For now, we see only the tapestry’s tangled underside.
“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)
All of us struggle with doubt, wrestle with issues and at times feel the weight of uncertainties. And one of those uncertainties we feel is this – do the things that happen to us in this world, happen because God allows them to happen under His control or do they happen because they are outside of His control? And if God is in control, is He always in full control or does He sometimes slip up in keeping that control– maybe even just a little? Just how do all those puzzle pieces fit? With that in mind, I want to direct you to this remarkable verse from the pen of the Apostle Paul. Among many things that could be said about this great verse, note these.
First, God’s control of all things is inclusive. The verse says that “all things work together for good”. In this case “all things” means “all things”, excluding nothing. A lot of people believe that things happen because of coincidence and chance. Some believe that the stars of the zodiac control all that happens. Others believe that fate determines our circumstances. But the Bible’s point of view is that we are not those who are subject to random happenings in the world. If it is chance that determines whether tomorrow you and I live or die, then it is little wonder that many people find life so depressing! But no. It’s not how the dice falls that determines what happens but He who writes the script. And He who writes the script here reminds us that He works in and through “all things” and He leaves no room for chance or co-incidence.
“Sometimes some aspect of His control of all things seems obvious, and other times it seems hard to detect, but whether His people can see it is not the issue.”
Second God’s control of all things is active. The verse says “all things work together for good”. It is not as though God has or had some plan and He’s left it sitting high up on a shelf in His study that He may or may not consult every thousand years or so. His control of all things is a reality even in daily experience. Sometimes some aspect of His control of all things seems obvious, and other times it seems hard to detect, but whether His people can see it is not the issue. Creation is full of things that go on without us seeing them – consider the germination of a seed – and laws that are always in place, such as the law of gravity. Just as these all happen day in and day out according to the laws of His design, so too in relation to our circumstances God never sleeps or takes a holiday. He remains at work, even though our circumstances suggest He knocked off ages ago.
Third, God’s control of all things is harmonious. The verse says “all things work together for good”. One commentator translates this verse as “we know that God intermingles all things for good for them that love Him”. Of course, His people should expect that with God. He has a habit of turning the varied and sometimes difficult circumstances of believers’ lives into things that make sense.
Making a sponge cake requires a variety of ingredients that by themselves will not combine to produce the cake. And if a cook were to view each ingredient in isolation, she might be tempted to leave one out. But when the right ingredients are mixed together in the right way under the right conditions, the finished product will be what it should. In the same way God knows how to take the varied circumstances in which His people find themselves – even if those ‘ingredients’ involve suffering or pain or trial – and to work them together to bring about whatever He intends. The Old Testament story of Joseph is a wonderful illustration of that truth.
“But pain, temptation, illness and trial are all tools that God uses for His purposes that can be beyond our sight.”
Fourth, God’s sovereign control of all things is beneficial. The verse says “all things work together for good ”. But Christians often have a problem with the good intent of God’s control of all things, and that problem is very easily put. The “good” that God intends is interpreted in a very superficial way to mean that anything that helps them or brings them joy or increases their bank balance is surely good, while anything that causes them to struggle or increases their anxiety levels or decreases their bank balance is surely not good. The modern principle that anything that makes one happier is good may often be a long way from God’s idea of good. But pain, temptation, illness and trial are all tools that God uses for His purposes that can be beyond our sight.
Many, many years ago now, I started work on a cross-stitch pattern of an old gum tree which I never did finish because on the underneath side of the cross-stitch all my stitches were badly tangled. The front didn’t look too bad, but the other side looked like a disaster zone. Now if God is Sovereign and the Master Weaver of all that happens to us, then it is not beyond Him to blend some dark threads in with the lighter ones. From a human perspective these darker threads might seem threatening but, as part of the “all things”, the darker threads are needed to complete the whole picture, which we may not see until the Day comes when we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is in this – God’s sovereign control of all things – that we can take great comfort, just as the poet wrote;
“My life is but a weaving, between the Lord and me;
I may not choose the colours – He knows what they should be.
For He can view the pattern upon the upper side
While I can see it only on this, the under side.
Sometimes He weaves in sorrow, which seems so strange to me;
But I will trust His judgment and work on faithfully.
’Tis He who fills the shuttle, and He knows what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest, and leave to Him the rest.
Not ’til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needed In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver In the pattern He has planned.”
Benjamin Malachi Franklin 1882-1965
First Published in 2012/2013 Summer edition