My wife makes an amazing pot roast dinner. She takes raw meat, along with raw sliced white and sweet potatoes, celery, mushrooms, carrots, and onions and throws them into the slow cooker. Six or seven hours later the aroma fills the house, and the first taste is a delight. It is always to my advantage to wait until the ingredients in the slow cooker work together to achieve something they could not achieve individually.
When Paul used the phrase work together in the context of suffering, he used the word from which we get our word synergy. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He wanted the Romans to know that God, who didn’t cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan—for their ultimate good. The good to which Paul referred was not the temporal blessings of health, wealth, admiration, or success, but being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (v. 29).
May we wait patiently and confidently because our heavenly Father is taking all the suffering, all the distress, all the evil, and causing them to work together for His glory and our spiritual good. He wants to make us like Jesus.
In 1859, during the turbulent years prior to America’s Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had the opportunity to speak to the Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As he spoke, he shared with them the story of an ancient monarch’s search for a sentence that was “true and appropriate in all times and situations.” His wise men, faced with this heady challenge, gave him the sentence, “And this, too, shall pass away.”
Fanny Crosby lost her sight as an infant. Yet, amazingly, she went on to become one of the most well-known lyricists of Christian hymns. During her long life, she wrote over 9,000 hymns. Among them are such enduring favorites as “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory.”
I don’t agree with those who rail against material things and say that owning stuff is inherently evil. And I have to admit that I’m a consumer—often tempted to pad my pile of treasures with items I think I need.
I received good news at my eye checkup last month—my faraway vision has improved. Well, I thought it was good news until a friend informed me: “Faraway vision can improve as we age; close-up vision may diminish.”
During high school, my closest friend and I took a pair of horses out for an afternoon ride. We slowly roamed through fields of wildflowers and wooded groves. But when we nosed the horses in the direction of the barn, they took off toward home like twin rockets. Our equine friends knew that it was time for dinner and a good brushing, and they could hardly wait.
When I was a pastor, I served many women who were moms. I called on them in the hospital and rejoiced with them for their precious babies who had come into the world. I counseled with anxious mothers and tried to assure them that God was watching over their rebellious teenagers. I stood with mothers at the bedside of injured or ill children and felt their pain. And I cried with them in their grief when their son or daughter died.
Every March, the Iditarod Trail Race is held in Alaska. Sled dogs and their drivers, called “mushers,” race across a 1,049-mile route from Anchorage to Nome. The competing teams cover this great distance in anywhere from 8 to 15 days. In 2011, a record time was set by musher John Baker who covered the entire route in 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds. The teamwork between dogs and driver is remarkable, and those who compete are tenacious in their efforts to win. The first-place winner receives a cash prize and a new pickup truck. But after so much perseverance in extreme weather conditions, the accolades and prizes may seem insignificant and transient.
When our kids were young, my wife Martie and I enjoyed family vacations in Florida visiting our parents. It was especially wonderful to be there in the warmth for a brief respite from the Michigan wind-chill factor. I couldn’t wait to just relax on the beach with a good book. But my kids had other ideas. They wanted my help building sandcastles. Reluctantly, I’d get up to help, only to be quickly consumed by the project at hand. Before I knew it, I had spent hours creating an impressive castle—not thinking that it was only a matter of time until the tide would wash away all my hard work.