We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
At the beginning of a new year, there is a lot of talk about “starting over” and “getting a clean start in life.” I know what people are trying to say, but experience has taught me that it would be far better to say “beginning again” rather than “starting over.” Starting over suggests a clean slate with the past wiped away. The problem with this approach is that it attempts to eliminate your story up to this point.
Now, I understand that all of us would like to eliminate parts of our past story for a variety of reasons: broken promises . . . unfulfilled dreams . . . unaccomplished goals . . . hurtful or harmful experiences. But eliminating those ugly episodes would dishonor and minimize the person we have become today. Why? Because everything in our past has brought us to our present, and these things will be used by God to propel us into our promised future. And I do mean everything!
- Past wounds witness
- Past scars speak
- Past pains produce
- Past failures fortify
- Past difficulties deliver
Notice what our verse for today does not say; it does not say, “All things are good.” There are some pretty dreadful things that happen in this life, because we are sinful people living with other sinful people in a broken world. But what Romans 8:28 does say is that God works all those dreadful things for your good. God is working your wounds for your good. God is working your scars for your good. God is working your pains for your good. God is working your failures for your good. God is working your difficulties for your good. God is working everything for your good, and that is why we ought not try to erase our past or escape from it. God was in it then, and He is working it for our good even now.
So instead of thinking about “starting over” in 2018, I encourage you to consider “beginning again.” You begin from right where you are. You acknowledge, receive, and own your past, trusting that every portion of your past story will be used by God to produce the absolute best version of who you are and what God has placed you here to do.
I love the way the Amplified Bible renders Paul’s description of Abraham in Romans 4:20-21 —
No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.
Christian, there are those times when you and I are assailed by doubts and questions. We wonder what possible purpose there can be in our pain. But when those thoughts come, banish them to the pit where they belong! Do not waver in your trust in the promises of God, because He who began His good work in you is “able and mighty to keep His word,” and He has promised to use every bit of your story to conform you to the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!