I read this quote in a forum digest I received last night. A pastor on the west coast shared a quote from a man named John Newton who died in the early 19th century. He is well known for his hymn Amazing Grace and his investment in the life of men such as William Wilberforce. This quote reminded me of some central truth...
Everything is necessary that he sends. Nothing can be necessary that he withholds
It is a great assurance for the follower of Christ that all that lands in our life, through out lives and comes to our lives has been deemed a necessary part of our transformation. It is hard to live out the calling in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I find it hard to thank God for things which are difficult and painful...even devastating. Yet over the years our family has tried to practical say thank you to God for even the hard things. Around the dinner table our family has found an engaging way to catch up with one another, engage our hearts and follow the teaching of Scripture together. We call it our "family prayer."
First, someone is a note taker – at first it was always me (Dad) but now my oldest daughter takes the roll at times as well. We list all the family members’ names and make two columns by each name. One space is to write down something positive we are thankful for that happened in our day. Something that made you happy, felt like a blessing, made you laugh, smile and feel pretty good about God and life. The other column is for something negative, painful, disappointing…something we typically would not be saying “Thank you God may I have another” about. So we go around the table and share at least one positive deal and one negative deal. We even write stuff down for our two year old, even though he doesn’t have much to say about it at this point. After we finish one of us will weave together and pray a family prayer actually thanking God for ALL OF THIS. “God, thanks for the good, the bad, the ugly. We know these specific things you brought into our lives for your purposes. We thank you that even the hard stuff can work for good in our lives because we are called by you as your children.”
Again, we don’t do this every night but we do it regularly, at least once a week. We are teaching our kids, and reminding ourselves of some great truths. First, God is sovereign over good and evil and works all things together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). Second, it reminds us that the bad stuff in life many times shapes us into the image of Jesus as much as the good stuff (usually more). Finally, it unites our family in trust of God and lets us know each others hearts a bit. In fact, I love to hear what pains my kids as it brings my heart to a state of compassion for them. Foster an attitude of honesty, even when what pains or disappoints them is you. I have actually had my girls say “Daddy you not being here for dinner much this week makes me sad.” Hello! What a gift from God, from my daughters to remind me of what is valuable in life. Family prayer is one of our favorite practices in our home and very simple to lead as parents.
Some would see the world as a chaotic stew of random events of human produced triumphs and failures. I tend to see the world as a purposeful arena where God brings about his purposes. In my life, through failures and difficulties, he seems to work the most. Maybe I am just too hard headed to learn any other way.