And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
There has always been something about that verse that hasn’t sat well with me. It feels like a cop out, something we read when we need to feel like the God we worship isn’t a God we understand, or even particularly like. Ever leaning on it felt like the grownup version of a high school football team choosing Philippians 4:13 as their rallying cry.
Like, God doesn’t care about high school football, quit co-opting my gospel.
Don’t get me wrong, Romans 8 has always had an incredibly special place in my relationship with James. The story of grace and forgiveness in its verses formed, in many ways, the foundation of our eventual romance and now our marriage. The 28th verse has just never really been my favorite.
But when your life is shaken to the core with a single phone call, sometimes all you can do is cling to the Good News.
On a hot July morning that phone call came from my beloved husband; a phone call whose quick and heartbreaking conversation I have been unable to erase from my memory in the last month.
“Liz,” James told me shakily, “Brad just called. Dad’s died.”
Larry Michael “Mike” BeShears was a helluva man who spent every moment he had helping and loving others.
Whether it was wielding a chainsaw in the great privet battles of 2013-16, making homes in Appalachia warmer, safer, and drier on ASP, or reclining in the basement watching college football and eating pigs in a blanket, he was always the most pleasant and gracious man in the room.
The number of ways he blessed my life are far too many to count in the last nearly 6 years I knew him, but the way he impacted his family is absolutely innumerable.
There are so many things for which we are thankful in the wake of this tragedy, but perhaps the largest thing from my perspective is that Mike saw James fully into manhood.
I don’t know if he considered himself a feminist, but he sure as hell was one. He loved his wife with reckless abandon, and was an equal partner in all things—two practices whose example James has followed since the first days of our relationship.
Everything he did kept his family in mind; there was never any question where his priorities laid. There is no question that I love and respect my husband as much as I do is in large part because of the illustrations drawn out by his earthly father throughout his life.
So how. HOW. could his unexpected death be any evidence of a good and elaborate plan for good?
The last month has been a blur. It wasn’t like a bad dream, it was like a black hole. Everything has been dark and stretched out, occurring both in the blink of an eye and in the length of eternity.
But as we’ve begun going through the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, little things have been revealed to us, and Romans 8:28 has been spoken to me, first in a whisper, then in a shout like rolling thunder.
“You know Mike wouldn’t have hurt his family in a million years, for a trillion dollars,” I’ve heard God say. “Do you think I would?”
There has been glaring evidence of the hand of God all through the last month, from decisions made years ago, to inconveniences that week in July that ended up being the largest of blessings.
“See?” God shouted in the details. “This isn’t fun, but I have a plan.”
Still, I would think in a refrain too often repeated by those who suffer evil at the hands of others, why would a loving God allow something so needlessly horrible?
“Don’t you get it?” God began to lovingly roar, filling my ears and heart. “As much as Mike loved you, don’t you know the Creator loves His creation infinitely more? I love you. I am working for you. Your job is to trust me.”
So while I still can’t possibly comprehend what good could come of losing one of my most loved humans, we’re choosing to listen. We’re choosing to grieve and celebrate. We’re choosing to cry and laugh.
We’re choosing to trust that all things really are working together for good.