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How To Know What’s Good For You

Something dawned on me the other day. I realized I don’t know what “good” looks like. And by this, I mean that I do not truly know what is good for me. It is not that I do not know the difference between good and evil in my own actions, but that it’s not always clear in the moment whether an experience or event benefits me or not. 

For example, I have told the story of waiting for the woman who would become my wife to return to me. (If you haven’t heard this story, you can listen to it here.) However, while re-telling it at a talk I recently gave, I understood something I had not thought of before. The darkest moment of that period of waiting for this beautiful woman to return to me was actually the moment that God was turning things around and saving me. 

After receiving a sign from God to wait for this girl to come back to me after she broke up with me, I went through a pretty grueling year of not only being forgotten but utterly ignored by her. Not only did she place me in the heart-wrenching “friend zone,” but I also had to watch her talk to other guys who were clearly very interested in her. Finally, the darkest moment, when it seemed all was lost for me and proved that I was foolish to ever hope that she would return to me, was when I found out she was dating another guy. 

What’s worse, he was an awesome guy whom everyone liked and who seemingly had no faults. It was truly horrible. Plus, there was the embarrassing way I handled finding out, which happened right before her. 

Though her new boyfriend was not there, she, I, and two others were in a car together. It somehow came up, and I asked, “Oh, what’s going on with you and [new guy]?”  To which her friend replied, “You didn’t hear? They are going out!” 

The shock for me was too much. I fell into a deep despair that included a very awkward several minutes of silence. I said nothing. I looked out the window and questioned everything God had promised me in my heart. 

Here’s the thing. From a solely human perspective, it would have been reasonable to say that my hope and waiting for this girl to return to me were in vain and that I should give up. However, during this lowest moment of my year of waiting for her, everything changed. This was the moment when she realized she still liked me after all. 

She later told me after we had gotten back together that she realized during that quiet moment that I may still have feelings for her and that she was upset that I had found out about her new boyfriend. She then realized she did not want to date him anymore and wanted to be with me. 

This really happened, by the way. What I thought were the worst 10 minutes of the worst day of that difficult waiting period were actually the best. At the time, I thought this moment was awful, but in reality, it was perfect. 

It makes me think of Jesus on the cross during His crucifixion. At the time, it seemed very bad. Yes, there are situations like someone dying or being tortured that are very bad in and of themselves. However, we can still see from what happened to Jesus that God brought us the best thing. In fact, it was through this, the worst thing to ever happen, that God brought about the best thing to ever happen, our salvation. 

To take another example, breaking one’s leg would be something that none of us would never want to have happened. However, for St. Ignatius of Loyola, who lived in the 16th century, it was the best thing to happen to him. Before this, Ignatius was, by his own admission in his autobiography, “a man given to the vanities of the world, whose chief delight consisted in martial exercises, with a great and vain desire to win renown”. After his leg was shattered by a cannonball, Ignatius was stuck in bed for a very long time. This would have been difficult for anyone, but given his previous goals and desires for his life, this must have been absolutely devastating for Ignatius. 

Fortunately, he also loved to read, especially about acts of chivalry, but the only books available to him at the house where he was recuperating were on the lives of Jesus and the saints, holy men and women who lived beautiful lives of devotion to the Lord. After he read these stories, which he found to be surprisingly fascinating, Ignatius determined that He loved God and would imitate these people. He then became a tremendously holy man who has influenced many people ever since to also give their lives to Christ, and through his writings, instructed them on how to live the Christian life. 

Given all these examples, how do we answer the question of what, then, is truly good for us? How can I know whether or not something is for my benefit? It’s actually very simple. I have quoted Romans 8:28 many times, and now is no exception. It says, “We know that God makes all things work together for good for those who love him.” This means that everything in your life is good for you. 

It might sound crazy, just like it might have sounded crazy for me to continue waiting for the woman of my dreams to return to me after she continually ignored me and started dating another guy for a year. Still, truly, God only allows good to come through everything you experience. Yes, evil still happens, and there are unfortunate and challenging situations that will occur in your life. 

I do not mean to downplay the horrible, painful experiences that happen. Some things are truly sad, and mourning, grief, and sorrow will come about and actually should happen in the face of such things. However, it is even in these moments that God is bringing good to you. Yes, cry, mourn, and have sorrow over the things for which it is right to do so, but also look for the good that God wants for you. 

When I write this, I think of especially the lighter, less severe things, like a broken leg or a girl not being interested in you. We must learn to judge our reality how God judges it. We do not only use our senses and observations of the material world to determine what is good and bad. We need God’s wisdom to see that there is more at work in and around us than we can perceive. 

Be open to God’s power and providence and recognize that He loves you and brings good out of every experience in your life. If you would like to improve your awareness of the good that He brings you, start thanking Him for everything, the good and the bad. This gratitude will fill you and open your mind to start viewing things differently. This openness will start to change your perspective to readily receive the understanding that God often brings us blessings in the most unexpected ways. 

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