Called According to His Purpose

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Meditations in Motion

My dog has been the beneficiary of the many long walks I have been taking since my hip injury has prevented me from running. This morning we cut through our neighbor’s yard to the bike path in the meadow that leads to town.

The highlight of the walk was the pair of bluebirds we saw near the little spring-fed stream, little chips of blue sky, achingly beautiful, perched on a dead branch.

We continued our walk into town and saw the memorial for the high school students killed in a tragic car accident right before Halloween, still standing at the church across the street from the school. I recently read in the newspaper that the woman who caused the accident, who is being prosecuted for third-degree murder, had no recollection of the disaster or the events leading up to it. No drugs or alcohol were found in her system, no medical issue was uncovered. It may be that the reason for the accident will never be known.

The parents of one of the dead students publicly forgave the driver who caused them such sorrow. They are devout Christians who know their son is with God. I wonder if I could be so charitable under the same circumstances.

Meditations in Motion

Seeing the memorial made me think of the verse from Romans where Paul writes that God works for the good of those who love Him. But, I think, the boy whose life was cut short loved God. His parents do too. How can this verse be true?

This verse is popularly summarized as “Everything happens for a reason“. What, I wonder, is the reason for two teenagers to be killed in such a brutal, sudden manner? How must their families have felt during the recent holiday season?

And what about even larger disasters? What about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 students and staff members were killed and 17 others injured? What about the Holocaust that killed millions of innocent people? What about first century Christians who were fed to wild animals, crucified, and burned at the stake – men, women, and even young children – subjected to torturous gruesome deaths?

What could the reason possibly be for these and other barbaric acts of cruelty? “Everything happens for a reason” sounds good, comforting, but it really only works if your life is mild and mostly happy. If the troubles that befall you are slight, it is easy to think you were strengthened by overcoming adversity, that God sent a minor problem as a way to teach you perseverance. What if you are crushed, destroyed by devastating events?

Meditations in Motion

I remember, years ago, reading in a newspaper the story of one survivor of the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor. He was initially trapped in a section of the ship that was underwater and was able to live only because a miraculous air pocket formed nearby, which he was able to access. Rescuers eventually reached him and he was saved.

He told his interviewer that he survived because God was watching out for him. But, I thought, what about the other 1200 men who perished? Wasn’t God watching out for them, too? And if not, why not? Why did this man get to grow old and not the other 1200? Surely there must have been good men that went down with the ship.

How can disasters like these and others be part of God’s plan? How can a merciful God allow children to starve, elderly people to suffer neglect, and innocent young men to be gunned down in the street?

I think the only conclusion we can draw is that indeed there is evil in the world. An evil that is unfathomable to most of us. The world is more complex and more beautiful than the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” allows.

Yes, time randomly churns out phenomena. Some events are breathtakingly beautiful and some are heartbreaking. You and I, who have lived long lives, have probably experienced some of each. Most of our moments are neither; beautiful and heartbreaking are the two, thankfully rare, extremes. We live our lives primarily in the middle ground.

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But God belongs to eternity, not to time. God is eternally good, this I believe with all my heart. God’s love is not random, capricious, or conditional. God is not ruled by time. We are told in no uncertain terms that He does “not give to you as the world gives.” What God does not do is to insert human values into time.

I believe that God was there for the sailor who survived the sinking of the USS Arizona, but He was also there for the 1200 who perished. He is there for the new mother, rapturously in love with her newborn and for the students who were killed in the car accident in October, and for the woman who caused the accident.

My oldest son likes to say that Jesus spoke in parables, not in verses. What he means by this is that you cannot take a verse out of context to determine its intent. I know the verse from Romans was written by Paul, not Jesus, but the concept is the same. When you keep reading the eighth chapter of Romans, you eventually come to this: “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.

There it is, the good news. Nothing – not car accidents, or madmen with guns, or war, famine, terror or even death- can separate us from the love of God. The least we can do in return is to try to live our days with thankfulness and compassion, willing to reflect God’s love to the world, “called according to his purpose.”

 

I am linking up with Clean Eats Fast Feets for her Week in Review, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team link up and Global Blogging, Hooks and Dragons for Mix It Up, Purposeful Faith for RaRa link up, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, and Mary-andering Creatively for LMM.

 

 

 

 

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75 comments

  1. Oh my gosh, this is beautiful Laurie. Brought a tear to my eyes. I ask myself the same question a lot and I am not experienced enough in God’s love or the bible to come up with such answers. Thank you. I am really only at the beginning of my journey with God or should I say coming back to God since that is where it all began to begin with. I was not raised with any religion but I am gaining more of a relationship with God as I age. Your blogs are a wonderful piece of that journey. Thank you, sincerely.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some good ponderings here, Laurie, on some pretty inscrutable matters. When we use scripture as a period to put a stop to the conversation and to suffocate someone’s feelings, we misunderstand its purpose. It is very true that God has a purpose in everything, but that’s not usually the most helpful thing to say to someone who is in a season of loss. Thanks for your good thinking on all this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to know what to say to someone experiencing loss. “There is a reason for everything” probably is not a good choice.

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  3. Great reflections here! I agree – saying “everything happens for a reason” is oversimplifying it. There is evil in the world and surely not all of what happens is God’s will, and yet he can still work for good even within it.

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  4. Our reasons are not God’s reasons of course. We cannot make sense of the purpose of these tragic circumstances, any more than the Jews could make sense of their capture and deportation by the Assyrians. But that deportation allowed Daniel to influence those people in Assyria that eventually were at the house of Jesus with the gold, frankincense and myrrh. The persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem spread the Gospel to the surrounding regions through the words of the refugees. The martyrs showed the other Christians that the faith was worth dying for. The Holocaust let the world see the face of Satan, and they were abhorred. The result of these tragic deaths was that the victims were taken to be with God, and the reaction of their families showed Spirit of God in all its light. If we know God is good, even tragedy can be made to work FOR us and those around us rather than to give Satan another notch in the win column. As Christians, we are guaranteed to win no matter what happens because if we live, we spread the gospel, and if we die we go to heaven to be with our Savior.

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  5. You handled this difficult question with skill. It’s hard to look at the suffering world and wonder where God is when the innocent suffer. Taking a verse out of context can drain a lot of its power, I love how you tied in the remainder of the biblical message and showed the true hope of those who put their faith in God.

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    • Thank you, Katrina. I got the idea when I was talking with my son about taking verses out of context. God’s word is more complex and beautiful than the simple platitudes we use!

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  6. Laurie, Thank you so much for sharing these heartfelt thoughts born out of your walk with your dog, and thank you for the encouragement that our God is good no matter what circumstances befall us or others, and that His ways are perfect.

    Blessings,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a hard and holy read, Laurie. Isn’t it fascinating that the two can coincide? Hard and holy? One day we will know, and see clearly. Until then, I’m thankful for His inseparable love.
    Beautiful post, my friend. ❤

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  8. Such a lovely post. A lot of people find it so difficult not to ‘blame’ God for atrocities such as these, but he’s no more to blame than Cancer. These things happen without God’s hand, but the love of God can bring comfort to all. #mixitup

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  9. I have to lean on no one knowing the mind of God and that he always knows what is best for us even if it is death. Our death may be the one spark that may benefit someone on a fence or it maybe God knows what is coming will be too much for us and he is sparing us for horrific pain or heartache. He loves us too much and protects us in all ways that he can or he may allow things to happen that keep us immortally alive for the benefit of others.

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  10. Oh! I could not see the pics this morning, I love the bluebird and always see bluebirds as a sign from above that there is always something more to be appreciated. They take me outside of myself. I use bluebird sightings as a faith reminder from God. Funny, I saw two as I was driving to work this morning.

    “The bird that flies with the sky on it’s back” – I read this years ago and it struck me and stuck with me.

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  11. Those are hard questions, but I love how you went on to the end of the chapter to show how nothing, not even death can separate us from the love of Christ. Everything that happens might not be good, but God somehow uses all of life, even the hard things, to work together for good in the bigger picture. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at the #LMMLinkup.

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  12. This is a very nice post Laurie … like you, I would be hard pressed to be charitable toward the woman who killed these two young people. When you posted that story in October,I think I had a similar accident to share … the texting and internet browsing drunk driver who killed a mother and daughter. And today as you bring up this tragedy, we had a local family perish over the weekend, driving back from vacation. They were in Kentucky and a drunk driver, driving the wrong way, ran into them and killed the entire family of five instantly. That driver was also killed … in lieu of flowers, they asked for donations to MADD. So very sad …

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    • Thank you, Anita. I am so sorry to hear about your FB friends. If I could provide even just a little hope or solace, I have accomplished what I set out to do. Blessings to you!

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  13. I’ve always had trouble with the “everything happens for a reason” explanation for terrible and senseless acts. I still do, but I also know now to look for the good. Look for the people who come out and help, whether it’s donating blood after 9/11, advocating gun control after Parkland or forgiveness after a horrific car accident. We have to look for, find and focus on the good.

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  14. I agree with you. There is heartache in this world, but God loves us and walks with us. It has been true in my life. Our son developed leukemia when he was six years old and passed away when he was eight. God loved him and our family through that time. This past year our grandson had an aneurysm in the brain that burst–and he has recovered. His story is miraculous to the family. God was with us in both situations.

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    • Oh, Carol, I am so sorry to read about your son. May God send you and your family an extra helping of His love and comfort. I am glad that your grandson had a miraculous recovery. The best part of your comment was the last sentence. God was indeed with you in everything that happened. Blessings to you!

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  15. Laurie, such beautiful words and truths here. My close circle of friends has just been thrown into the hard of walking through the death of a 21 year old daughter of one of our circle. It’s been extremely painful. And though I firmly believe in God’s goodness, it’s hard to understand his plans in this situation. I keep remembering that God is good regardless of our circumstances, and that He loves us, even when He allows painful things to happen. Your words are helping me process. Thank you for that.

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    • Oh, Jeanne, I am so sorry to hear about the death of your friend’s daughter. How very, very sad. If I could help even a tiny bit, I am so glad. I will keep you and your circle of friends in my prayers. Blessings to you, my friend.

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  16. I wondered where you were heading at first Laurie but glad to read to the end & see your destination 😀

    Having been through the hard…
    with the death of my daughter, Candy (through toxic chemical exposure)
    then 12 months later the death of my son Benjamin (through the direct action of medical negligence),
    then years later the death of my beloved husband Gint to brain cancer…
    I can only say that God’s love, comfort, grace & the ability to forgive is something that can only be experienced in Him through those times.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It won’t be surprising to you that I don’t see an overarching evil or good just as I don’t put stock in fate. Things happen and we make things happen. My goal has been to control as many of those things as I can. I can’t reconcile the decision to charge the driver with homicide. Doesn’t there need to be intent or negligence for that conviction? It sounds to me like she had a seizure or something.

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    • I think she was charged because she made several conscious efforts to avoid the police. She was speeding away from a police car (even though the policeman had stopped pursuit), she swerved around another police car that was attempting to block her path she sideswiped a school bus about a mile from the scene. There was no evidence of any seizures or other medical events.

      I do believe that time churns out a lot of events – some good and some bad. We have control over some things, but obviously not others. I do believe we should take responsibility for those events we have control over. I think that’s what becoming an adult is all about – taking responsibility for our actions. Lots of things are out of our control. Unfortunately. I often act as if I think I should be in control of the universe! 🙂

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  18. We just simply cannot know how God uses such things that baffle us. But we have to trust that into the bed of trouble, God plants the seeds of grace and we must trust His promises to grow good things. Thanks for this beautiful post.

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  19. A very thought provoking post Laurie, on several levels.

    It is indeed such a sad story of your community’s loss late last year and baffling as to what would make a 60 something woman behave in that fashion. I would think she had a ‘reason’ but that she did not foresee adequately the consequences of her choice of action, and in that she may be found ‘guilty’, after a fashion, under our (man’s) law.

    I don’t agree that ‘Everything happens for a reason’ – I believe ‘Everything happens!’ (given time). We then may decide what the reason might have been – for us.

    To me it is about ‘Balance’ – could make a good theme – what do you reckon? 😉

    There should be no doubt that God created everything that exists (and has existed and will exist) in this world.
    He is Omnipotent and Omniscient and ever present; to say He did not create, or would prevent something, evil happening ‘if’ (??) he could is to deny God’s power over us. It shows how poor is our real Faith and understanding.

    God created Lucifer, the Angel of Light and would have surely known, if not actually intended, that he would fall and try to oppose Him and yet He tolerates and allows the actions of Satan to test our Faith, for of what value is faith unless it is tested and proven? People say they have faith but only when it is tested to the limit is their true value shown. From this it is reasonable to conclude that God has a role for both good and evil in our lives.

    The limit of the Good in our lives also has a (counter) balance in the limit of Evil.

    If somehow evil were suddenly totally eliminated from the planet, it’s place would be taken by neutrality – people would say: “How could God let that person have nothing happen to them when so many of us only have ‘good’ things happen.” Good is a measure of it’s opposite and the same is true for Evil. it is not possible to have some of one without there being some of the other.

    The logical conclusion of this is that God who has made everything has made both the Good AND the Evil and that as free-willed humans we have the choice which we would rather follow – at every second in our short lived lives.

    We make less than perfect choices some times (too many times?) God allows us the freedom to do that – hopefully that we all may learn from it…. learn that the thing that will best carry us and hold us up throughout our lives is complete Faith in Him who created us, for this very purpose, in the fashion He has devised.

    Father knows Best! 😉

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    • I agree that “Everything happens for a reason” is not true. I don’t believe that there is a “reason” for all occurrences. I think things happen. Because time and the universe are so immense, a LOT of things happen here in space-time. We (humans) put the label on those things – good, bad, neutral. The labels are ours, not God’s.

      I think we do have free will to choose our own path. If God is Omnipotent and Omniscient, why does He need to test us? Wouldn’t He already know the answer to the test? Doesn’t He know our hearts?

      I have made many less than perfect choices in my long life 🙂 and God has allowed me the freedom to do that. I have suffered the negative consequences of some of those choices, but God has always been there with me, even when I do dumb stuff!

      Father does know best! 🙂

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      • Fully agree – the labels are ours, not His. 🙂

        There is a several week long theological discussion to be had over the topics of Good/Evil, Free will/predestination, God’s knowledge of us/testing us to see what is in our hearts, etc. It is probably not the best forum to fully investigate it here.. but i’m thinking about it! 😉

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  20. I am often amazed when people can forgive others for the death of a loved one. In this case, I’m so happy one family was able to because I am sure the driver who caused the accident is tortured by this. Ruling out drink, drugs, medical issues, and even text related crashing, she must be so distraught to not know what happened to cause it. #GlobalBlogging

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  21. So very beautiful! I wanted to cry through the whole thing. It is such a hard concept to understand. For myself, I just trust in God’s love and pray that He gives me the strength to deal with life. Thank you for the touching post!

    Thanks for linking up @LiveLifeWell!

    Blessings,

    Amy

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    • It IS such a hard concept to understand. I was just thinking about that very prayer this morning. It’s one of the very best we can pray. Thank you for your kind comment and for giving us the chance to share!

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  22. You write very beautifully Laurie and I really do come to enjoy reading your posts because they are always so incredibly clear in their message and I admire you for that. Thank you for the read, it has managed to ease my weary head a bit! #ablogginggoodtime

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  23. Powerful post Laurie. Thank you for sharing it certainly got me thinking about how I think about these things and I got myself all confused. I am pondering…. thanks again for getting my grey matter working and for being on the #DreamTeam

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  24. Thank you for this truth —-> But God belongs to eternity, not to time. God is eternally good, this I believe with all my heart. God’s love is not random, capricious, or conditional. God is not ruled by time. We are told in no uncertain terms that He does “not give to you as the world gives.” What God does not do is to insert human values into time.

    And anything from Romans 8 is my favorite! Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

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