“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I don’t usually blog on weekends, especially Sunday. However since today is August 28 (8/28) Romans 8:28 fits perfectly. I felt I had to share this very personal account from life and testimony in hopes it might help someone.
As a young person I hated Romans 8:28. When I say I “hated” Romans 8:28 I am not exaggerating. There was no other verse in the Bible that aroused so much anger in my heart toward God. For many this may seem odd as this is often considered to be a “feel good” verse in the Bible; one designed to make a person feel better in the midst of some trial or tragedy. Yet for about 13 years I refused to read this verse in my Bible and didn’t even want my Bible opened to the same page it was on. Once, a girl in my church youth group asked to borrow my Bible. Before I knew what was going on she highlighted this verse and handed my Bible back to me. It was all I could do to not explode in rage. Now my Bible had been permanently stained with the one verse I hated passionately.
What caused my hatred for this verse? As a young boy I loved my dad, Dave Gilmer. As a matter of fact I adored no one more than my dad. Like many young boys, my dad was my hero. He gave me my first 22 rifle, fed me my first venison, and obviously helped fuel my passion for the outdoors at a young age. One night as a young kid in elementary school, following my birthday celebration, my dad tucked me in bed, kissed me goodnight and told me he loved me. I never saw my dad alive after that. That night he was called into work to help a city police officer with a DUI arrest; he was struck and killed by another drunk driver while on the scene. I’ll never forget looking out my window that night and seeing the police cars in our driveway. I walked downstairs to see everyone sitting around our dining room table; my mom was crying. She explained to me dad would not be coming home anymore.
In the days that followed I spend countless hours at the funeral home. I’ll never forget that is where I first heard this verse. As a matter of fact, I heard it over and over again. Grasping the idea that “all things work together for good” is not easy to do as an adult at times, as a young kid that just lost his dad, it’s next to impossible. All I could think upon hearing so many well intentioned people quote this verse to me is, “how could God possibly allow anything good to come out of my dad being killed and taken away from me.” And this began my hatred for Romans 8:28.
Have you ever asked yourself, “How could anything good ever come out of this situation?” Whether it was the death of loved one, a broken relationship, financial collapse, or anything else? I think everyone has challenged God, at one time or another, and asked the all important questions, “Why God, why me?” For me, despite so many other good things happening in my life in the years following my dad’s death, I was still hung up on this one issue. My mom even remarried to an incredible man who to this day is one of my best friends and a great dad. It didn’t matter though; I still hated Romans 8:28.
One year I came home from college for Christmas break and on a Sunday night my parents decided to do something very random. We drove to another town to listen to a local Christian music group play a small concert. During the intermission a man named Chuck got up out of the audience and walked to stage, stood behind the microphone and began to speak.
There is a woman here tonight with her son. They won’t remember me but I can never forget them. They won’t recognize me as I am a much different man than I was when they knew me many years ago, but that boy’s dad was one of my best friends. Every time we were together he would tell me what a difference Jesus could make in my life. My life was a mess and I would politely listen to him share with me my need for God but I was convinced I could always work things out on my own.
At this point, my mom and I continued to listen to this man speak, clueless to what we were about to hear. He continued:
Late one night as I was asleep in bed my phone rang. As a police officer it is never a good feeling when your phone rings in the middle of the night. Upon answering the phone I heard these words, “Chuck, Dave’s dead. Dave is dead man. Dave’s dead.” As I sat in bed stunned at the news of my friend’s death, suddenly everything Dave ever told me about my need for Jesus came flooding to the forefront of my mind and it all suddenly made sense. I had never prayed before but I got out of my bed and down on my knees and did what Dave had told me so often what I needed to do. I asked God to forgive me of my sins and to save me.
I am not sure exactly what he said after that as I had obviously figured out that the man he was talking about, the Dave, his best friend, was in fact my dad. I ran out of the building and into the cold winter air weeping uncontrollably. My mom ran after me into the parking lot. I remember hugging my mom as we both wept and saying, “Mom, I understand! I understand! Romans 8:28 really is true! All things really do work together for good for those that love God!” Soon we were joined by Chuck and for the first time since my dad’s death I came to terms with God and this verse. I understood that God took my dad’s earthly life so that another might be saved and gain eternal life. My dad lost nothing by leaving his life here on earth. As one who lived his life serving others, my dad gave the greatest act of service there is; his life became a sacrifice for another. He won by getting to see his Savior face to face ahead of schedule. One day, I would see my dad again. Chuck was saved and gained eternal life. It was a win for all involved, especially Chuck.
Today, Chuck is still a committed follower of Jesus, a changed man. I too am changed because of Chuck’s testimony. As time has passed I continue to meet people whose lives were changed because of my dad’s testimony and his death. There is so much more to this story that I normally share when I speak in churches and other groups that I just don’t have time to in this blog; including the tremendous feelings of guilt I had growing up for being the one that heard the dispatcher calling my dad that night on his radio in the room across from mine and yelled to him downstairs he had a call; a call that would ultimately lead him to his death that night. I felt like I sent my own dad to his death.
I don’t know who will read this today but I believe those that do will because God intends them to. So let me just say this; I don’t know what you are going through now nor do I know what you will go through in the future, but please understand that when your life is shaken to its core and your faith is tested, all things really do work together for good for those who love God. God doesn’t promise that we will understand it right away or that good will happen immediately. It might take 13 years like it did me, or even longer. You may never understand this side of eternity but let me promise you again; all things do work together for good for those that love God. You just need to trust Him.
This is one of just many incredible promises God makes in the Bible to those who are followers of Him, “to those who love God” and “who are called according to His purpose”. This promise is not for everyone, but it can be for you, should you choose. If you have never put your faith in Jesus Christ, today would be a great day. Follow Chuck’s example, pray and ask Jesus for forgiveness and yield your life to Him. Let today be the first day of a promised eternity with Him. Let today be the first day where you too can claim this and so many other of God’s amazing promises.