O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33-36)
Nearly every one I know is facing a major challenge or difficulty in their life right now. Some are exhausted—emotionally, spiritually and physically—after a long period of endless work or hardship, and are just waiting for a breakthrough (or even just a break!) that always somehow seems just around the corner. Others feel the burden of a broken or challenged relationship they hope and pray will soon be restored. And still others are filled with anxiety about what their future holds and can’t seem to silence or even slow down the endless litany of questions constantly sounding off in their head about where they should go, what they should do, and how even they should get there.
The list, as you can well imagine, could go on almost without end. What would your contribution to it be?
In the midst of all of life’s uncertainties and difficulties—and even in the midst of life’s successes—comes the beautiful reminder from Paul’s letter to the Romans that none of these things is our final end in life. He is. And we can trust that not only do they not need have the final say on how our life plays out, but also that through them God is working and will continue to ceaselessly work inestimably beautiful plans for our lives that result both in our good and His glory.
The context of this short passage is invaluable for seeing this more clearly. As we have studied over the last couple of weeks, these chapters in the heart of Paul’s letter to the Roman church are dedicated to a deeper understanding of God’s plans for the Jews, who though once his chosen people seem to have completely cut themselves off from God in their rejection of His Son. Paul reminds us in this context that no matter how hopeless situation seems, there lies a deeper reality still: the sovereignty and unfailing love of God, who is able to work such unfathomable good as salvation for the Gentiles through their rejection. And if he can do this through their rejection, imagine, then, what he will be able to do through their acceptance? It will be as life from the dead, he says.
The point is this: the same God for whom death is a vanquished enemy is not limited in His ability to bring healing, restoration and peace to our lives and those of our loved ones, even in the most desperate situations. As the angel said to Our Lady when announcing God’s unfathomable plan of salvation through her holy womb, “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) for He is the God from whom and through all things come and to whom all things are directed.
But the hope to which this wonderful truth points us also challenges us to recognize a deeper reality: that all that we have and all that we are come from him and are to be directed to his glory. There is nothing that you or I have that does not find its ultimate source in Him; and nothing that you or I have that will not find its ultimate fulfillment inHim, including life itself. In the words of St. Paul to the Athenians, ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.
This is not just figurative talk. It is the deepest reality of all, though as Fred said on Monday, it goes against the grain of everything our culture tells us to believe or pursue. We are told that if we seek our own well-being and order or lives to suit our own bald ambitions, we will find life to the fullest, but in fact the contrary is true. Not only do we have no right to jealously guard our possessions against the wellbeing of others or the glory of God (for we are but stewards), but experience shows that those who do so end up living a diminished, fear-filled existence. They are the Gollums of the world. Life itself can only be found to the fullest when it is surrendered in trust to the God from whom it comes, for He is the Lord of Life. The same Lord who came that we might have life and have it in abundance also said that those who love their life will lose it and called each of His followers to take up their cross and follow Him.
Indeed, it is only through the cross that we have the hope of sharing in His divine life.
What does this mean for us? It means that we are called to recognize the fact that all that we have is not ours, but His and therefore should be oriented towards his glory. But we recognize this not only out of duty, but also out of hope: hope that His grace is sufficient when we are insufficient (which is always), hope that He has promised to work all things for our good, and above all, the hope that He who did not withhold his Son will also give us all things, in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.
To Him be all glory, forever and ever.
Kathleen Durham is a Vice President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author, editor and speaker.