Can God Redeem Anything?
I used to feel uncomfortable when people quoted the verse: “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). All things? What about people who were abused as children? All things? What about child abandonment? But since you can’t say those things at church, I never said them.
Then about ten years ago I landed the job of condensing and paraphrasing the dramatic autobiography of seventeenth century writer Madame Jeanne Guyon. Since her book Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ about enjoying uninterrupted fellowship with God has been a long-time favorite of mine, I was thrilled to do it.
At fifteen, Jeanne Guyon enter an arranged marriage with a thirty-seven-year-old invalid she had never met. He and his mother ridiculed her, giving her a maid who taunted her and beat her with a brush. In this persecution, she learned to “pray the Scripture”: reading a few words and praying them slowly. She advised, “Take in fully, gently, and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.” When her husband died, she became a missionary but the church authorities then persecuted her for writing about “praying the Scripture” so she spent twenty years in prison or exile. She trusted God to redeem all these terrible things; she really believed that all things work for good for those who love God. But as I finished my project, I found her too unbelievable and rejected my hero.
A few months later, I found myself stuck on an airport shuttle bus with a flat tire late one Sunday night. Tired from a long speaking engagement, I just wanted to go home. I started to cry but in my mind I could see Guyon and her little maid La Gautiere abandoned by a carriage on a snowbank to die: “This poor girl and I were tranquil in our minds, though chilled and soaked with snow, which melted on us. Occasions like these show whether we are perfectly resigned to God or not” (p. 132).
I wondered, What if “all things CAN work for good”? What if ANYthing can be redeemed? Then what? So I experimented. I turned to the disgruntled older gentleman next to me in the front seat and said: “I suppose it would have been worse if this had happened on the freeway. Here, we have a place to pull over.” Before long we were entertaining each other, making jokes about what we could use to cover ourselves if a riot broke out behind us on the bus. (These tired travelers were livid.) We thanked the driver for his efforts and soon another bus came.
This little experiment became a turning point for me. I followed up with more Guyon-like experiments about seriously difficult situations, asking, What if God can redeem any mess? Then what would I do? In each case, my answer was that if God could do that then I would cooperate by keeping a right heart and trusting God. So I did that. I found that my increasing cooperation invited God’s redemptive power to work more quickly. These experiments helped me turn away from my life-long tendency toward cynicism and move toward hope.
That happened in 1998 but I’m remembering it now because Seedsowers is republishing this book: Madame Jeanne Guyon: Her Autobiography (Madame Jeanne Guyon: Her Autobiography.). I’m pleased because Jeanne Guyon’s life invited me to trust God more deeply and I want others to experience this too.
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson - For permission to reprint, Click Here