On January 18, 1978, my father, James Hilling died of a heart attack while on business in Germany. Even though it was his second heart attack, he was only 58 and it was great shock to our family. He had been taken ill and had been brought to a Catholic hospital. His associates in Germany had tried to alert us but his condition worsened rapidly before any of us could reach him. He died in a foreign land, in the midst of a people whose language he did not understand, without the comfort of family by his side. To make matters worse, my mother had tried to fly to Germany when she had heard of his distress. But she had only reached London airport when she received the call that he had passed away. At that time I did not know the Lord, so this whole episode of my father’s passing seemed like a random series of unfortunate events.
Now, as I reflect on this I see something different. Firstly, this was the happening that led to me to return to the Lord. I say, ‘return’ because I had a religious upbringing with a strong sense of God’s call. But as a young man I had wandered from it. My father’s death was the circumstance that confronted me with my own mortality, and brought me to seek God again, leading to the time nine years later when I would declare Him as my Lord and Saviour. Secondly, I had always wondered if my father had been saved. He certainly knew about Jesus, but it was a religious knowledge devoid of personal commitment. His death seemed harsh, cruel even. Yet today I have the sense that God had him exactly where He wanted him. God had to bring Dad to be bereft of all family support so that in his distress he would call out to Him. And this is exactly what I believe happened. As Joel 2:32 puts it, “…whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.” God, in His eternal wisdom orchestrated events to lead my father to Him.
In the Letter to the Romans chapters 9 through 11, Paul was distressed that his own people, the Jews had rejected Jesus as Messiah and Lord. But he explains that God turned to the Gentiles and had the Gospel proclaimed to them. Many responded in faith. However, Paul also insisted that in the last days when the full number of Gentiles have been brought in to the Kingdom of God, all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26). God would use the conversion of the Gentiles to bring the Chosen People back to Himself. Then beginning at verse 33 to the end of the chapter he launches into a hymn to the wisdom of God: “…how unfathomable His judgments, and unsearchable His ways.” God’s wisdom and knowledge are beyond our understanding; He uses all events, good and bad, to lead those whom He has chosen to salvation.
Think of an event in your life that troubles you; it might even be your worst memory. God in His great wisdom has used this to draw you more surely to Himself. Some of these circumstances can be catastrophic, and if we let them they could twist us beyond recognition. But step back from them for a moment and consider this: Our world is very imperfect and there are some in it who have given themselves over to evil. The news every day tells us of horror stories that have happened to human beings whether by accident or intentional violations. Yet they cannot take us out of God’s love unless we let them. In Romans 8:28, Paul states that “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Such is our God; He is sovereign over all and wise beyond all telling. And those who trust Him completely will never be disappointed.