One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28. For some comparison, here are three translations of the verse, thanks to www.biblegateway.com:
Amplified Bible (AMP)
28 We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.
Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts read, “God works all things with them.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [a] for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good
New Living Translation (NLT)
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts read And we know that everything works together.
My NIV Bible reads, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is my favorite translation, along with the NLT, because of one thing: Those versions focus on God working. Yes, everything does work out in our lives for good--but it's not because of luck, or some unknown force. It's because of GOD. It's important to remember that we might not understand why he allows certain things to happen. God does not cause evil. Evil is a result of the work of Satan and every person's own sinful nature. However, God sometimes allows evil to happen because through it he can work good. We may not see at the time why certain things happen. We may never know why it was allowed. But we can trust that God worked some good out of it--because he always does.
Specifically today I want to talk about how God brings people into our lives to fulfill his purposes for us. Two dear friends of ours, Joseph and Ruth, are moving away to begin a new chapter in their lives. We've been good friends with them for just over a year: Ruth and I met and became friends in January of last year, and it's gone from there. They and we were engaged at the same time, and we got married just a couple of months before they did. We have that kind of friendship where everyone can be themselves and not feel judged in any way; we all love each other for who we are. We've been there for each other though the first year of our marriages, encouraging each other, praying for each other, and just being there.
It certainly hasn't been perfect. We all communicate in very different ways, and although we learned that and understood it, sometimes that caused misunderstandings between us. But that's what forgiveness is for.
Ruth and Joseph have been an incredible blessing to Joshua and me in so many ways. Just having friends who understand this first-year-of-marriage thing has been a huge gift. We're not as close with any other young married couples around here--although I do hope to become better friends with some other people over the next months.
I believe that God places people in our lives because he has something he wants to tell or teach us or of which we need reminding. With friends like Joseph and Ruth, and my friend Sara, some of those things are pretty obvious. God reminds us that he is always there for us. That he will always provide. That we are precious to him. That we are loved even when we feel most unlovable. That we don't have to hide who we really are. That the way he created us is the way he wants us to be. That he still has so much he wants to do in our lives. That he loves us, more than we could possibly imagine.
I am so thankful for the friends that God has placed in my and Joshua's lives. Some of them are just for a time. Others, I think, will last for years, perhaps even our whole earthly lives. Ruth and Joseph are two such friends. I take great comfort in knowing that, even if we don't see each other very much any more, we have eternity to look forward to--all of us together, in the presence of God.