 virus the toll on us is high.
In Manitoba we haven’t seen the hospitalizations and deaths that other areas have experienced but the there is still a toll. For many of us there is a cost to our mental, physical, financial and spiritual well-being. From the isolation of our love ones in facilities around the country, to loss of income, closing of our churches, to the mental anguish of what is coming. We may indeed ask: where are you Lord in “all things”!
As we try to navigate around this pandemic, it is pretty easy to get discouraged. We watch as the Covid-19 virus spirals out of control south of the border and we wonder about us here in Manitoba and where we will be in a few months.
Maybe now is the time for each of us to sit back and reflect on Romans 8:28. I am reminded of a story I heard years ago.
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into a farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule “braying”, or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well were worth the trouble of saving. Instead he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling, the dirt hit his back. A thought struck the mule. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back…..HE Would SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!
This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up! Shake it off and step up! Shake it off and step up!” The mule repeated this as he encouraged himself.
No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! It was not long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THE WELL.
What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him.
All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
THAT’S LIFE! If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness or self-pity; the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us!
There may be some in our congregation who even this week feel like they are at the bottom of the well. How about you? Where do you fit into this parable? Where is God in the story? Are you the mule, in the depth of the well. With no hope? Are you the farmer and his friends who see no hope and try to bury the mule? How do you handle adversity? Are you the mule who sees that God is giving you a way out? Do you live a Romans 8:28 life? Do you see God working for Good? Do you see God right here with you as you shake it off and step up!
Where does our credible witness come into the story? How do we encourage people around us today? Our neighbours, our love ones. How do we encourage them to shake it off and step up?
As I watched my friend Cornelius journey through adversity that was in his life, I saw a man over and over again shake it off and step up! Shake it off; step up!
“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)