It seems cold and unfeeling to make lists of good things in the midst of all this pain – especially while things are fresh and even still happening. But part of making sense of what’s happened and finding meaning in despair is finding the good.
While the bushfires [wildfires] have burned in Australia the media have reported on all sorts of stories of hope and positivity. Which has been enormously encouraging. For example, bush regeneration that’s already begun, the heroism and selflessness of our amazing volunteer firefighters, the brilliant effort to save the rare Wollemi Pine, the fact that more people are now thinking about how to care for the environment and live with an unpredictable climate.
But personal stories have been the most moving. The people saved by a hero in a boat who took them to safety in the nick of time as fire raced to the water’s edge. Selfless neighbours saving other people’s houses whilst their own burned. And out of all the pain, communities that have drawn closer in ways that are rare when times are good.
We really shouldn’t be surprised at this growing list. The Bible promises that it is God’s plan to bring good from evil. For example, through suffering, He refines our faith and moulds our character. But suffering can also restrain us from a wrong course, remind us that we’re frail before our great God or be a punishment when we’re foolish. And have you noticed that when we suffer we’re better able to comfort others in similar situations?
One of the hardest pills to swallow is the assurance that those who love Jesus will be persecuted. Then, when this happens, the Bible tells us that God will use this suffering to show the world that His people’s witness is real. In a world filled with pain and sorrow, suffering can only increase the desire of God’s people to be with their heavenly father in heaven. That’s certainly a good thing.
But the greatest good of all is found at Christ’s death. Jesus is the innocent hero whose painful death took us from judgment into the safe arms of our heavenly Father. In one of the Bible’s four biographies about Jesus, the author, Mark, records this prediction from Jesus:
… the Son of Man [Jesus] must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead (Mark 8:31).
Those final words about Jesus rising make the suffering of this world bearable. Because we know that, if Jesus rose from the dead, then we, in turn will also. We just need to hang in there.
The example of Joseph (from “Our Daily Bread)
God has ways of bringing unexpected good out of situations where hope seems lost. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and falsely accused and sent to prison, where he was forgotten for years. But God restored him and placed him in a position of authority directly under Pharaoh, where he was able to save many lives – including the lives of his brothers who’d abandoned him. There in Egypt Joseph married and had children. He named the second one Ephraim (drawn from the Hebrew term “twice fruitful”) and gave this reason: “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Gen. 41:52NIV). This fruitfulness came after Joseph was in slavery and in prison for 12-13 years (Gen. 37:2; 41:46). Although we’ll go through painful times, God can use even those to bring good purposes in our lives.
Prayer: Dear God, please give me the strength to endure this world and to trust in your goodness even when things are difficult.
Bible verse: Mark 8:31 “the Son of Man [Jesus] must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead“.
Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2020
Posted, January 2020
Post Script on 8 March 2020:
This blogpost on the bush fires titled, “Unexpected good” was posted on 31 January 2020. It included the statement “Dear God, from all this pain, please bring unexpected good”. That prayer has been answered!
In February 2020 heavy rainfall in New South Wales extinguished the persistent bush fires that have devastated the state. Many places in Sydney and the Blue mountains had record or near-record February rainfall (in the 95-100 percentile range).
For example, in the Sydney region: Sydney City 442 mm (17.4 inches), and Sydney Olympic Park 487 mm (19.2 inches).
In the region west of Sydney: Warragamba 484 mm (19.1 inches), Katoomba 701 mm (27.6 inches), and Mount Wilson 665 mm (26.2 inches).
In the region south of Sydney: Nowra 392 mm (15.4 inches), Braidwood 560 mm (22.0 inches), and Ulladulla 324 mm (12.8 inches).
In the region north of Sydney: Wyong 524 mm (20.6 inches).
And Sydney’s water supply, Warragamba Dam, is at 83% capacity, after being at 43% capacity in January 2020. So in the Month of February 2020, the amount of water stored increased by 40% of the dam’s total capacity!
Also see: When God uses evil for good