A devotional by Sara L. Foust
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28 (KJV)
This is one of my favorite verses. I love its promise that God is working for my good at all times. It has been comforting to me in times of grief, stress, and fear. It has been a reminder when I’m struggling that God’s plan is good for me.
I was saved when I was nineteen and began attending church on a regular basis. All of a sudden, as a new Christian, as a young adult, as a still-trying-to-figure-this-life-thing-out woman, I was exposed to preaching and teaching like I’d never heard before, with a set of unspoken “church” rules I had to absorb unconsciously. A new abundance of information to take in and process.
I’ve come to realize something over the last few days, though. A new spiritual understanding I had not seen before. One of these new lessons, I believe I have somehow misunderstood. You see, I awoke today with the realization that I believed God didn’t care if I was happy or not. Wow. How did I come to believe this?
Through no fault of anyone but myself, I’ve taken scripture and preaching out of context. I’ve taken the lesson that we should learn to be content in all situations (Philippians 4:11-13) to mean that no matter how unhappy we are, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be unhappy. That we should always put on a brave face and learn to smile through the midst of every struggle. That every bad thing in our lives is part of God’s plan, just like the good.
But that doesn’t make complete sense. We have free will (Galatians 5:13) and that means we have the ability to make wrong decisions, ones that affect the people around us too. If everyone were to follow God’s leading for every decision, every single moment of every single day, then I could rest assured that everything that happened to me was, in fact, for my good. But, as imperfect, sinful human beings, this isn’t possible. Things happen, people make bad decisions. Does that mean God wanted those decisions to negatively affect me? No, I don’t believe so.
Rather, what I think God wants me to see is that He is always there for me during the struggles. That His plan is for my good, and when things don’t go according to His plan, He hurts right along with me. And the knowledge that He is with me, on my side (on your side), is where we can find the joy amid the pain.
Now, don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t want us to sin in order to find “happiness.” Our true happiness lies in following His will for us. In doing our best to follow His path, despite what is going on around us. But God does want us to have a fulfilled, enjoyable life (John 10:10), not one filled with misery where we pretend everything is okay because we are supposed to. No, He wants joy for us. He does care if we find it.
I’ve come to see that when a negative, sin-filled situation or decision someone else has made is affecting me negatively, it is okay to remove myself from that situation. It is okay to separate myself in order to try to relocate God’s path. And pray for the person or situation, from a distance in order to protect my spiritual morality. Whether it be a best friend, a family member, or a church, if we have the sense that the trend is leading away from God’s will for our lives, it is our duty to resist and go our way—the way God is planning, with good roads in our future (James 4:17-21).
Sara writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children.
She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers.
Her debut novel, Callum's Compass, won second place in Deep River Books' 2017 Writer's Contest. She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature.
When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.