Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Meditations in the Middle of the Night

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him..." Romans 8:28

Last night my youngest daughter came down with the stomach flu. I wonder sometimes why the stomach flu always hits our house at midnight: after the kids are well asleep and too groggy to help themselves, but before I have gotten any shutteye. The heavings seemed to come like contractions: every ten to fifteen minutes from midnight until after six in the morning and I spent the entire night doing laundry and laying next to her on the very cold floor and praying.

I have been studying Romans in my Bible study and this verse was fresh in my mind. I had much time to meditate on it as I prayed and I tried hard to listen to God speak in the darkness.

I prayed, of course, that God would heal my little one, that she would miraculously get well. I knew that this was unlikely, which was not to say I didn't believe God could do it. God can do anything, and a little stomach flu would be nothing to Him to cure. But I also know God doesn't always do our bidding. not because He doesn't care or because He is not actively involved in our lives, but because these things which are hard on us are of use to us, and because, for reasons I do not always understand, God allows suffering, even for those who love Him.

I have grappled with this long and hard, this idea that God will allow bad things to happen to people. Can good always come out of bad? There are so many questions to deal with, like cancer and car accidents and starvation and poverty and terrorist regimes, I won't touch. I don't have all the answers, and last night wasn't about these things. It was about a little girl who was sick, and a very tired and delirious mom who was trying to survive the night.

I used to think that "work together for good" meant God would make even the bad circumstances to become good in the long run, but I have come to realize this isn't at all what God means. Sometimes He will do this, and things that are awful can give birth to great happenings. Joni Erickson Tada is a great example of this. A woman who became paralyzed in a terrible diving accident, who has lost the use of her legs and arms, has found great power in her new life. She has become a world-renowned artist, drawing with a pen in her teeth (surely a talent she would not have found without the accident!), and writing inspirational books, giving lectures that give hope and open the doors of faith to countless people, singing and inspiring. Her life is so much more powerful because of her paralysis. I might argue, though, that the best result of this accident is what God has done IN Joni, and not just through her. The good Paul mentions in this verse is the good God is doing IN us. It does not mean God will change our circumstances to good, but that He will use the circumstances we find ourselves in to mold us more like Him. Which is why, in the dark of the night, holding the little body of my sick child, I prayed that God would take away her sickness, but if He chose not to, that my daughter and I might have strength to get through the night, and that God would grant me the gentleness and patience and love needed but so scarce when I am tired. And that prayer He most definitely answered.