I was asked to give the morning devotion at our national conference of pregnancy care centres last week in Vancouver, and thought I’d share with all of you what I shared with all of my colleagues then. While this was written very intentionally to people working in the pregnancy care ministry, please just hear it as my own thoughts and struggles.
I have been asked to give a devotion, I don’t know that this is really a devotion J Just as Anne felt that she was called to be inspiring yesterday, today I feel that I am called to just be real.
I’ve had comments about how many students I have as Facebook friends, but really, these are students that I didn’t hesitate to accept their friend requests, because I’m the same person on FB as I am in real life All I know is what I’ve lived – what God has walked with me through and what I’ve learned, so that’s where I’m speaking from this morning.
I’d like to talk all of you, and especially our front line workers, those who have sat in the counseling room with a woman, and especially to those who have watched their client walk out the door, knowing that she was headed for the abortion clinic.
I want to spend a few minutes in one of my favorite books – Romans, specifically Romans 8:28, “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.” – we’re going to talk about this verse, and how this applies so much to the work we’re doing.
My mom is the youngest of 7 children by 18 years – my grandmother was in her early 40’s when my mom was born, and it was because of this that my mom and grandmother were very, very close, and when I was born, the first of 7, I was named after my maternal grandparents.
My grandmother’s name was Minke, and my grandfather Anne, and I am Monica Anne. And while every grandchild is pretty sure they are the favorite, there was definitely a special bond between me and my Beppe. Beppe is Friesen for grandmother – my grandparents were Dutch immigrants, coming from the province of Friesland in the late 1940’s, shortly before my mom was born. We lived on the same yard as them, and I grew up spending countless hours at my Beppe’s bedside.
Beppe’s favorite verse was Romans 8:28, and for that reason alone it became a favorite of mine. It’s one of those great verses that people like to claim and throw around very easily, kind of like Jeremiah 29:11.
It just makes you feel good, right? But it’s not actually that simple. Yes, God promises good will come out of our circumstances – but not that we will have easy lives, or that we will even see that good.
While I may have just adopted Beppe’s favorite verse for my own, it’s taken on a very special meaning for me in recent years, and even weeks. Over the past few years I’ve been so blessed to see God work in my life in so many ways, bringing me to this place where I have this amazing job that I’m ridiculous underqualified for, I’m getting married in a couple of months to a wonderful man, all of these things where I’ve been able to see God’s hand through dark and trying circumstances, preparing me for what He had planned.
I’ve been able to see some of the good.
And isn’t that how it is with some of our clients? Those clients who come in with their stories of heartbreak and sadness, their agony over this unplanned pregnancy, and then we see God at work – maybe that’s through a decision to parent, or an amazing adoption story, and we can see that through our obedience to God’s call on our lives to serve, He has worked good.
Don’t we love those clients? Our success stories? We plaster them on the front of our newsletters, shout their stories from pulpits, and invite them to our banquets to compel our donors to give.
But what about the tough ones? What do we do with those? The ones where we don’t see good – none at all. What happened? We were there, we were obedient – and yet, she still had that abortion.
It’s so easy to see God’s hand and to praise Him in the good times – what about the bad? Where is He then?
I flew out of the Calgary airport on Tuesday afternoon, after having spent the night with my 16 year old daughter, in her hospital room at Alberta Children’s Hospital where she’s been now for 2 weeks, and will likely remain for the next couple of months.
My beautiful girl – my firstborn – is fighting against something that is trying so hard to take her life. And that thing is herself. Katie is anorexic, and over the past 7 months has lost 50% of her body weight. At 5’10’ and 90 lbs, she is literally nothing but skin and bones.
Well, God. Where is the good in this?
But you see, that’s where we get tripped up in this verse sometimes. Nowhere does it say that it’s all going to be good.
Tim Keller* says there are three implications found in this verse: First, that all things happen to Christians, good and bed. Let’s be realistic – terrible things happen to people who love God. The verse says that in all things God works for good – that means all things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Reading on in this passage, vs. 35 says “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Those are all terrible things, and they can and will happen to Christians and non-Christians alike.
The second thing that Keller points out is that when things work together in your life, it’s because of God. When our businesses do well, and we’re able to be successful financially, it’s not because we’re so smart – it’s because God has blessed that venture. When we have good health, it is simply because God is holding it up. When we have good relationships in our life, it’s not because we’re so loveable – it’s God, in His grace, working all things together.
The third point that Keller brings is the most basic – although bad things happen, God works them for our good. It doesn’t promise that as Christians we’re going to have better circumstances just because we love God. No. Rather, we are promised that in the bad, God is working. In the middle of that divorce, or as your business is filing for bankruptcy, in that hospital room, or at that gravesite – God is working.
We need to remember, though, that God promises to work all things together for good – but that doesn’t mean that when something bad happens, we can automatically expect good the next week. Or the next year. Or maybe even in the next decade. In fact, we may never see the good that God promises.
Think of the story of Jim Elliot – he was a missionary who went into Ecuador to share the good news, and was killed by the locals before seeing a single man come to Christ. But through his dedication and obedience, the door was opened, and since then many, many have come to know Christ, in part by the work of his widow Elizabeth.
The promise is not that we will see how every bad thing in our life works to our good – it’s that God will make sure that all the bad circumstances will work together for your life in its totality.
It is in this confidence that we do the work that we do. How else can we, day after day, client after client, continue to present the information needed, with no control over the effects? How else do we deal with the frustration and heartache of that woman who walks out the door, firm in her plans of abortion?
This is how. Knowing that through our obedience to God’s call on our life, He will work good.
John Piper says this about Romans 8:28:
“When it comes to the architecture of promises, there are not any bigger buildings than Romans 8:28. This structure is absolutely staggering in its size. It is massive. The infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God pledges to make everything beneficial to his people! Not just nice things, but horrible things, like tribulation and distress and peril and slaughter. What brick would you lay on the top of this skyscraper promise to make it taller? “All things” means all things.
Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28, everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over any more. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good, all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is absolutely incomparable to the refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”**
So what do we do with this? We work. And we trust. That’s all. Our God is so much bigger than we can imagine, so much bigger than all of our plans.
Those abortion minded clients? We don’t always get to know the end of the story. Sometimes we do….when we see them uptown, and they’re not pregnant anymore. Or they’re coming back, looking for post-abortion help. Or sometimes we get a glimpse of the good, when we see our clients with their newborns.
We look for the blessings and we look for the good, thanking God when we can see it, trusting Him when we can’t. I find that in knowing that God is in control, that He does have a good plan, I look for the good, look for His blessings.
Katie’s situation is a terrible one, and I don’t know what God has planned for her. I pray that someday she will be able to use this and be a help and inspiration to many, that God will use her mightily. But maybe He won’t. But I know that God will bring good. I’ve been able to see a piece of it – through this entire situation, I’ve gotten to see the character and integrity of my fiancée.
In all of it, God is in control – and He is working. His good. His good plan.
I grew up in the Reformed church, a heritage which I love and hold dear to my heart, and part of that heritage is the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism is a confession, written in the 1500’s based on Scripture, used to teach Christian doctrine, and my favorite, and the favorite of many, is Q & A 1, which I’d like to leave you with.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.