This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of HomeLife magazine.
God is Working all Things for Our Good
There is no part of me that wants sorrow to be a part of my story. There isn’t any plan God could present where I would willingly agree to heartbreak and pain. But the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see that picking and choosing what gets to be part of my story would keep me from the ultimate good God has in mind. James 1:2-4 reminds us, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
These words are easy to pull out when our worst issue is the drive-through getting our coffee order wrong. But what about those things that hurt too long? Or disappoint too deeply? Or feel devastatingly permanent? To slap some “we should be joyful about this” verses on top of those hard things feels cruel. Like a bad joke about something excruciatingly painful. That’s why I’m glad these verses don’t say feel the joy but instead consider where some glimpses of joy might be even in the midst of all the hurt. Our understanding of joy rises and falls on whether we truly trust God in the middle of what our human minds can’t see as good at all. It’s hard. So, I like to think of it in terms of baking.
Imagine we go to the store to buy all of the ingredients we need to make a cake, but then we feel too tired to mix it all together. Instead, we decide to just enjoy the cake one ingredient at a time. The thing is that sometimes we don’t like some of the individual ingredients, so we’d rather leave them out.
The flour is too dry — leave it out. The sugar, butter, and vanilla are all good — leave them in! The eggs are just gross when raw — definitely leave those out! And then our cake would never be made “mature and complete, lacking nothing.” We’re so quick to judge the quality of our lives and the reliability of God based on individual events, rather than on the eventual good God is working together. We must know that just like the master baker has reasons to allow the flour and eggs in right measure into the recipe, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (see Heb. 12:2), will do the same with dry times and hard times. We can make peace with the fact that sorrow and celebration can coexist together in a heart quite authentically. Mixing them together is part of the recipe of life.
We can sit with and tend to all that still needs to be healed and at the same time laugh, plan for great things ahead, and declare this a glorious day. To have both sorrow and celebration in our heart is not denial. It’s deeming life a gift — even if it looks nothing like we thought it would right now. Our sorrows make our hearts more tender and allow us to grieve. Our celebrations tend to our heart’s need to recognize what is beautiful about our life, get back up, and go on.
Let’s embrace the mix of all that’s worthy of celebration while fully allowing sorrow to add what it brings as well — knowing we can trust Jesus’ recipe of purpose in both the pain and joy.
Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and
president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.