The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

My head snapped in a double-take the first time I heard an inmate say this: “Coming to prison was the best thing that ever happened to me.” I’ve heard it several times now, and what always follows is the explanation—“If I hadn’t come to prison, I wouldn’t have faced the things in my life that needed to change,” and “… I would not have come to know Jesus Christ.” God has a way of taking life’s blows and turning them to good. Incarceration is certainly one of the bigger “pause” buttons one could ever encounter, but “hard time” in life is not limited to time behind bars, and no walls can constrain God’s mercy. So here are just a few examples of people I know who have experienced the consequences of their own sin, only for God to deliver them and turn their pain into good.

Ambition. A good friend once related to me the tragic end of his first marriage. “I was so focused on being at the top of my game—the best in the business—that I largely ignored my wife. When she had an affair and left me, my friends indignantly pointed their finger at her in accusation, but I said, ‘No, I essentially drove her away.’ I’ve been remarried for over 30 years now, and I pour my life into my wife and our sons. All of us have a love for Jesus Christ.”

Self-righteousness. Frustrated by his moral failures, which left him short on hope and long on self-pity, a friend realized that no amount of his own goodness would ever be good enough to stand before a holy God and that trying to do so only resulted in more and more frustration. “I finally came to the point where I had to fire that debit/credit god of mine,” he chuckled. He had come to the realization that his only hope for a right relationship with God was through God’s own grace—never a goal to seize through works, but ever a gift to receive in faith.

Duplicity. I know a man who, in the pursuit of approval and with a fear of rejection, preferred not to talk about his faith in some social settings. But when he was rejected by those whose approval he desired the most, God was there to walk him through the pain and to show him true acceptance and love, which can only come from Him. With a greater sense of joy and freedom, that man shares his faith much more freely today, having been released from the desire for the faux, “conditional” acceptance that the world has to offer.

What about you? Have you ever suffered from your bad decisions, only for God to use those consequences to shape you further into His likeness? I’m guessing so, because He is the God of redemption who makes even our pain turn out for our good and His glory. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us. He always will be.

Father, your goodness is beyond comprehension. You turn even our difficulties into good—our good and yours. Thank you. I trust you with my entire life. Take it; it’s yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is redemption.

Read today’s Scripture in Acts 16:16-40.


He Remembered

Several decades ago, I was told the man had a small sawmill operation behind his house, so I stopped by. “Can you mill some shipwreck wood into boards for me?” I inquired. “I can’t cut that,” he grumbled, “It’d be full of nails. It would tear up my blades.” I nodded in understanding, but as I turned to leave, he asked, “What is your name?” I told him. He paused. “Did your mother run a hospital, years ago, down on Duncan Avenue?” he wondered, now in a reflective tone. “That would have been my grandmother, my father’s mother,” I replied. We stood together in the moment, but the far-off look in his eyes told me memories had returned him, his heart in tow, to an earlier place and time. “I was in that hospital for weeks, and she took care of me,” he recalled softly with a deep gratitude not weathered by time, “Why don’t you bring your wood here tomorrow?”

To the nation of Israel, Moses scribed, “It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out [from all peoples] with a mighty hand and redeemed you …”1 In faithfulness to generations past, God declared these to be “his people, his treasured possession.”2 How true to His promises, then, He would be, for as the apostle Paul would one day write of Israel, “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”3 All of this because God loved, God promised, and God remembered.

Yet God’s blessings beget further blessings, and so He ultimately claimed for Himself all who will believe in Jesus, this “God over all.” Then how does God view us? “You are a chosen people,” wrote Peter to the early church, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”4

I will never forget the kindness of the man who, gratefully recalling a grandmother I had never known, was willing to sacrifice for her grandson whom he had never met. His mercy was a surface reflection of our God whose faithfulness springs from depths we cannot fathom. He will never forget us, His people, for He has made us His own, just as He promised.

Father, your promises are completely trustworthy, for you make them in love and keep them in power. Thank you for making us your own. Use us today, in big ways or small, to reflect your goodness and glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is redemption.

1 Deuteronomy 7:7, 8
2 Deuteronomy 7:6
3 Romans 9:4, 5
4 1 Peter 2:9, 10