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Have-I-taken-God-for-granted(1)

Have I taken God for granted?

Written By Leslie Koh

After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.

I’m back in court again.

No, not that one. This one is an internal court of conflicting thoughts and feelings about my faith and my actions. It’s where I have to face accusations, and it’s where I sometimes try to defend myself. It’s a court I visit often.

I’m there again because I’ve just read yet another article warning me not to take God for granted. Yes, one of those pieces filled with stern warnings:

“Don’t take God for granted.”
“Don’t think you can get away with sin just because salvation is yours to keep.”
“Don’t test God’s patience.”

Et cetera, et cetera.

To be honest, I don’t like these warnings. I don’t like them because . . . I know I’m guilty. I know these warnings are meant for me. I don’t like them because they inevitably send me on a guilt trip—which I then try to escape by defending myself:

“Won’t I risk thinking that I need to earn my salvation by trying to be holy?”
“Isn’t God merciful if I repent sincerely?”
“Isn’t salvation mine to keep? If not, then what does grace mean?”

And that’s where the court proceedings begin.

 

Guilty! I do take God for granted . . .

First, the accusations:

You take God for granted. You go ahead and sin and sin and sin, thinking that it’s okay because you can be forgiven the moment you ask for forgiveness. You do this because you think salvation is yours, and that excuses you from trying harder to live a holy life. You think you can simply fall back on God’s mercy and grace, and get away scot-free. What about your responsibility to resist temptation and sin? Aren’t you testing God’s patience? Aren’t you devaluing grace?

I nod, remorseful. “Guilty! I know I’m guilty!”

I’ll be honest and confess: Sometimes (far more often than that, in fact), I do think that I can get away with sin because God will forgive me. I take His mercy for granted. I quote Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to forgive 490 times, and cite the Bible’s description of God’s endless mercies. And so, at the back of my mind, I excuse my behavior and proceed with my sin, thinking, “I’ll repent sincerely later, and it’ll be okay.”

I’m also guilty of not putting a lot of effort into being holy and living the new life that Jesus has given me through His death and resurrection. That’s because I hold on to the idea that I shouldn’t try to change on my own strength. After all, isn’t God the one who will transform me? And so I proceed as usual, doing what I normally do. Of course, I do take precautions to avoid I what think are “worse” sins, but I’ll readily admit that deep inside, I leave it to God to help me overcome the “small” ones. That makes me guilty of forgetting that my walk with God is not just one of faith, but a journey of discipline too.

And finally, I tend to forget that things like my life, my relationship with God, the open access I have to Him, and my salvation are privileges. Oh yes, I’m well aware that I don’t deserve them and that God has given them to me out of His grace. But like I do with most gifts, I’ve come to see them as mine to keep forever—no matter what I do. I forget that they remain a privilege and they didn’t come cheap—it cost Jesus His life, and God, His Son. I fail to treasure these gifts and make the most out of them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”—Matthew 7:21

 

Not guilty! I’m doing all right—really . . .

But then the little defense lawyer inside me stands up and responds:

God’s grace and mercy are boundless. Don’t make the mistake of being legalistic about your faith. Yes, you must seek to live a holy life. But you shouldn’t doubt your salvation whenever you fail (for you will, inevitably). If you keep going back to the fundamentals, you’ll never be able to step forward in your faith. You’ll end up hobbling your spiritual growth. You need to accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself. You need to move on.

I raise my head, hoping that he’s right. “Really? Am I not guilty after all?”

Isn’t it true? If I were to doubt God’s forgiveness even after confessing and repenting, then I would be doubting His character as a merciful and forgiving God, His promise to forgive, and the effectiveness of His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Of course, I need to ensure that I am sincere in my confession and repentance. But if I keep holding on to my shame and guilt, wouldn’t I be belittling Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the cross? Don’t I need to move on, relying on the fact of God’s unconditional love and mercy?

Besides, if I focus too much on trying to be holy and being a “good” Christian, I may fall into the trap of legalism. Now, that would be cheapening grace. I may forget that I am saved by grace, not by any works I can do. Oh yes, I am called to put aside my old self and my old sinful habits. But I shouldn’t confuse that with trying to win God’s favor by being good. Only He can make me holy and righteous in His sight. What I need to do is to submit to His transformation.

And, finally, my favorite defense: There’s no doubt that I’m flawed and far from perfect. And I still struggle with sin and holiness. But the very fact that I still battle with guilt and feelings of inadequacy shows that I don’t take God for granted; it shows that my conscience is still very much alive—kept alive by the Holy Spirit in me. If I was really guilty of taking God for granted, then I wouldn’t even think twice about going ahead with my sins, nor about whether I need to live in a more holy manner, right? In fact, I won’t even wonder whether I’m taking Him for granted. So the very fact that I’m worried about taking God for granted . . . shows that I’m not. You know what I mean!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.—Romans 8:1-2

 

And the verdict is . . .

I hate to leave it hanging, but the answer is . . . I can’t tell you for sure. Only the judge can decide, and in this court, God is the judge. Only He can determine whether or not I’m guilty of taking Him for granted.

To be honest, I haven’t heard a clear voice telling me the final judgment. But I personally believe that it is . . . BOTH. Guilty—because I have taken God for granted. And not guilty—because He is always ready to forgive me, and Christ’s death has paid for my sin. It’s almost as if God is saying:

Yes, sometimes you ARE guilty of taking Me for granted. That’s why I send you reminders and warnings, and My Spirit fills your heart with remorse. But I don’t want you to just feel guilty; I want you to do something about it. And I want you to repent and move on, so that you become NOT guilty. And that’s why I send you comfort and assurance, too. I want you to know that when you truly confess and repent, it puts you on the right track.

So what does that mean for me, the accused? It means that I’m going to have a constant struggle with guilt. And it means that I’m going to be coming back to this court, again and again, to hear the same accusations and defenses.

But maybe that’s the whole point. A friend once told me something that has stuck in my mind, and it is simply this: Christianity is a struggle.

If we stop struggling, then something’s wrong. Yes, we shouldn’t allow doubt to whittle away at our faith until nothing’s left. But we also need to keep checking ourselves to make sure we’re not becoming complacent in our walk with God. The constant questioning, reviewing, and wrestling with spiritual issues—all these show our faith is alive.

Perhaps that’s why Paul urged believers to present themselves to God as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1)—the thing about a living sacrifice, you see, is that it can crawl away. Every day and every moment, we face the temptation to crawl away from the altar and to seek our own desires and ways; it takes a conscious effort to stay there. But it’s a struggle that I believe God appreciates.

So now I’m out of court. I’m guilty, but because of Jesus, I’m not guilty. Guess I’ll be back again soon.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?  And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.—2 Corinthians 13:5

 

Please-Dont-Jump,-Theres-Hope

Please don’t jump, there’s hope

Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

I was just about to leave for work when a policeman knocked on my door. “Sir, do you know of any elderly woman living along this floor?”

Behind him, a single stool stood next to the railing separating the flats on my floor from the ground, 10 floors below. It didn’t belong to my neighbor. Several policemen were stretching a white tape across the narrow common corridor in front of me. It didn’t take much to guess what had happened. In the old days, my housing estate was a popular spot for suicides; in those days, few buildings were this “tall”.

“Actually . . . most of the people here are elderly,” I told the cop. Then my thoughts went to my immediate neighbor. I glanced at her windows, just two feet from me. But to my relief, the policeman peeked through, turned to me, and nodded. “No, she’s in there.”

Then, another thought. A neighbor a few doors down had been rather depressed after suffering a disability. But I spotted his door opening in the distance, as policemen went down the row, knocking on door after door. His thin hands emerged. Another wave of relief.

The policeman then asked me if I minded looking at a picture of her face, to see if I recognized her. I didn’t.

The woman had probably come from another block in the estate, and likely planned this in advance. She had brought her own stool, and had chosen to jump from the quietest stretch of corridor; the other part faced another block, and she would have been spotted. My block was also one of the quietest ones in the neighborhood.

There was little else I could do. I walked out of my home, glancing over the railing along the way to take in the sight of a pitiful covered bundle lying on a concrete parapet, 10 floors below.

I nodded to the policeman, ducked under the crime-scene tape, and took a lift to the ground. As I walked out of the estate, I was engulfed by a wave of sadness. I didn’t know the woman, but my heart went out to her. In an ageing estate populated mostly by elderly folk, it wasn’t difficult to guess why she had dragged a stool to my block of flats, taken the lift to the highest floor, climbed onto it, and hurled herself over the railing.

Perhaps she didn’t have a family. Perhaps she wasn’t close to them or felt abandoned. Perhaps she was told about an incurable disease. Perhaps she felt that she had nothing left to live for. No love, no purpose . . . only loneliness and the certain prospect of years of emptiness stretching ahead. Nothing but hopelessness.

Nothing left to live for. No hope.

Death would have seemed to be the only escape, the only relief.

If only my wife or I had happened to come out the door when she was there. We could have stopped her. If only we—or someone—had a chance to tell her: Please, don’t jump. There’s hope.

Hope. Sometimes, it’s the only reason to go on living. When you’ve lost everything, and there’s nothing left to look forward to. When nothing is going right, and things don’t look as if they’re ever going to get any better.

What stops us from taking the only way out? What stops us from going to the highest building, from taking a handful of sleeping pills?

Hope. Hope that somehow, somewhere, things may eventually get better. Hope that amid the loneliness, there’s someone out there who still cares for us and who will tell us, “Hey, you mean a lot to me. Don’t go, I need you.” Hope that in the desperation of our current situation, someone will come along to stretch out a helping hand, give us a comforting hug, and say, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you. I’ll walk with you.”

Only one person can give us this hope. Only one person can promise us that he’ll be there with us, every step of the way. Only one person can keep up that promise, because he will never be too busy to listen to us. Only one person will never fail us. Only one person could say to us with utmost confidence, “Don’t worry, I’m in control. I know your situation, and I know what to do. I know what you need.”

That person is Jesus. Having once lived as a man, He knows exactly how we feel. Our depression. Our loneliness. Our hopelessness. As the Son of God, He has the ultimate power to handle our situation. He knows what comfort and encouragement we need, and He will be able to give it to us. Some of us will still have to live through our challenging circumstances, but we’ll have the complete assurance that He’s walking alongside us—every day, every hour, every minute. And, the most important of all, we’ll be able to go on in life with this knowledge: Jesus loves me. I matter to him. I mean the world to him—so much so that He died to save my soul. He has a purpose for me. He placed me here for a reason. He wants me to live for him.

When there’s absolutely nothing left to live for, when we’ve lost everything, we still have one thing. Jesus gives us hope. Hope to live. Hope to believe.

If you’re feeling hopeless, if you’ve given up on life, if you’ve taken a stool and are heading for the top floor of a block near you, stop. Please stop. There’s someone out there who loves you. Jesus loves you.

Why-did-God-create-a-world-that-He-knew-was-going-to-go-wrong-eventually

Why did God Create a World that He Knew was Going to Go Wrong eventually?

Written By Leslie Koh

After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.

 

This introduction that you’re reading now is really my third. Twice, I wrote a few paragraphs, only to remove them after finding that they were going nowhere.

Despite having spent a couple of hours coming up with the first two versions, it wasn’t really difficult to click on “delete”. I mean, why continue something that is flawed?

Which makes me wonder, why didn’t God do the same thing with creation? When God created the heavens, the earth and everything else, it was all perfect. Seven times, Genesis 1 observes that God saw that “it was good”. Then everything went wrong (thanks, Adam and Eve), and here we are, living in a far-from-perfect world that is pretty much destined for destruction.

Now we know God is omniscient ie. He is all-seeing and all-knowing, of everything as well as of what will happen in the past, present, and future. That means He would surely have known that Adam and Eve would, at some point, decide to disobey Him. He would have known that this sin would condemn not just the duo, but succeeding generations of mankind, along with the earth.

So why didn’t He “delete” the earth and start all over again? After all, another six days’ work wouldn’t have been too difficult, would it? Of course, you could argue that knowing man, Creation 2.0 would probably have gone down the same route, anyway. So the question is, why did God bother at all? Why create a world that He knew was going to go wrong eventually?

First, a disclaimer…

I’m not going to pretend that this is an insightful question of mine; it’s probably one of the most-often asked questions among Christians. And I’m not going to give the impression that it led me to study the Bible carefully and come up with biblically, logically and theologically sound explanations. To be honest, all I did was to read a bit to see what has been discussed about this question, and to try to re-frame it so I could understand it better myself.

I also wasn’t looking for a watertight answer that even the staunchest atheist or strongest cynic couldn’t refute. (So, yes, please feel free to disagree.) No, I was just looking for some possible answers—a new perspective, if you will, on the question. After all, the Bible doesn’t say explicitly why God decided to continue putting up with the flawed humans that were corrupting His creation, or why He created the world even though He knew it would go wrong.

Before going into why God decided to proceed with Creation, however, I figured that it would help to narrow the scope of the discussion by considering (and dismissing) several alternative options to explain what happened. As a believer, I kept to the basic assumption that God is good and that He is perfect.

 

So what happened? Three options

One, God made creation perfect, but somehow it went wrong, and He had to get His Son to do a quick rescue job. On the surface, this might seem plausible. Genesis 1 doesn’t tell us that God anticipated any problems; you can even imagine Him nodding satisfactorily at the end of each of the first six days, saying, “That’s good”, then sighing sadly days later when Adam and Eve take those fatal bites into the forbidden fruit.

But to say that creation didn’t quite turn out as expected suggests that God had lost control of His product. Keeping the assumption that God is sovereign, all-powerful and all-knowing, I felt I had to dismiss this option. If God wasn’t in full control . . . then everything I believe would come apart. Next!

 

Two, God made creation such that this would happen, so He could send His Son to earth to show His glory. This idea might seem to fit in with why God made creation (“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”— Psalm 19:1). It suggests that like a director of a dramatic movie, God somehow arranged it all such that man would sin, and He would send His Son down to show His mercy and love.

Except that . . . this would be tantamount to saying that God created sin; that He made everything good, then deliberately arranged for things to fall apart, just so that He could show His mercy and grace. And that would make God seem a little manipulative. The Bible, however, makes it clear that God is good (Psalm 107:1, 1 Timothy 4:4, James 1:17), so let’s dismiss this option too.

 

Three, God made creation knowing that it would rebel against Him one day—but He made it anyway. This third option keeps to the assumption that God is good and perfect; it’s like having a good parent who raises a child perfectly, only to see this child become a rebel. Of course, this option leads us back to the original question: Since God knew that the world would turn against Him, why did He bother creating it?

 

You could have endless discussions (and arguments) over this, and it would be hard to come to a definitive conclusion that would be acceptable to most. But a little reading threw up the following three points which I felt appealed to my sense of logic and reasonable-ness, and most importantly, were also consistent with what we know about God. They aren’t necessarily answers to the difficult question; I saw them more as perspectives that helped me address the question. You be the judge.

 

  1. Because it shows God’s glory, love, mercy, and grace.

This sounds a bit like option 2 above, but with one difference: God didn’t make the Fall of Man happen (because that would suggest He made man sin), though He knew it would. But He allowed to happen so that we could see His glory and experience His grace and mercy. The Bible tells us that God’s ultimate purpose in everything is to have Christ the Son rule over everything, so that the Father is glorified. “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:8-10).

It would be hard to fully define what God’s glory means, but it includes His greatness and all His attributes, such as holiness, justice, love, mercy, and grace—all of which were manifested through the story of Creation. Through the creation of the world, we see God’s greatness and power. Through His judgment of sin, we see His justice and holiness. And through Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, we see the Father’s love, mercy, and grace.

So you could say that allowing mankind to make that choice to obey or rebel against Him served God’s purpose. Of course, that might beg the questions: Could God’s glory have been manifested if He had not allowed the world to rebel against Him? Couldn’t He have been glorified in another way? In other words, did God need the world to fall to show His glory?

Well, I believe this question is too hypothetical to come up with a satisfactory answer. We could become indignant and demand to know why God didn’t show His glory another way. But we’d also have to remember that He didn’t make man sin; it was Adam and Eve who chose to disobey God themselves. And because of it, and what happened later, we got to see and understand God’s holiness and justice, and experience His love and grace.

 

  1. Because He wants a relationship with us.

If you think about it, God really didn’t have to create the world—or us. As a self-sufficient and complete God, He doesn’t need a world to support Him, nor anyone to keep Him in power. He isn’t even lonely; the Holy Trinity is, after all, made up of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yet God made man because He wanted to have a relationship with us. He could have stopped at creating the universe, the earth, the plants, and the animals (and have a two-day weekend), but He went on to the sixth day to make man. How is man different? We are created “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27) ie. unlike His other creations, we have some of His attributes. That enables us to relate to Him in a way that other creations can’t. God doesn’t need us to keep Him company, but He wants to enjoy our company. In Genesis 1:31, after making man, God noted that “it was very good”—the previous days, it was merely “good”.

Why did God create the world even though He knew it would go south? Because He desired a loving relationship with man, and was ready to be patient, forgiving, and merciful when man failed. Compare that to a couple who have a child. They already have each other for company, but they desire the companionship of an addition to the family. And even though they know that this child will be naughty, flawed, and rebellious, the hope of the joy that this child brings is worth the heartbreak and the pain.

Of course, here’s where we could ask: So why didn’t God create human beings that couldn’t sin? Why did He give them the choice?

 

  1. Because free will is needed for love

Why does a couple choose to have a child and not a robot? Easy—the robot won’t love back. A relationship is meaningful not only when it’s two-way, but also when either party chooses to stay in it. Love cannot be forced or controlled; otherwise it’s no better than slavery or forced loyalty.

Why was the father of the prodigal son in the well-known parable so overjoyed to see his son return (Luke 15:11-24)? Because the son had, of his own accord, chosen to repent and to return to his father. The latter had not forced nor bribed his son to come back; that was what made the young man’s repentance and love even more valuable to the father.

That’s why God calls us His children, and not His servants. If He had made man such that we had no choice but to obey Him, our “love” and “loyalty” would not mean much to Him. No, He wanted us to decide for ourselves if we wanted to love Him back. So He made us with a free will, the ability to choose whether to follow His instructions or not.

That may also explain why God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) in the Garden of Eden in the first place. That’s one question I always had—why did God have to plant it there? Was He not tempting Adam and Eve? Did He not know they would eat from the very tree they weren’t supposed to? Some Bible teachers have posited that the tree represented the choice that God was giving to the first couple. It was as if He was telling them, “In case you complain that you have no choice but to obey Me, here’s an option you can take. I’m making it clear that you’re not to take it, but the decision is still yours.” The tree of knowledge of good and evil was thus a test.

(If we argue that God was being unfair in putting this temptation in the Garden, consider this thought: There must have been thousands (maybe even more) of fruit trees that Adam and Eve could eat from, but they had to eat from the one forbidden one.)

Christian writer Max Lucado, in his book In the Eye of the Storm, paints a beautiful portrait of the day God made man. He imagines God putting a “seed of choice” into a lump of clay that he will soon bring to life. A watching angel asks if this is wise, and God answers by showing the angel a glimpse of a future in which man will rebel and forget his Maker.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn’t it be easier to not give the choice?” the angel then asks. “It would,” God replies. “But to remove the choice is to remove the love.”

It Comes Down to Trusting in God’s Character

If you’re still not entirely convinced, I don’t blame you. It can be hard to wrap our heads around an issue that packs so many apparent contradictions in logic and invites even more “what-ifs”. Every answer is likely to lead to 10 other questions. After all, we’re talking about an issue that is beyond human comprehension.

Some would quote Deuteronomy 29:29—“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”—to stress that it’s simply impossible to understand some of God’s actions and decisions. But I believe that these three perspectives do offer some measure of logic to understand why God still proceeded with Creation despite knowing what would happen. They may not link up like a mathematical equation, but they help us to see that what God did was entirely consistent with His purpose and character.

I suppose it’s a bit like trying to get to grips with a decision that a good friend has made, but which you simply don’t understand (say, like him taking an unusual job). You may not be fully convinced—at least for now—that he did the right thing, but what you can do is try to see the situation from his point of view and understand what prompted him to make his choice. And if you know him well, you will trust that the choice he made is consistent with his character, and that he knows what he’s doing.

In the case of Creation, it may come down to simply accepting that God’s action comes from His attributes of being good, loving, and perfect. Those are the assumptions I made in the beginning, and they are the same ones I continue to hold on to, no matter how humanly “illogical” some of His actions seem to be.

In an article on Apologetics Press, Christian apologist Kyle Butt sums up such debates rather nicely. There is no possible way, he notes, for our finite human minds to fully understand why God created humans. He concludes: “God’s attributes of omniscience, impartiality, and love provide the basis to conclude that only He would be in a position to determine which world would be the very best. When understood properly, the Bible presents a completely consistent picture of God’s moral perfection in regard to His choice to create humans.”

Still-Grieving-18-Months-on

Still Grieving 18 Months on

Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

It’s been a year and a half since my grandmother passed away, and I still cannot bear to think about her. It is said that you should not deny your feelings or suppress them, but confront them and deal with them. But I can’t.

Just thinking about her and the times we shared brings so much pain that I consciously suppress any thoughts or memories of her. We were really close, and every time something interesting happens, I feel like I want to share it with her. But I can’t. Even as I write this, the words seem to blur and I have to blink away the tears.

She died suddenly, at the age of 93, after a fall. Yes, she was old. Yes, she had been diagnosed with cancer some months before. Yes, death is inevitable, and you could say she had more than her share of a full life. But death never makes sense, and neither does grief.

Every shred of logic tells me that it was good she went this way—with little pain—and that it was something I would have to go through sooner or later. And that sudden death meant that she was spared the painful ravages of later-stage cancer.

But the heart behaves differently. Twenty months after the shock, I am still grieving. Yes, the pain is less intense than the cold stab in the heart that I used to feel physically. Yes, I can even go for days—weeks, even—without thinking about my grandma once. But it still hurts when the image of my grandma’s face comes, or the memory of her voice. It hurts a lot. So much, that I need to shove it down, deep into the recesses of my heart, in the hope that the pain will die there someday. Twenty months later, I am still asking, Why?

I still haven’t received any answer. In the first devastating week after my grandma’s death, God had comforted me with a simple fact. He had not explained why. Instead, all He had said was, I’m in charge. He had said: Things may not make sense to you, but they make sense to Me. You just have to trust Me.

Strangely, that was comforting enough. My grief didn’t go away, nor did the pain, nor the questions that rang continuously through my mind. But comfort came from the knowledge that I could leave my questions—and answers—to God. If He allowed it to happen, I figured, then He must have had a reason. Even if I couldn’t see it or didn’t understand it, I had to trust that this reason was perfect, because God is perfect.

Twenty months later, this fact is still true, and this knowledge is still comforting.

How? To me, knowing that God is in complete control all the time means that even though I am unable to see or understand when something goes wrong in life, I can trust that there is a good reason for it. Even though I am hurting or suffering right now, I know that whatever happens, is in line with God’s greater purposes—not that He causes bad things to happen, but that He allows it for a purpose. And even though I may never get to understand this purpose in this life (perhaps I will when I see finally Him, perhaps not), I can trust God has only my best interests at heart.

The oft-quoted Romans 8:28 says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

The verse doesn’t say that everything will turn out well in the end. Paul wrote this when he was imprisoned in Rome, and I’m sure he didn’t expect his situation to improve. Also, he specified what that “good” was—in the next verse, he refers to God’s predestining us “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. I guess that’s an answer to my question. Why did this have to happen? So that you’ll be like My Son. How does that work? You’ll have to trust Me on that.

But God didn’t just leave me with this truth, and walk away. In the initial days and weeks of grief, and in the months that followed, He gave me strength and comfort to get through the pain and the overwhelming sense of loss. He gave me physical, mental and emotional rest, so that I was able to sleep. He gave me the strength to focus on other things in life, so that my life would not grind to a halt. He gave me the warm love, comfort, and encouragement of others, so that I was constantly reminded that I was not walking alone, and that others had walked this painful path too. And He gave me moments of joy, when I could still rejoice and smile.

I have been told many times that suffering can strengthen us, teach us something about life, or prepare us for something greater. I believe this is true, but sometimes, it’s hard to accept wholeheartedly. There may be times when there’s no apparent reason to suffer. When something happens that is not a result of what we do. When nothing we go through appears to be something that will train or strengthen us. When the pain and grief that we go through really don’t seem to make any sense.

Those are the times when we cling on to the only truth that matters, and the strength and comfort that we know we will receive. Trust Me, My child. I know the answers, and I’m in charge. And I will be with you. Just trust Me.