I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the tapestry of our lives, how everything–actions, decisions we made or did not make, things that happen to us–are threads that weave the complex and ultimately beautiful fabric of God’s plans for this world. C.S. Lewis talks about how all of us, good and bad, serve to carry out God’s ultimate purpose in The Problem of Pain:
A merciful man aims at his neighbor’s good and so does ‘God’s will,’ consciously co-operating with ‘the simple good.’ A cruel man oppresses his neighbor, and so does simple evil. But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge or consent, to produce the complex good–so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool. For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or John. The whole system is, so to speak, calculated for the clash between good men and bad men.
In a letter to the family last month, my dad mentioned the tapestry in the most beautiful way.
Lives can indeed be damaged by sin, but the longer I live the more I know to the core of my being that ‘ALL things work together for good to those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). As the apostle Paul goes on to say, he has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son. God takes all the garbage that the world throws our way and uses it to kill our old Adam, so that a new man may daily come forth and arise. He takes our tragedy and weaves it into this beautiful tapestry with the face of Christ in it. We cannot see this image from our vantage point, or how our trials fit into the pattern, but make no mistake: they do.
The Small Catechism doesn’t call this life a ‘vale of tears’ for nothing. There is a lot of beauty, a lot of good, a lot of satisfaction during our lives, but also a lot of pain and suffering, a lot of futility, to which the whole creation is subject because of sin. But as Paul says in the same Romans 8, ‘I reckon that the sufferings of this age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed to us.’
I think one of the biggest reasons we struggle with pain and suffering and evil is that we don’t understand why. The idea that even our suffering serves the pattern in the tapestry of life is intriguing and comforting, and it helps make some sense of the perennial question, why do bad things happen to good people?
We don’t have to have all the answers. But having a glimpse of how the threads of our lives fit into the weave is illuminating.