All scripture is God-breathed and useful, but each of us has certain scriptures that have most influenced our lives. What passage of scripture has proved most significant for you? What has made these words so relevant to your life? What did it say about God that you most needed to know and hear? For me, it has been Paul's words in Romans, chapter 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. [29] For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. [30] And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified’ - Romans 8:28-30

In recent years I have returned again and again to these words. I was one of those ‘enthusiastic Christians’ that Dan McCartney refers to. The kind of person who passionately wanted to see every sickness and sin defeated in this life, but who failed to see God’s sovereignty in his own suffering. When I lost control of my environment, or something interrupted even the godliest of plans, it was easier to blame myself or the devil. This left me either fighting external forces or burdened with an internal sense of failure. 

These verses remind me that God’s definition of ‘good’ is much higher and greater than my own. We are not talking about some general wellbeing or personal comfort. There is a plan which stretches over a lifetime and results in all that God predestined for my life. Even that which is intended to harm me becomes part of God’s intended good (Genesis 50:20). My life is no longer a series of abstract events, but part of a greater plan – ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son.’ Trials and failures are no longer roadblocks, but stepping stones towards my own transformation. 

Where once my feeble hands were left alone to balance each compartment of my life, I now see the Spirit interceding in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:27). Beyond my failed plans is a greater plan which is being painted on a bigger canvas and over a lifetime. He is the conformer, the justifier, and the perfector of my faith. I can drop a compartment of my life, or fail at something, and God’s good purposes remain. This means that when I want everything to be perfect, or I want to quit a situation in order to avoid failure, I can now find rest.

I can think of many occasions when I have become good at something, only to move on. I persevered through the back door and entered professional theatre, only to quit a few years later. Without knowing it I was avoiding failure. I only knew how to live on the up slope, and I did everything I could to avoid the down slope. Whilst I was trusting God to get me up the mountain, I was faithless when it came to his ability to work through the wind and rain.

Knowing God is conforming me releases me to focus on Him, rather than on what I achieve for him. The instant defeat of every obstacle is no longer on my agenda. God is making me loving, true, wise, strong, good, joyful and kind – as Jesus is. And if He is using suffering, failure or opposition to do so, then so be it. I am released from obtaining perfection in the things I create, because God is perfecting me through the mess. How freeing it is for us to know that we can trust God in the mess, knowing that he is at work accomplishing his redemptive purposes. How comforting it is for us to know that we can trust God's Word, knowing that it reveals things to us about God that we most need to know and hear.



Footnote: Dan G. McCartney, 1998, Why Does It Have To Hurt, p.30