The first words that many people like to quote when misfortune hits are: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). But that’s hard to believe in hard times. I once sat with a man who had lost his third son in a row, and I listened as he lamented, “How can this tragedy work for my good?” I had no answer but to sit silently and mourn with him. Several months later, he was thankful as he said, “My sorrow is drawing me closer to God.”
Tough as Romans 8:28 may be to understand, countless testimonies give credence to the truth of it. The story of hymn writer Fanny Crosby is a classic example. The world is the beneficiary of her memorable hymns, yet what worked together for good was born out of her personal tragedy, for she became blind when she was an infant. At only age 8, she began to write poetry and hymns. Writing over 8,000 sacred songs and hymns, she blessed the world with such popular songs as “Blessed Assurance,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” God used her difficulty to bring good for her and us and glory for Him.
When tragedy befalls us, it’s hard to understand how anything good can come from it, and we won’t always see it in this life. But God has good purposes and always remains with us. In the sermon on Sunday our pastor told of a story he followed of an ISIS terrorist who enjoyed killing Christians. He had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, ‘You are killing my people.’ And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing. The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, “I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.” The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled. God can turn any situation around for His good purpose.
We all experience hardship, and trials can shake us unless we cling to truth. Let me share three assurances to remember when troublesome circumstances arise.
First, God will always meet our needs. This doesn’t mean He provides everything we want. Instead, the Lord will bless us with all that is necessary to fulfill His purpose for our lives. His goal is to sanctify us, not simply to satisfy each immediate desire. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
Second, we’re never alone. God promised to be with us always (Heb. 13:5). Loneliness often accompanies hardship, so we may feel deserted or opposed by family and friends. But our Father has sent His Spirit to be with us and in us, until the day He brings us to heaven (John 14:16-17). He is all we need–our advocate, guide, helper, and comforter. Recognizing His intimate presence gives us confidence in the midst of trials.
Third, God’s love is eternal (Psalm 136). Regardless of our circumstances or poor decisions, His care is unconditional–even when He reprimands us. Loving parents allow disobedient children to experience the consequences of wrong choices; they recognize the benefit of learning from mistakes. Of course, there are also times when we are negatively affected by others’ wrong actions. Even then, God is sovereign and allows only what will bring good in His followers’ lives.
In difficult times, we can remember that God will meet all of our needs, is always with us, and loves us forever. Though Jesus said we would face troubles in this life, He offered encouragement: The ultimate victory is His. So keep in mind that trials are fleeting, whereas our Father’s love is forever.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)