I love to hang laundry outside to dry. Today was a perfect day for it. The sun was shining and there was a strong breeze that flapped and flipped the clothes all day long. When I brought them in I noticed how soft they were, and wrinkle free, from all that battering. I thought to myself that I wished it were that easy for us to be "soft and wrinkle free", to have a soft heart and be free of sin and struggles. Just go through a wash and rinse cycle, then be hung out to dry on a windy day. But then again, we are in a process of sanctification, each and every day, whether we realize it or not. So it may seem as though we've been "hung out to dry" or spent some time in the dryer on high heat. Or perhaps you've had an experience that more resembles clothes being beaten on a rock. If you belong to God, then you've "been through the wringer" more times than you would like to remember, I've no doubt.
I've had some losses in my life. We have all suffered through them. It's a theme that has been very familiar to me lately. I'm discovering that loss comes in many varieties. With all loss comes grief and mourning, to some degree. We grieve for something that can never be recovered. Loss of life is at the top of the list. I lost my brother three months ago. Since then I have heard stories of other people's losses. There are many ways to lose people from your life. Sickness, suicide, miscarriage, accidents, divorce. We can grieve other losses as well, like the loss of a job, or a relationship, loss of health, opportunities, a beloved pet. We can grieve the loss of a dream that has died, that we know will never come to fruition. When these losses happen, we are sad, we question, we wonder why these things, some of them tragic, happen to us and to those that we know and love. We get angry, depressed, fearful. Hopefully, though, these emotions give way to more positive ones. We come to terms with the loss, we accept it, and best of all, we trust that God has ordained it, and approved it as necessary in our lives.
To come to a place of acceptance can be a struggle. When my brother passed away, I was shocked, hurt, and angry. Angry at him for not taking better care of himself. And I admit that I was also angry at God. I was angry that He had not intervened in my brother's life in the way that I had hoped He would. Thankfully He continues to extend His grace and longsuffering toward me. Of course I have no right to be angry at him, the very thought is ludicrous, and I was the one that needed forgiveness from Him. But in my weak human condition, it was not an unusual response.
Very recently I was reading through Hebrews, and came upon these verses:
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (Hebrews 12:7-10)
For some reason, the last few words seemed to shout at me, telling me the ultimate purpose for the struggling and suffering that we endure as Believers. It is so that we might become like Him, to actually share in His holiness! It's not as though I didn't already know this. It is one of the main themes in Scripture, the truth that God works in us and around us to conform us more and more into the image of Christ. But coming on the heels of yet another loss, the renewed realization was precious.
Talking to a dear friend this evening, I was saying how I am trying to "think positively" about some recent events. Often, when there is a particularly painful and bewildering upset in our lives, we paint the whole picture black and bleak, with no redeeming features, no light at the end of the tunnel. We might feel that no good can come from the situation, because it is so devastating. Or we might feel that God is punishing us for some unknown reason. We rant, we rail, we question, and wonder if life will ever be the same again. But we do, hopefully sooner than later, remember that, oh yeah, God is in control! He knew this would happen! In fact, He ordained that it should happen, in order to fulfill His purposes in those whose lives were affected! So..........I can let it go, I can thank Him that He is working every detail together for their good, and His glory. I can rest, be still, and know that He is God, and will continue to be God.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)