I had a conversation with a friend a few years ago about worry, fear, and trusting God. She said something that’s stuck with me ever since:
“If we truly believe that ‘all things work together for the good of those who love Him’, then we have no need to fear.”
As I’ve thought back to this over and over, it became clear to me that I didn’t believe it with my whole heart. I wanted to believe it, and I knew I should believe it…but I couldn’t. I’ve prayed about it a lot since then – I love the story about the man in the New Testament who said, “Lord, help my unbelief!” I asked Jesus to make me believe it, right to the very core of my being.
A few weeks ago, while our family was getting sick with influenza on vacation, I started seeing strange flashes in my eye. The first day I noticed them, it happened about six times, always in the same spot of my eye. Since this has never happened before, and struck me as odd, I decided to give my eye doctor a quick call. I was hoping for reassurance that everything was fine, and I had nothing to worry about, but I got the exact opposite – she said I needed to get to an eye doctor immediately, because the flashes could mean my retina was tearing and pulling away from the back of my eye, which can result in blindness if it’s not treated right away.
Fortunately, I was able to see an eye doctor in Florida that afternoon, who checked my eyes carefully, and said everything looked perfect. But she told me to follow up with my eye doctor at home, and to call if the flashes got worse.
Over the next week, as we dealt with lots of sickness and a stressful journey home, the flashes in my eye continued, and my fear and worry grew. I’ve never had trouble with my eyes, but suddenly, my vision was all I could think about.
When we got home, I booked an appointment with my eye doctor, who also examined everything very carefully. I was really hoping she would also say everything looked fine, but when she got very quiet, and kept going back to the same spot on my eye again and again, I started to get scared. Then she said, “I’m just going to make some notes, and then we’ll talk.” For someone who struggles with worry and fear, that’s enough to completely freak out. I started praying like crazy, and immediately, that verse came back to me: “For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” All things. Could I really believe that, even in such a scary moment?
My eye doctor explained there was a spot in my retina that was very thin, but she couldn’t tell if it was tearing, so she wanted me to see a specialist right away. It was a Friday, so as I waited for them to make an appointment and give me the information, I was mentally going over my schedule for the next few weeks, hoping the appointment would be at a convenient time.
When they came back to me and said, “Be at the hospital at 9am tomorrow”, I felt another lurch of fear – on a Saturday?! What specialist makes appointments on a Saturday, unless it’s a really big deal? Fortunately, this gave me limited time to worry about it, but that night, I was not doing too well with the whole thing. Ben and I talked about it a lot, and I read a bit online about what to expect for laser eye surgeries, because I don’t like the unexpected. I wanted to have an idea what I might be getting into.
The whole time, that verse stayed with me. All things work together for good. I wanted to believe it, but I could see no good in the possibility of losing my vision.
The next morning, I met the best doctor ever, who unfortunately discovered a hole in my retina. He was so calm and reassuring, though, that he was able to make it sound like it was no big deal, and easily fixed!
But here’s the really interesting thing – he said the flashes I’d been seeing probably had nothing to do with the hole in my eye. Most likely, I’ve been walking around with this for a long time, and the flashes started because of the intense sinus pressure I had from being sick. He said lots of people actually have holes in their eyes and don’t know it. The problem is that at any time, liquid in the eye can start leaking through the hole, causing the retina to pull away, potentially leading to blindness. He said it needed to get fixed, probably not immediately, but he was willing to do it right then, to save us another trip in. I jumped at the opportunity, because it meant I had no time to get scared about it, so he led Ben and me through a maze of hallways. Everything was closed and locked up at the hospital, because they don’t normally do procedures on Saturdays, but he got my eye all fixed up and it only took about five minutes. Isn’t that crazy?! Five minutes was all it took to keep me from losing my vision.
I kept thinking about how all things work together for good. In this situation, it was true – I didn’t even know my eye needed fixing, and if I hadn’t gotten such a horrible cold, I wouldn’t have had flashes in my eye, the doctor wouldn’t have found the hole, and sometime in the future, I could have had worse problems with it. I can see the good.
But what about all the other things which cause me to worry and fear? We live in a world with pain and suffering and death. Can I truly believe all things will work together for good?
I chewed on this for a long time. I wanted to believe it so badly, but I kept running into the fact that I don’t want the bad things to happen at all. God might make it good in the end, but what do I do in the middle? When the bad stuff is happening, how do I trust it will all work out in the end?
I kept telling myself, “He’ll fix it in the end. It doesn’t matter what bad stuff happens, He will make it good.”
And suddenly it struck me – it’s like the story of Sleeping Beauty. I’ve never thought about the story of Sleeping Beauty as a spiritual allegory, but it made everything become clear! (I blame it on the fact that I’ve got two girls who have always loved Disney princesses!)
The king and queen are celebrating the birth of their daughter with a huge party, and all the fairies of the land come with gifts for the baby princess. But suddenly, just before the last fairy bestows her gift upon the princess, an evil fairy appears and gives a curse instead of a gift. Everyone is shocked and horrified, but the last good fairy brings hope. She says that although she cannot undo the curse, she can ensure that everything will turn out okay in the end.
The princess still has to fall into a deep sleep, the curse cannot be changed, but everyone sleeps with her, until her true love wakes her up with a kiss.
We live in a broken, fallen world where pain and suffering are going to happen – it cannot be avoided. But God promises to fix it. We are saved by true love in the end.
I remember watching Sleeping Beauty as a kid, and at that moment when she reaches out her hand to touch the spinning wheel, I remember cringing, and thinking, “Don’t do it! Don’t touch it!” I wished the moment could be avoided, but of course, deep down I knew it had to happen. Even so, I wasn’t afraid, because I knew everything would turn out okay in the end.
And really, if Sleeping Beauty had never slept, there wouldn’t have been much of a story. She would probably have ended up with her prince, but she wouldn’t have needed saving, and he wouldn’t have been much of a hero.
I never want to go through difficulties for the sake of a good story, but the Bible does promise hard times can produce blessing, growth, and perseverance. We fight the good fight, hang on to the end, and we are all saved.
I’m still finding it hard at times to rest in that truth, but I once read negative thought patterns are like well-worn paths in our brain. If we want to replace them with truth, it takes time to wear down a new path. So I will press on, and keep replacing those old fearful thought habits with faith, hope, and the trust that Jesus makes all things good!