I’m one of those people who was raised in a family where there was no question about whether God existed or whether Jesus Christ was the Savior. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t believe. Just as surely as my parents fed me plenty of vegetables to maintain my physical health, they fed me on the message of grace: that God loved me and sent Jesus to die for my sins. They wisely helped me to see that following Him was in my best interest and that submitting my life to His Lordship would be the thing that would give my life meaning and fulﬁllment. But they were never heavy-handed. They never tried to force anything on me. Just as they gently parented me into enjoying a little broccoli or a ripe tomato, so they parented me into taking my place in the Kingdom of God. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
I always knew that Garry and Miriam Pitts were looking out for my good, even if I wasn’t always happy about every directive I received. And that lent itself to my understanding that God was also always looking out for my good as well.
I learned the truth of Romans 8:28 (NKJV): “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Our world is ﬁlled with tragedies, disappointments, evil, and unmet expectations that can make it difﬁcult to arrive at a trust in this truth, but somehow, I did. And through the dark days after losing Wynter, I managed to hold on to this belief. I had seen it in operation throughout my life.
Sometime during high school, I received a leather-bound, maroon New King James Bible as a gift, and that Bible has been my companion through thick and thin. It was there when I felt close to the Lord in seasons of spiritual commitment, and it was there when I struggled against shame and disappointment, especially in my college years.
It’s all too easy to begin to question God in the middle of whatever the current struggle might be in our life, but we need the bigger perspective that comes from the pages of the Bible. Every time I read God’s Word, I am reminded again that God is good. When I ﬁrst read this verse, it changed my life. I soon started a habit that I follow to this day. Whenever I was reminded again that this truth lined up with what I was experiencing, I would put a small x in the margin of my Bible and record the date. If you were to open up my Bible to this passage today, you’d ﬁnd dozens and dozens of xs and dates recorded there of the signiﬁcant times in my life when I recognized again that its words were true.
You’d see my wedding date, where it simply reads “JRP to WDE 6/27/2003.” A reminder of the day God gave me a gift that was beyond anything I could have dreamed.
You’d ﬁnd the birthdates of each of my four daughters. With Wynter’s health issues, every pregnancy was a step of faith, but each of our girls made their way into the world healthy and whole.
You’d also see the name of my high school mentor, teacher, and coach: Mr. French. He was never afraid to call me out when he needed to. He saw my tendency toward selﬁshness and gave me the nickname “One Way.” (Which, of course, was my way!) I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it did me so much good to spend time with him. From him I learned the importance of dying to self, even though I don’t ever remember talking to him about God or Jesus in those teenage years.
A few weeks after Wynter died, I received an envelope in the mail, and when I checked the address, I saw it had come from Mr. French. I hadn’t seen him in at least ten years. The only thing I had heard is that he had built himself a cabin in the woods of Nebraska, which had been the dream he always talked about. Inside the envelope was a photocopy of a page from the devotional book Jesus Calling. It was a devotion for the twenty-ninth of July, which was the date we had buried Wynter. It was a stirring message on endurance, and it included this Scripture passage: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
These words were a gift to me on that day, and they had come from a man who had been willing to say the hard things to me as a young man and was now offering words of comfort that were richer than any he could have fashioned himself.
The phrase that had stuck out to me in that devotional was “make every effort.” It went on to talk about working to see things from God’s perspective—that He is renewing all things and redeeming our deepest pains. It was as if God was spurring me on toward the purposes He had for me, which sadly included this road I would never have chosen to walk. He was encouraging me to welcome it and to walk it with joy—joy beyond my understanding and faith beyond my sight.
Those xs in my Bible don’t just represent the things that were an immediate blessing to my life; they also include remembrances of how God worked for my good even when it didn’t feel like it. X marks the spot as a reminder that God is good in every circumstance and always has my best in mind. X also marks some of the tragedies in my life, like my high school football coach who died very young of Lou Gehrig’s disease and my daughter’s mentor who never made it to age 30 but died in a car accident. And yes, you’d ﬁnd an x for the day that Wynter passed away. Her death was a horrible thing, but it was also her graduation into eternity. God’s goodness could be seen in her life, and also in her death.
Yes, God is that good. He redeems our tragedy and failure, and His promises are beyond our imagination. Sometimes, I temporarily lose sight of that goodness, but ultimately, I always return to my rock-solid belief that, whatever happens, God is good. Yes, His is that good.
Never forget to mark the spot.
Hear Jonathan talk about his journey in an exclusive LIFE TODAY LIVE interview. Excerpted with permission from My Wynter Season by Jonathan Pitts, published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 97408. Copyright 2021, Jonathan Pitts. www.harvesthousepublishers.com