Friday, May 18, 2012

Do "all things" really work together for good? Even the tragedies we cannot see our way though?

Just tonight I prayed with a friend going through an extended difficult trial, the familiar verse: 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." I try to be careful with this overused quotation, unless I have already explained to someone my own interpretation...that God does not cause bad things to happen just so He can turn around and make them come out 'good". We live in a world that falls (very far) short of perfection and bad things happen. But in spite of those things, God has the ability bring some elusive, and sometimes even amazing, good thing out of it.

Then I listened to a book tonight that addressed exactly this issue, and I'd like to share it with you, as the author seems to know the original Greek words used in the text.  And, I happen to like the visual image of a pattern of light falling over, and changing, a foundation of darkness. Heather J. Kirk

From Absolute Truths: Church of England Series, Book 6 by Susan Howatch, Conversation between Asgoth and Charles, mediated by John. Begun with Charles:

“The correct translation of that passage is actually, ‘All things intermingle for them that love God.’ I know you think I’m a lousy theologian, Charles, but at least my New Testament Greek is sound.”

I flexed my memory to recall the verb under discussion. “Uh, but what’s the point of the alternative translation?”

“It gives you a better impression of synergy – of the process where two different things are put together and make something quite new. If you just say, ‘All things work together for good,’ as if the good and the bad are all stirred together like the ingredients of a cake which later emerges from the oven smelling wonderful. Then the man who’s dying of cancer will want to punch you on the jaw because he knows damn well you’re understanding his pain and are playing fast and loose with the reality of his suffering by implying that his disease is the end of a good thing. But if you say ‘all things intermingle for good,’ you’re implying that the good and the bad remain quite distinct. There’s no question of well mixed cake ingredients which emerge from the oven smelling wonderful. The bad really is terrible and the good may seem powerless against that terrible reality. But, when the good and the bad intermingle, not merge, but intermingle, they form a pattern,” said John. “As I pointed out a moment ago, the darkness doesn’t become less dark, but that pattern which the light makes upon it contains the meaning which makes the darkness endurable. Do you remember telling me Charles that when you were a POW you found that human beings could endure almost anything so long as they believed their suffering had meaning. What they couldn’t endure was the possibility that there was no meaning which would allow the suffering to be redeemed.” …

“I’m going to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and…”…

“You meant that your new knowledge has given you new power. The pattern of redemption is now clearer to you, and your recent suffering will be given meaning by the new life which begins for you today.” (John)