The Fortune Cookie
By: Megan Smith
Even if my letter made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. At first I was sorry, because it made you sad, but you were sad only for a short time. Now I am happy, not because you were made sad, but because your sorrow made you change your lives. You became sad in the way God wanted you to, so you were not hurt by us in any way. The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death. See what this sorrow -- the sorrow God wanted you to have -- has done to you: It has made you very serious. It made you want to prove you were not wrong. It made you angry and afraid. It made you want to see me. It made you care. It made you want the right thing to be done. You proved you were innocent in the problem. I wrote that letter, not because of the one who did the wrong or because of the person who was hurt. I wrote the letter so you could see, before God, the great care you have for us. That is why we were comforted. Not only were we very comforted, we were even happier to see that Titus was so happy. All of you made him feel much better.
–2 Corinthians 7:8-13(NCV)
It is not uncommon in my household for us to order Chinese takeout, fight over the fortune cookies, and then claim that we do in fact indulge in authentic Chinese food.
A few weeks ago, I grabbed a fortune cookie and opened it, anxious to read my newest fortune. To my surprise, that little slip of paper contained one of the most significant things I have ever read: “Everything serves to further.”
I remember that week as being a little rough—work wasn’t going well, school was stressful. We usually look at such difficult times like a roadblock, rather than something that serves to further. When an opportunity is taken away or a dream ends such changes can be seen as horrible endings instead of new beginnings.
We make seemingly flawless plans while God creates better ones—we are not God.
When Paul went to Corinth for the third time, it was not a pleasant vacation. The church in the city was dealing with lots of issues, including slander against Paul’s own name. His writings and visits, which were often filled with adversity, were meant to encourage and initiate change within the church, its members, and its community. The people of Corinth were likely sad, angry, confused, and afraid by Paul’s words and his vision for the future of the church. Paul didn’t just upset the Cornithians–he moved them to look to God for answers.
God uses our mistakes as stepping stones to further us, and he puts our pasts behind us to push us towards our futures, because change is inevitable. Everything serves to further.
When change happens, it’s not always carefully planned out. When change happens, God is not always the first person to whom we go. But when change happens, it’s the chance for a new beginning.
By God’s mercy and forgiveness, when people make change in their hearts and lives, churches change their hearts and lives. When churches change their hearts and lives, the communities around those churches change their hearts and lives. When the communities around those churches change their hearts and lives, they pay it forward, and the world changes their hearts and lives.
It’s time we make all things new, it’s time to use everything to further. It’s time to change.
Discussion Questions: What changes does your church need to make? What is your individual role in such changes?
What have you labeled as a “setback” that is actually “serving to further?”
See more devotions from Megan and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.