Weekly Meditation - 30th July 2017

Genesis 29:15-28

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

Romans 8:26-39

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

It takes a lot of faith to believe and trust what Paul states in his letter to the Romans chapter 8 verse 28; 'In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.'   It would certainly take a brave person to quote those words to a mother whose child is in desperate need of anti-cancer drugs in a country that has not even the most basic medicines; or to a father who has just lost his entire family in a Syrian gas-attack; or to a man just made redundant; or to a woman who has had her pension drastically reduced. How can any of those things 'work for the good' of any believer?

I don’t know, because I have not had those experiences.  There was a time when, as a fairly new Christian, I simply did not believe that what Paul said could be true. I thought of all the things I most dreaded – widowhood, the serious illness of one of my children, the loss of our financial security – and I was quite certain my faith could not withstand such catastrophes.

It must feel truly terrible to have to undergo any such experience, yet afterwards, when we come to take stock of where we are, we could well find that good has come out of disaster.  I know that to be true because fifteen years ago, in the space of a few months, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,  and one of my daughters was expelled from a posh girls’ boarding school.  The cancer diagnosis was a shock, and a blow to my pride – I have always taken good care of my health – but I coped well with the treatment and I am healed. The problem with my daughter, though, knocked me sideways. I felt every emotion from failure, through shame, fear, fury, to despair.  I am a qualified teacher, with a distinction in educational psychology so I, of all people – so I believed – should not have had problems with any of my children. I felt totally alone, pilloried, almost a pariah.

At about the same time, though, I was called to local preaching. In the preliminary session with my supervisor, we reviewed some of my general experience of life, and in talking about my recent failures, I realised that without them I would have been quite unqualified to preach. Until that year, I had lived with very little to upset me. I had, I regret to say, believed that people who became ill had brought it on themselves, and as for behavioural problems in children, I used to apply those well-worn words, 'It’s the parents who are to blame.' If I had become a local preacher, I would have been totally lacking in empathy with the weaknesses of others. I hate to think what self-righteous sermons I would have preached and of the harm I would have done to vulnerable members of the Church.  For me, the disasters I had to face that year certainly worked for good, and equipped me to preach with compassion and conviction. 

We can be confident when undergoing suffering, not that it is God’s will, but that he can bring good in our suffering, because 'if God is for us, who can be against us?' (verse 31). Having sacrificed his Son for us, he will not fail to provide for us (verse 32) and who can accuse us since we are chosen by God (verse 33)? Paul ends with the ringing statement that nothing can separate us from God’s love; nothing 'in all creation' (verse 39). If we hold to that conviction, we will be able to face trials and suffering, secure in God’s ability to sustain us, and in his matchless love.

Written by Susan Thorne