My girlfriend has the most annoying cat known to man. This is the type of cat who the minute you sit down jumps into your lap. He’s the type of cat who can’t go five minutes without craving attention. He’s the type of cat you almost always step on, because he’d rather be under foot (literally) than in another room. I have never seen a cat who wants more human interaction.
We often joke that he’s “broken.”
But the sad reality is, he is broken. He is what is sometimes called a “rescue cat.” That’s a cat who was mistreated and been removed from a home. In Ben’s case, he was abused as a kitten. Mistreated in cruel ways. And because of that he’s developed an unhealthy need for attention.
So what does Ben have to do with living out a life of faith? Simple. That cat is a reflection of many of us.
Many of us walk around broken. We carry the wounds of abuse, sexual assault, cruelty and vindictiveness. We are weighed down by those horrible acts. And in response we turn to unhealthy fixations. We may crave attention. Crave validation. Crave sex, drugs, or alcohol. Anything to make the pain stop. Even for a moment.
Yet we have something that Ben, the cat, can never experience. We have a redeeming God who is actively trying to rework our lives to bring in new meaning. We no longer have to be confined by our pain. We can be set free.
Sometimes people will say, “all things work for good for those who believe.“ And they take that to mean that everything, no matter how horrible is God’s will.
God doesn’t want you to suffer any more than he wants that Ben (the cat) to suffer.
What that phrase really means is that God can take your suffering and change the meaning. Your pain can be used for something other than bondage. It can be used as a platform for healing and growth. I once heard Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International, speak. He shared his experience of torture and abuse at the hands of people his parents trusted to take care of him. How do you overcome that horror?
The truth is, on your own you can’t. On your own you end up like Ben. Broken. But with God’s help, Wess’ story is one of redemption. One of hope. It’s about God being bigger than the most terrifying things in the world. It’s about God redeeming a moment, and using it to touch millions of kids around the world.
That’s what that verse means. That’s what it means when all things work for good.
We don’t have to remain broken. We can ask God to redeem us, to change the meaning of our pain. And you know what? He will.