Friday, August 21, 2015

For Good

We instinctively know that everything's going to work out for good, that God works everything out for good. How do I know that we know?

Because we say it all the time.

When we're done with something, when something's over, when we feel like we've made it through a storm and settled on a solution or a sacred space somewhere, we look at each other and say, "This is over. For good." "It's done. For good." "I'm finished with it. For good." 

For real.

It's a strange phrase if you don't buy into the idea that in the end, all things are good. After all, good is not a unit of time; it doesn't mean "forever" in the way that we use it to mean forever. Good doesn't mean complete; it doesn't imply that everything somehow finally came together. Often, when we say, "for good," what we really mean is that we're just done messing with whatever it is. That we can't do any more. That whatever it is, it is. 

And we give it to this idea of "for good."

It comes from Romans, of course, and the verse that says that God works everything together for good. Or, I like the way another translation puts it, that God is busy working everything together for good. Some translations are misleading, and we have to be careful of this. One of the most popular translations, for example, says simply that everything works together for good. This raises the question: does good simply work itself out? Then what are we to do with God?

That's why we have to look at this verse with a perspective to God's activity. To His action. Good isn't working itself together; God is working things together and the outcome is good. He's using these fragile threads and knitting something new with them, something beautiful. Something good. It's not because good is rational that Joseph ends up going from pit to prison to prince. No, God was orchestrating that whole thing. It's not merely because good willed it that Esther became queen at just such a time as a strong Jewish voice was needed. No, God was working this together, too. 

It's not because good desires it that men and women like you and me either emerge or don't emerge from our brokenness. Think about the greatest struggles of your life. Think about your deepest darknesses. Wouldn't you still be there if you had to wait on something so fickle as the disembodied "good"? How is good ever supposed to find you in a pit like that? 

Good doesn't find you; God finds you, and He lifts you out of the pit. God finds you and He grabs hold of the unraveling threads that are coming out of your life. God finds you and He starts working them together into a new pattern, into a new thing. God finds you, and He starts working things together for good.

And we know this because we keep saying it. When we're done, when we're most done with whatever it is that's been standing in front of us for so long, we're done "for good." We're giving it over. We're entrusting it to the promise of God, knowing that all things are worked together for good in the final say. All things are coming to rest in a place called good. 

And we believe in that, even when we don't know we believe in that. We believe in that so strongly that even when we're not thinking about it, it's part of our language. Nobody even questions the phrase any more. When we say "for good," everyone seems to know what we mean. 

Or do they?

Do they know it's a statement not of our concession, but of our confidence? Do they know it's not from tiredness but from trust that we speak? Do they know there really is such a thing out there as "good" and that even though it's not a measure of time and even though it's not a measure completeness, it is somehow a measure of both? It is forever and it is whole. It is good. 

For real. 

Do they know this? More importantly, do you know this?

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