Last weekend at church our sermon was about 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. These are familiar and comforting words. Words of hope for hard times.
Our pastor used an illustration to explain the passage. He set a table on the stage and laid out all the ingredients of a cake. Then he talked about how each individual ingredient, if eaten separately, might seem distasteful. Who eats all-purpose flour, straight up? Or baking powder? Even vanilla?
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how so many bitter foods mixed together make a perfect cake? It doesn’t make sense.
And so it is with the stories of life. So often the bitter and distasteful work together to create something beautiful.
Just this week I’m aware of so many hard things. A dear friend loses a baby before it comes to term. Another friend has migraines so severe she has to be hospitalized. My neighbor grieves the death of her mom. A high school student’s back injury takes her out of her sport for the season. Another student has been battling depression for far too long.
Our hearts aches and none of this is what we would choose. How could these bitter portions possibly turn out sweet?
A couple of days ago I read a story that made me cry. It was a story about a woman whose son was killed during the Rwanda genocide. She grieved and longed for vengeance until the day she met her son’s killer. The young killer confessed and he cried and said he was so very sorry. And God worked a miracle. The heart of a childless woman was knit to the heart of a broken young man, and the two became like mother and son. It was a breath-taking, beautiful story, and I wondered. Would such beauty be possible without so much pain?
Every day this week my son, Nils, and I have been praying for Christians in Iraq. Children being martyred for their faith. Parents forced to watch. And it’s too horrible to comprehend. Yet even in this I’m reminded of a beautiful story, told in scripture. It’s John’s revelation and the martyrs are gathered at the altar of heaven, dressed in white robes. These special ones are safe in God’s shelter and:
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:16-17)
And in my imagining I see beautiful brown faces of innocent children radiant in robes of white.