In the course of the last two years, the major lesson God has been teaching me has hit home. That lesson is this:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
I used to think that the worst thing anyone can do is to quote Romans 8:28 to a hurting person. Such a wielding more likely leaves marks than heals the hurting. When life is waterboarding you, and the person uttering that verse is completely safe and sound within her ivory castle, that verse has all the comfort of a kick in the teeth.
I’m sure many of you reading this know what I mean.
Recently, I was thinking of some songs that I really like, even if some people consider them corny. John Denver’s amazing “Rocky Mountain High” is perfect from start to finish, even down to the ride triangle. I loved “Could It Be Magic” by Barry Manilow from the first second I heard it. Paul Williams’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” as sung by Barbara Streisand is a great one. And Karen Carpenter’s lush vibrato on “For All We Know” never fails to grab me.
Yeah, I know. Not very hip.
Last night, I recalled an old Rogers & Hammerstein tune from Carousel. Plenty of people have done it as their own, but I particularly like Jim Nabors’s take on “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” That song may very well be a product of the 1940s, but it still works for me.
I think that most people walk alone. They have themselves alone to count on. And when they reach the end of their rope, when it’s too much to bear…well, that’s tough. The darkness settles in like a black, malevolent mold, the rope frays, and all that is left is the numbing fear.
Yet in the last year, especially, I have learned that I am not walking alone. I knew that mentally. Most of us do. But I didn’t really know it in my heart of hearts. I still relied on my own smarts to get us in and out of tough situations. The last year cured me of that.
I also see that no matter how grim things might be, all thing work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. I learned that Romans 8:28 isn’t for people who have reached the end of their ropes. It’s for those who lost track of even that end and are falling from the high point of where they once stood. That verse is for people who are dying, for those who are learning what it means to abandon self. It’s for people who trust God from their hearts, not their heads.
The funny thing about this post is that I intended to write it for Monday morning. Today seems more appropriate, though.
On the island in the kitchen sat a nondescript envelope. As I stumbled downstairs and slogged into the kitchen this morning, that lone envelope seemed out of place. I didn’t recognize the return address or the company represented. After less than six hours sleep, I wasn’t sure I was reading the letter enclosed correctly after I opened it. Less than a page, it stated a very clear reality that may change our future and make me rethink everything.
A couple years ago, I think I would have been storming around the house, racking my brain to come up with some ingenious plan, some way out, some buffer against what the letter said. But I don’t have a plan, and I probably won’t have one. I realized in the last year that I am not smart enough to outwit life. And when that truth finally dawned on me, when I finally made peace with Romans 8:28, I found that no matter what the world throws our way, we are not walking alone. The world may be against us, but God is for us. Always, and in everything.
And that makes all the difference.