This afternoon, I made banana bread.
Because I like to pretend I’m a healthy eater even when making something that’s terrible for you, I swapped out the sugar for a sweetener called xylitol. Xylitol works just like sugar and tastes just as good, but it doesn’t hurt your body like sugar does. As great as xylitol is, it has one major drawback: it’s extremely poisonous to animals.
And, that means, that if either of my two dogs even lick up a few dropped grains, there’s a good chance they’ll die.
Thus, I was pretty on guard while using it this afternoon. Typically, my yellow lab (ironically, named Sugar) hangs out by my feet whenever I’m cooking, licking up all the dropped pieces for me. However, when I felt a crunch under my feet, I automatically assumed I had dropped some xylitol, and when Sugar came inevitably wandering into the kitchen, I immediately told her to get out until I could sweep it up.
The look she gave me told me her feelings were extremely hurt, yet, she obediently went and sat inside the door to the kitchen and watched me.
As I baby talked her in an effort to cheer her up and watched her from my banana bread making station, my brain started working. Suddenly, something clicked: Sugar had no idea that what I was doing was for her good. All she saw was a lost opportunity to hang out with her favorite human and clean up some crumbs. She didn’t have an idea that those crumbs could potentially kill her, and that I was simply protecting her.
I’m sure this is the same feeling parents get when they pull their screaming toddler’s fingers away from an electrical outlet, or endure the nastiness of a teenager who was told they had to be home at a certain time when they really wanted to spend the whole night out on the town. The person being instructed has no clue that what they are upset about is truly for their benefit. All they see is the loss.
And, if I go through this with a dog, and parents go through it with their children, how much more so does God face this same situation?
Our Maker is mysterious; so frequently His ways don’t make sense to us. We can lose sight of the beautiful promise made in Romans 8:28 when Paul writes, “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.” Sometimes we miss the fact that God is STILL good, even if we don’t understand his ways and only comprehend loss.
Truly, our view of ‘good’ is so limited; the terrible, awful things of this world still have the potential to create change, and there is hope to be found in every dark place. The cancer builds character and grows a heart, the death sends us running to the One who overcame death, and the heartache shows us what love truly looks like. The things we go through build our compassion for those around us.
When we don’t understand, can we trust that what we go through, as awful as it is, has great purpose? I always think back to the story of a high school girl who loved Jesus like crazy; she was so passionate about His name that she was willing to be ridiculed at school in order to tell people about Him.
Then, one day, she died.
I don’t remember the exact details-I think it was a tragic car accident-but that’s not the point of the story. The point is that this girl’s funeral saw dozens and dozens of her fellow students come to know Christ as their personal Savior. Her parents, family, and friends were suffering unimaginable, horrific loss and pain, and yet, even in that, people were so inspired by the life of this one girl that dozens will now dwell with her in Heaven forever because of her death.
We serve a good, great God who loves us dearly and wants to see GOOD in and through our lives; even when we don’t understand, that truth remains.