When Things Go Wrong
"How was your semester?"
I have a rehearsed answer to this question. "It was great! I mean, there were definitely some ups and downs, but it was a great semester."
And it was. But I elaborate more in my head: There were so many unexpected and utterly fantastic moments. I loved this past spring semester. But then there was that part that just went wrong...Unfortunately, I have a habit of categorizing certain situations like that. They just went wrong.
They brought heartache, didn't turn out like I expected, weren't what I wanted or dreamed. I'm not happy with it, so obviously it just went wrong somewhere.
But I'm uncomfortably reminded of all those verses that tell us to give thanks and rejoice always. What do we do with them when things "go wrong"? I'm pretty sure that by "always", Paul really meant in hard times because it's easy for a happy person to give thanks. Life is falling into place. Thanks, God!
How can I give thanks, I ask God, when everything in my heart screams this is all wrong?
He asks me a question right back.
Who are you to say it went wrong? The question doesn't minimize pain. Broken relationships, health issues, the job you didn't get or the dream almost reached - all of these things bring heartache. The very wrongness of these situations seems to screw itself into our very souls. And they are wrong, because it was never meant to be like this. The world, our lives and hearts and bodies and relationships - these were not meant to be broken. God has placed eternity in our hearts, a reminder of all we were meant and made for.
And we know intrinsically that something about pain is just not right.
Pain is therefore wrong - but not bad. Though I hate to admit it, we grow through pain in ways we simply can't through prosperity. We do live in a broken world, but God promises that He continues to redeem it, to use our very brokenness, and to turn every situation around for our good. Even - or especially - the painful ones.
He's not so weak that He has to wipe out all pain, evil, and tragedy from our lives. He's big enough to completely turn them around, turn them into beauty and goodness and severe mercies anyway.
As Joseph learned, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..." (Gen. 50:19-20)
So who am I to say that this situation went wrong?
It deviated from my ideas, my plans, and my hopes. But I do not know the master plan, and I did not create it. I don't know the things that will be brought from and out of this situation that couldn't be born otherwise.
Maybe, in God's eyes, everything went exactly right.
Yes, it hurts. But that doesn't mean that He's suddenly powerless or forgetful. Everything is still going according to His plan - a plan I can't see or understand, but one filled with love and wisdom and mercy nonetheless.
And what about the Cross? That is the ultimate example of something that seems to have gone dead wrong - the ultimate evil, ugliness, tragedy. And yet we celebrate it, clinging to it as the cornerstone of our faith and the greatest example of beauty and goodness and love.
Nothing went wrong when Jesus died. That was the plan all along. And God could see it through to the end. The disciples couldn't, even though Jesus tried to tell them. But God knew that things were going exactly right, and exactly according to plan.
And maybe that's why we can praise Him and give thanks in the midst of hard times, in the midst of things gone wrong - because we know that they really haven't gone wrong. We give thanks in faith, knowing that somehow He will redeem this and bring good, twist it into beauty like He promises in Romans.
Even though we can't see it now - we believe there is a plan and a purpose, and it is still on track.
This is the faith, and this is the hope, that enables us to give thanks. And this is the only thing strong enough to sustain us even in the storms.