Today was interesting. I had been putting off registering with the local doctor, and after nearly 11 months, I finally completed the paperwork this morning and set off on foot to hand them in. Then only a couple of minutes into my journey, I noticed smoke coming out of the chimney of the Anglican church on my road, in which I had never been. So I made my way around the building and entered, to find a service had just started a few minutes before.
An old, short man was speaking. Bald head and glasses, and wide and deep eyes like marbles which seemed to lean together and look up, like hands coming together in prayer. He spoke from Romans 8, and talked about the futility of our daily lives, that so many trivial and often inconvenient or painful things happen in life, and these were not God’s will. He said our hope is in a promised future of a new earth, where all things would accord to God’s will and have purpose, but in this life it is simply not the case.
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” – Romans 8:20-21
However, he conceded, this does not mean that God does not intervene at all, as he most surely does! And also that He works together with us in all things, and within these futile or unpleasant experiences, he is able to use them to bring about good.
“That in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
I am reminded of the story of Joseph, who suffered many hardships, such as being thrown down a well and sold into slavery by his brothers, ending up in prison. As it turned out, these events were part of a bigger story, where he ultimately ends up saving many lives and becoming spiritual father to the Pharaoh of Egypt himself. So did God cause or allow Joseph to suffer in the beginning, as he knew it would all be worth it in the end? I don’t think so exactly. God is good. He is love. God would never want us to suffer, not even for the smallest moment, not even in the smallest possible way. The reality however is that we do live in this fallen world, where the futile and painful happens. So it’s not that God causes us to suffer, it’s that he uses what is here now and, through our trust in him, he shapes the clay of our corrupted lives towards something redeeming.
The sermon was concluded with the comforting words of Jesus from Matthew 6:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34
The words penetrated a bit deeper into my heart than usual. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Upon hearing these words, I realized the truth of them, that for every man there is a time to die. We do not know when this time will come, but it will come, and it will come regardless of whether we worry about it or not. The same goes with most else that goes wrong in our life, we often have little control. We cannot avoid being thrown into the many wells in our life, so there’s no point worrying about them, but if we trust in the Lord, it will all work out for the good.