There is an old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” What I have found in my life, is that God is an expert in making lemonade out of lemons. Saint Paul says, in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter 8, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I could write theological commentary, but rather let me give you a couple of stories from when my wife and I were missionaries in Perú. They will do a better job of illustrating that verse in Romans 8.
When we were first sent to Arequipa, Perú, I was sent as Regional Director for that area, equivalent to an Archpriest who was Dean of the region. During that time I had to make decisions, many decisions. But, I learned that what I often needed to do was to try to figure out what in the world God was up to, and then simply agree with him. Many of you will say that there is no way that I could ever figure out what God is up to. But, every deacon, every priest, every hierarch knows that if we are truly to be faithful leaders in God’s Church that we have no choice but to try to figure out what God is telling us in order to faithfully serve our people. No, this does not mean that we are always correct, but it does mean that if we are to be faithful leaders, we have to try to make decisions that are in accord with what God wants. I admit that often what God wants he has already spelled out in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. But, often that provides only those boundaries within which the decisions must be made. Saint Seraphim of Sarov, my personal saint, was correct when he said that the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. He never said it would be easy. Nor did he say that God would wait to act until you had acquired the Holy Spirit.
When we arrived in Arequipa, we found that one of the parishes had a child care center associated with it. The child care center was also approved as a pre-kinder and a kindergarten, but that is as far as it went. We used to periodically receive short-term missionaries who would give temporary help. One of them was a sweet English gal of about 25 at that time. She had been an English schoolteacher, but, for various personal reasons, had decided to spend a year in short-term missions work in order to have time to reflect. Because of her teaching credentials, she was slated to work at the child care center/kindergarten.
When she arrived, she was short, blonde, blue-eyed, and quite shy, a shyness partly due to her life experiences. But, she learned her Spanish quickly and worked with the children. They fell in love with her and the couple of teachers thought that she was a wonderful resource and person. She came out of her shyness and began to bloom. Near the end of the year, her parents visited. They were incredibly impressed with the changes in their daughter and with the work that was being done. Their daughter had a dream of seeing that child care center become a school. So, they decided to donate several thousand pounds with the stipulation that it be used to make that child care center into a school. I prayed and decided to agree with God. That school began as a full elementary school. I had the opportunity to preside over its building and opening. Today, that school is on its own property and goes all the way through high school.
I have other stories like that, but every one of them testify to how God is able to take people who are questioning themselves, and situations that are not all they could be and turn them into something that truly glorifies him. The teacher I mentioned found her love in Arequipa and is now married to a Peruvian and happily serving at the school. As the American saying goes, “God is good … all the time.”