When It Doesn't Feel Like All Things Are Working For Good

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I have to admit that Thanksgiving at the Parker house looks much different than our first Thanksgiving as a couple. Back then we were in seminary with no money and no space, not even for a table. I set up the ironing board in front of the couch with two folding chairs on the other side, covered it with a table cloth, set it for four using my wedding china and crystal with plates lined up in a row and candles at either end. Probably not in the etiquette books to do it that way but it worked and we had a great time with our seminary neighbors celebrating our first Thanksgivings as married couples.

From that first year a part of our tradition has been counting our blessings, naming them one by one. Even in those years that the blessings were perhaps a little harder to find.

After all how do you find the good when…

  • A family member looses a job?
  • The year was filled with illnesses ranging from the sniffles to cancer?
  • And there are the years that ministry was less than productive and the “call” was questioned.
  • There was the year our missionary colleague, Bill Hyde, was killed in an airport bombing in Davao City.
  • The year that our children were exposed to rabies,
  • Our son suffered from typhoid,
  • We found ourselves in the midst of crossfire in an ambush.

…to name of few.

We have all had those years when Thanksgiving brings more tears than smiles. 

Two years ago one of my mentees called to tell me she had just been diagnosed with uterine cancer at 26 years old. She had only been married a few months. Her diagnoses came Thanksgiving week. What could she possibly have to be thankful for? Person after person came to visit her in the hospital and said, “Just remember all things work for good to those who love the Lord.” (Rom 8:28) It was a little difficult for her and her family to find the good in that moment.

Even though the words are true – they are Scripture and that makes them true – sometimes in life and in ministry it is difficult to see “the good.” So, I began looking through Scripture to find the lives of those who proved “all things work to good.” There are many! Some of star players who had the privilege of seeing the “good” in their lifetime were Joseph when he was able to save his family during the drought and Naomi when she got to see Ruth marry Boaz and give birth to a son.

But maybe the ones we can learn the most from are those who did not get to see the “good” in their lifetime. They just trusted it to be true. Like Abraham…

  • At 99, God promised he would be the father of many nations.
  • His descendants would be kings.
  • He was promised Canaan.
  • God told Abraham, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant.”
  • Not long after that promise Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
  • Abraham lied about Sarah.
  • He took God’s promise of a son in his own hands and had a child with Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. That didn’t turn out so well at all!
  • He did see Isaac born but then had to send Hagar and her son away because of jealousy.
  • He was tested with Isaac.
  • Sarah died.
  • Abraham remarried and had more sons but in the end Isaac was his sole heir when he died. You can be sure that caused a bit of family dissension.
  • Even though he wandered for a time in the land of Canaan, it was never a nation.

His life was full of highs and lows. When he died at 175 years old, he had not seen the promised nation, nor had he seen a king born into the family, or the Savior who would bring eternal life.

But when we get to Hebrews 11:13 it says this about Abraham, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”

Our friend Bill did not get to see the Filipinos saved through the testimony of his death. My mentee may or may not get to see the “good” of her cancer. I still have questions from a few of our trials. But Bill’s family, my friend and me can choose to glorify Christ in the trials and then there is “good.”

The promises and hardships that our forefathers faced were the very circumstances that led to the birth of the Savior. The promises and hardships that the New Testament crowd faced led to the expansion of the gospel. The hardships that we face today may just be that thing that leads one or many to the “good,” Jesus Christ. For that we can all be thankful. After all, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)