I whispered these words with an almost desperate sincerity in a prayer recently. And, in that moment, I’ll be honest … I didn’t believe He could.
For the last seven(ish) years, I’ve read Romans 8:28 with both hesitation and expectation. There is so much that is not good. But God promises that in all things He works for the good. I think the contrasting feelings in reading it come from some of the pain that I simply cannot understand, but also some of the overwhelming good that is beyond my ability to properly articulate.
I’ve spent time recently stepping back. Away. From everyone, really. I’ve been working through the experiences that have changed me. Because I am different.
And, I fade to the back because I have this fear of being a burden to friends and family and I just don’t want to be that. I want to be that independent and strong woman that people like to tell me I am. Spoiler alert. I’m so not that. I truly do want people to see my real heart but to be completely transparent, it is so ridiculously tender that I haven’t been willing to allow for the vulnerabiility. So, staying away felt safer. Less scary. Less … of me being a burden.
I sense there are others in this place. Well, in some cases, I know there are. So, those words (‘make it good’) continue to stir in my heart and I felt like sharing. How’s that for some vulnerability?
This season of change really started in 2013. I lost a precious friend tragically to a fire. That was the first loss in a long time that came so suddenly. And so unfairly. And I grieved hard. I grieved for the loss of this man that was finding his place; sensing his purpose and calling. But I also ached incredibly for his wife and four kids. The pain from that loss felt different. And I knew God had started to chip away at the hardening of my heart that had occurred over the several years prior.
A year later, I would have the opportunity to go to Guatemala. It was such a surprise to be asked and without hesitation (unlike me), I said ‘yes.’ There, I felt this tenderness from the family surrounding me (and by family, I mean my fellow YG leaders). And I felt a forgivness and freedom from the shame I carried after my divorce. I remember the exact moment vividly. And I frequently go back to that trip and those people in my mind. Peace.
I definitely softened after that experience. My tears that had previously originated from hurt and regret and shame fell more freely now with compassion and empathy for the hurt other people carried. For whatever was weighing them down.
Then, 2015 happened and I felt my heart open to love. It wasn’t like any love I’d ever known and I fell harder than I’d anticipated. I was certain God was allowing my heart to be fully open to what His love felt like. And I was able to give it away. It was without condition and very much about sacrifice.
In 2016, there was some unspeakable trauma that took me aback. I could never have been prepared for what came about with two friends and colleagues losing their husbands (and a son) – both tragically – in a week’s time. I held myself together as well as I could for them (at least I hoped I did), but to be honest, that cut so deeply into my now exposed heart. I don’t think I realized the significance of those events until recently. I can immediately go back to falling apart in a chair in my room. I was thankful Mike was there because I needed a human who could just be okay with my brokenness in that moment without expectation of getting it together. It made no sense. It never will.
Then, at the end of last year, tragedy struck again. And our community lost a young man who was really just getting started. He was married and had two beautiful children that he was so obviously in love with. And just like that, he was gone. And the loss hit so hard for people I loved so much that I didn’t feel like there was anything I could give that would ever be enough.
The series of events over the past six/seven years were the initiators of the changes I’ve been having such difficulty expressing (and being open about). They’ve enabled me to feel more than I ever realized was a possibility and frankly, have caused me to both engage and completely retreat. I love listening (sometimes from two tables away) as people share their stories. I love making eye contact with strangers. I welcome the opportunity to help someone I don’t know who needs it. At the same time, I’ve become more of an introvert. I do need down/alone time. I get overwhelmed in crowds. I sit close to things that are stable to feel safe. And honestly, I’ve left my family wondering what the ‘h’ my problem is because I seem to vacillate between okayness and total brokenness.
But, here’s where the contrast comes in. I can also see where Romans 8:28 is without a doubt, what God does.
This is an opinion so read with a grain of salt and don’t let it offend. I would welcome open conversation because I’m not saying I’m right. This is what I believe to be true.
God allows for terrible things to happen.
He doesn’t cause them. He is not punshing us. But He does allow.
I worried that this was just God getting it wrong. Why would God take my ridiculously talented and funny friend who had just shared his enthusiasm for what was next? How could God steal a young man and his father out looking at cars? Why would God allow for a love I’d never known to be rejected? How could God take a young husband and father of two? It’s wrong. There’s nothing right about any of it.
But I don’t think God takes to punish. And honestly, I don’t know that it’s a good use of energy to ask why. Because I know, in the reality of loss, that God took them to a better place. A place that we can all only imagine. The pain, in reality, is only ours.
So where is God making something good out of that?
It’s been six years since my friend lost his life in a fire. Since then, I’ve watched his wife and her four amazing kids get up every.single.day and move forward. I’ve seen smiles through tears. I’ve seen giving out of the brokenness. And I’ve watched his wife specifically exude such a quiet strength that I only pray I could display as well in the midst of something so … not ok. She is witty, stylish and more of an example than she could ever understand.
In the past three years, I’ve watched my former colleague and forever friend get up every.single.day and move forward. I’ve watched her present herself to absolutely everyone (including the overwhelming and sometimes annoying, media) with grace and dignity. Her focus is on remembering her husband and son. And that’s it. And she’s been a part of significant fundraising efforts to create a safe place to remember them tangibly forever. Does it change the tragedy? No. Does it make her incredible? Yes. So much yes. She is inspiring and I only pray that I could show up like she does given similar circumstances. She may not understand that that’s good. But I see it. And I feel it. And I thank her for it.
In the past nine months, I’ve seen another woman, now a widow with two young children get up every.single.day and move forward. I’ve watched her (from afar, granted) operate with grace and dignity rising up from the ashes of something so heartbreaking and indescribably painful to raise her kids. And love her familiy. And continue to care for others. I’ve also watched a young man. This young man enters a picture that he never (I’m certain) expected to enter. And he has risen to the challenge of caring tenderly for a broken-hearted woman and her two young babies who will likely never remember their dad. I see photos of him and I see this man who protects this woman who has had to defend both circumstance and decision that have led her to this place. These two are so much younger than I and yet, they inspire me greatly even if they have no idea who I am. I see ferocity in choosing to love out of devastation. It’s incredible. And just … good.
Here’s the thing … sometimes we won’t see the good. Sometimes, I believe it will come far after we’re gone. Sometimes, it might be six degrees removed and we will have no idea. But I am choosing to believe the promise in Romans 8:28. God will make it good. He always has and He always will.
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:28 (MSG)