We know that all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28).
Halloween and All Saints Day are on the horizon, these consecutive days representing mystery. The first plays with historically uncomfortable forces and ideas. Yes, children dress in garb depicting superheroes and princesses today. But originally, Halloween was a creative effort to both acknowledge the fear of death and to stave off the forces of evil.
All Saints Day remembers with love and gratitude those who have died, passing on before us the torch of life and faith. In a way, both days acknowledge a creative tension: fear of the unknown and faith for the future. We want to thrive in life and faith like those who have gone before us. But too often, we struggle to survive within the unpredictable mysteries of strangeness and sadness.
Romans 8:28 speaks to this ongoing dynamic of our lives. The passage is not saying that God causes bad things to happen. Please do not attempt to comfort someone who has experienced a death in their family by saying: “God took your loved one because heaven needed another angel.” No. Tragedies occur. We don’t know why and we lack the wisdom and vocabulary to adequately explain. But we can say exactly what this scripture intends: in those bad things, with God’s help, good can arise. “All things”—the good and the bad—can be leveraged for the better. Difficulties can be transformed in the context of community and with friends, for our own growth, for the good of the community and for the benefit of the kingdom. We do not always understand. Like Job in the Bible, we still have questions we want to ask God. But in the meantime, we contend with what is: love, beauty, goodness, compassion, along with poverty, sadness, loss, suffering, discontent. There is much we will never know. But we can still claim we are not alone; we are all in this together; God is in control of our present and future. And in the power of God’s love and surrounded by a caring community of faith, ultimately, all things work together for good for those who love God.
So this month, know that whatever happens, any potential push against your faith can make you better. Know that God will guide your life and spirit in new and good directions. Be assured that, whatever doubts arise, you continue to be God’s beloved child, embraced, encouraged, and therefore, emboldened to rise to new challenges and better days.
“It is the times of greatest trial that arouse the greatest courage.”
PRAYER FOR THE MONTH: Open our hearts, O God, to the truth of your surrounding presence. Inspire us with the same kind of faithfulness and staying power those who have preceded us felt, understood and acting upon. This month, make us brave in our actions and interactions. Allow others to see in us enough faithfulness, perhaps even some act of courage, that offers a glimpse of the eternal hope found only in you. Amen.