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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. –Romans 8:28-30
Are you having a bad day? I mean a really bad day.
Or maybe a long, endless stretch of bad days. Is that where you are?
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was no stranger to bad days. On August 6, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a 29-year-old naval engineer with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was completing a three-month work assignment in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb hit the city. Surviving the blast, Yamaguchi rushed to find a way to return to his family in a neighboring city. Afraid for their lives, he passed horrifying scenes of carnage, and even had to swim in waters filled with layers of dead bodies to get to the train station as the bridges had been blown away. He arrived to find his wife and baby healthy. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, bone-weary and completely exhausted, reported to work. As he was recounting the events of August 6 to his disbelieving superior, for the second time in his life there was another iridescent light and deafening boom. The Yamaguchi had moved to was Nagasaki, right as the atom bomb hit (https://www.history.com/news/the-man-who-survived-two-atomic-bombs)
We’ll pick up Yamaguchi’s story at the end of the chapter. But for now, ask yourself this question: do you think that something really bad that happens to you could turn out to be something really good—or maybe not even really good, but one of the best things that ever happened to you?
The apostle Paul thinks so.
In Romans 8, Paul says that God is at work in everything for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. He even gives us examples in his own experience. In Philippians 1, he reminds us that being incarcerated in Rome actually served to further his mission, the whole reason for being there in the first place. In 2 Corinthians 12, he says that God used a chronic physical problem to show him how the power of the Spirit works through our weaknesses. God exploits this world’s evil to get his work done.
Paul teaches that God foreknows us, predestines us, calls us, justifies us, and then glorifies us in the end. This is the summary of God’s purpose for us in this life and beyond. What this means for us is that he had his eye on us even before we were born (Psalm 139:1-18), and even before the foundation of the world.
He continues in Romans 8:31 by saying that if God is for us, and if we have been on his mind since even before the world was created, who could possibly be against us? It wouldn’t matter if every person on earth became our enemy, God would still be all we need. Whoever accuses us or tries to define us, even if it’s Satan himself, it would mean nothing. All that really matters is that God’s gives us his grace, forgiveness, and eternal glory in his presence. No one can take that away from us.
Finally, Paul reminds us that nothing, under any circumstances, at any time or in any place, could ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35–39).
Nothing means nothing.
Whatever we might fear that could take us out of God’s hands in this life or the next is forever trumped by God’s love for us. Name your greatest fear. God’s love is still and always will be greater. That’s his last word over us.
Remember, it may take time, and it may take longer than we would wish. But this is a cutaway view of how life works for God’s people, for all those who love God and are living for him. And it’s not based on our greatness or excellence, but on God’s. That’s why it’s good news.
The good news for Tsutomu Yamaguchi is that for the second time in his life, he survived, even surviving the effects of radiation and going on to live a long life. He became a translator for the U.S. armed forces during their occupation of Japan, went on to continue an engineering career at Mitsubishi, had two more daughters, and wrote poetry and a memoir. He even spoke before the United Nations, where he said, “Having experienced atomic bombings twice and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it”
So hang in there, and whatever you do, don’t give in or give up!
God, I believe, but help my unbelief! It’s so easy to misunderstand your plan for me. Clear away the confusion, and all false understandings and feelings that distort my vision of you. Settle my heart and mind with your peace. Amen.