My oldest son sometimes comments on how our family has dinner conversations about words as opposed to, say, the more popular topics: sports, world events, or politics. And just the other day, I used the phrase "all things being equal," which prompted a several-minute discussion with my youngest son about what that phrase means, when to use it, and how it may or may not relate to the phrase "all things considered."
I know this is parsingly weird rather than so much spiritually intriguing. But stick with me. You see, I have been thinking about the phrase "all things considered" for the last week because those movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado, did not know there was a shooter on the loose when they went out for a good time. My friend did not know her young husband would suddenly die from a pulmonary embolism Tuesday morning when they went to sleep on Monday night. A former colleague did not know she would die from a massive heart attack on Thursday night. An innocent man I did not know from a nearby community was unaware that he would be shot and killed when in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I cannot speak for any of these people. And some sorrow is not about death but about great disappointments in life. Yet, I wonder, had everyone in these times of sorrow—both those who lost their lives and those left behind—known what only God knew, would they have lived differently? How would considering all things have made a difference? And what are all the things, anyway?
Of course, blessings and joys come our way as well as sorrow. Big joys like marriage and births and jobs . . . and smaller-packaged joys like standing beside magnificent oceans. Or a thrilling promotion. Or a good blueberry season. Or a gorgeous outdoor wedding without the predicted rain. Or your favorite ice cream being the flavor of the week. Or breakfast with a friend who made you laugh. Or your spouse doing for you that thing you hate to do for yourself. Or rain during drought. Or so many other good-life gifts big and small that people write whole books about them.
Life can be hard, disappointing. Sorrow, hellish. But all things we know considered, so many of us are still in it for the long haul, staking our lives on the One who is in charge of all things. We are loving the joys. We are grateful for the joys. But all the while, we know sorrow will come in this life too. And so we trust in all things even when we do not know all things. Even when it's so difficult to do. Even when we stumble and would rather go our own way. Even as He beckons us over and over to remember His own sorrow and better-than-life gift to us. Even when we don't know what only God knows.
My friend posted this on her Facebook wall just after her husband died: "God is good and He is faithful." Thanks for the reminder, dear friend, even during your unspeakable pain, a gift to us even at the beginning of your hard road. You're telling us that all that matters can be considered, after all—if sometimes fuzzy before a time of sorrow, then gratefully as a great, clear comfort in our sorrow. God is good. God is faithful.
"From him and through him and for him are all things" (Romans 11:36 NIV).