One Way to Look at It: A Masterpiece

Sometimes it is hard to apply what we know about God to the situations we face each day. We tend to get bogged down in “real life” which means the stuff that fills our stretched thin days and energy levels. All too often, it seems the world is spinning at a pace too frenzied to sustain. In the midst of this, trouble seems to hit hard. Life is disrupted by illness, financial struggles, interpersonal stress, work frustration, school issues, marriage, parenting, self-control...difficulties come in every shape and size, and as adults, we have to take the hit, recover and move on.

It can be very hard to understand how God is working. In this broken world fraught with pain and hardship and weariness, it can be hard to identify good things. We want to believe that God is good, that he works for good, and that he wants good for us. But we live in the tension between what we believe and what we witness in our walking-around lives. 

How can a good, loving, powerful God be taking part in all this mess? How is it not better, if he is?

One of the verses that gives us pause in this whirlwind is from Romans. 

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

Sounds too easy, too good to be true. There has to be a catch, because an easy life evades us. But consider what came before that specific verse.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
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.
— Paul, Romans 8

Paul makes this statement in recognition of the struggle for hope, not to denounce it. He acknowledges how much we need God’s hand in all of this, and announces confidently that we have knowledge of God’s good intention and action.

Can we understand this in such a way that it helps us live this life? Can God work for good even as bad things happen? How is that possible?

Think about it this way:

God is The Creator. We know this, but we forget that it means He is the first and best creative being. He took nothing...nothing...and made everything. If He can do that, He can take anything and make it good.

Imagine Him as a painter. He has a huge canvas and has begun a masterpiece. It will take ages and time to develop, with layers of color and life built into it. There has never been anything like it, and may never be anything like it again. He is the Master and sketches out his ideas, leaving background shadows and hints to be built upon later. He could take his time and create exactly what he wants. But he has a different plan.

Instead, he takes the paints and materials and shares them with every human being. Everyone can affect the outcome. Those who would learn from him and pursue his dream pay close attention, aiming for the guidelines he left on the canvas. Those who ignore his ownership of the entire work paint as they see fit. Sometimes their strokes closely mirror his own. Sometimes they run amok and cover hues intended for beauty. None can match his design perfectly. But he has chosen this as a collaborative project and rejoices in the opportunity to share in the process with whomever comes to take part.

But whether the paint is lovingly applied or angrily flung, he will produce a beautiful work. He would never voluntarily choose to have parts of his creation destroyed or erased, but he did voluntarily choose to let us choose, so sometimes it happens. He would never celebrate this, but neither does he feel as derailed as we humans tend to in the face of plans that go awry.

He just continues painting. He can incorporate any color, any stroke, any slash of a brush and develop it into something worth showing. It might take a long time for the colors to blend into something softer and worthwhile. He might brighten it immediately. But nothing we do counts for nothing. And nothing anyone does is beyond his repair.

Because, as we know, in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, even if we can’t see how. This does not mean guaranteeing good and preventing bad, but constantly working toward something redeemed and beautiful.