By B.J. Funk
Could anything good possibly come out of the horrible nightmare of the Bubonic Plague in the 1600s? Well, actually it did. The origin of the Oberammergau Passion Play gives validity to the verse in Romans 28, which claims all things can work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes.
The Bubonic Plague was also referred to as Black Death because the skin of the diseased person turned a dark gray color. The plague spread through rats and fleas and moved easily in Europe because of poor sanitary conditions. Death was swift. Someone wrote that the victims often “ate lunch with their friends, and ate dinner with their ancestors in paradise.” The disease caused enormous pain and brought on a grotesque appearance.
In 1633, after months of suffering from the Bubonic Plague, the people of Oberammergau, a Bavarian village in Germany, vowed that if spared they would perform the story of Jesus every 10 years. True to their vow, the first performance was held in 1634 and continues today.
As the bubonic plague lessened, the Passion Play grew in popularity, with the theater being modernized through the years. Today, the theater can seat over 4700 people. For the past four centuries, this play has been staged every ten years. In 2010, audiences from around the world will once again flock to Oberammergau to see the performance. Lord willing, I plan to be one of those making that trip.
Sometimes, the “all things working together” aren’t revealed so easily, and we don’t always see the good. Faith can put glasses on our skeptical vision, reminding us that the verse does not say “some things” but indeed “all things.” Oberammergau gives credence to Romans 8:28; yet, each new tragedy or challenge brings us once again to examine this verse.
My daddy’s stroke at the age of 88 took away the movement of his left leg and arm, his bright mind, and his ability to reason. The medical expenses were enormous. The cost for in-home care was astronomical. For many years, I could not see the “all things” principle. Then, it happened. My daddy always had an aversion to taking Holy Communion. I never knew why. It worried my mother, whose relationship with Jesus was personal. For her, partaking in the Eucharist was a natural outgrowth of her life in God.
One Sunday, about five years after his stroke, daddy’s helper pushed his wheelchair toward the front of the church. My daddy allowed the elements to be served. My mother was shocked, yet thrilled! You might question God using a stroke to answer a wife’s lifelong prayers to get her husband to the altar. I don’t.
All things…the good, the bad, and the ugly…are working together, not separately….for ultimate good…for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes. It is this belief that catapults the Christian into a faith that sees beyond circumstances.
Author Elisabeth Elliott has written, “When things happen which dismay or appall, we ought to look to God for his meaning, remembering that he is not taken by surprise nor can his purposes be thwarted in the end. What God looks for is those who will worship him in the midst of every circumstance. Our look of inquiring trust glorifies him. This is our first responsibility: to glorify God in the face of life’s worst reversals and tragedies. The response of a faithful Christian is praise—not for the wrong itself, certainly, but for who God is and for the ultimate assurance that there is a pattern being worked out for those who love him.”
A pattern being worked out for those who love him. When we glorify God and praise him, not for the difficulty, but in the difficulty, then all things will work together (in God’s time) for our good.
William Moon of Brighton, England, became blind in early manhood, thus giving up his idea to be a priest. He said to the Lord, “I accept this talent of blindness from Thee. Help me to use it for Thy glory.”
I pondered a long time his thought, “I accept this talent of blindness.” Those words challenge my walk with Christ. They come from a man who could see God at work, even in the darkness, a man who trusted that God could use the darkness for his purposes. He devoted himself to the blind. Since Braille was difficult to learn, William Moon invented another embossed type, which became known as Moon type. He printed his first sheet of raised characters on a wooden hand-press in his house at Brighton in 1847. The next year he began stereotyping the New Testament, and the Bible was completed ten years later. Did William Moon turn the difficulty of blindness into a talent of blindness? Definitely.
Can good really come out of bad? It seems to happen over and over when faith places glasses on our limited vision. God is not finished with the situation. We can trust him to complete what he has started in us.