Have you ever suffered?
Dumb question, right? We all have. Every single one of us. In some way, at some time, in some form, to some degree we have all suffered. That sort of levels the playing field right off the bat, doesn’t it? Not a surprise that we suffer. The world is broken. Sin fractured creation many years ago. We are in between as we await the return of our Savior when He will come back and restore it all.
So in the meanwhile…?
I’ve been reading through Genesis. Tonight I was in Genesis 39. Check it. More sin, deceit, sexual immorality and DRAMA. Genesis is chock full of drama. We really didn’t hesitate getting comfortable and right to work in our new sin skin, did we?
Genesis 39 is about Joseph’s beginnings in Egypt. His loving brothers have just sold him into slavery. The chapter begins with an overview of where Joseph is and what he is doing in Egypt. We read that Joseph was successful and so his master made him overseer of his entire household and all that he had. Credit for Joseph’s success is pretty clear in the first 5 verses of the chapter:
“The Lord was with Joseph” (vs. 2)
“His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (vs.3)
“the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field” (vs.5)
The Lord is with Joseph. This is clearly stated and clearly promised in this chapter. But it wasn’t just promised here. Additionally, this promise is actually a continuation of God’s promises to this family line. God had promised to be with Joseph’s Great Grandfather Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 12:3; Gen. 18:17-19; Gen. 22:15-19). So, not only is God declaring Himself to be with Joseph in the beginning of this chapter, but we see that this is also a generational promise made hundreds of years earlier.
Just to make sure you’re picking up what I’m putting down, let’s clarify what it looked like for Joseph to have God “with him”:
1. He had been sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen. 37:28)
2. He is repeatedly and continually tempted by his master’s wife to have an affair (Gen. 39:7-10)
3. He is falsely accused of trying to rape his master’s wife (Gen. 39:11-18)
4. He is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit (Gen. 39:19-20)
Walk a mile.
Seriously. Walk a mile in Jospeh’s sandals. Where would you have thrown in the towel? After the slavery and before the rape? Where would you have told God to go take a hike? From the prison cell? At what point would you have called God a liar? At what stage of that journey would you have mocked God’s promise to “be with you?”
What happens when God’s definition looks different than yours? I’m sure Jacob was a little confused. I mean, it’s sorta hit the fan. Four separate times. But isn’t that the way life goes? Life is hard. Life is full of trouble. Reference aforementioned sin fracture thingie.
I think we get ourselves confused. I think we put words in God’s mouth and then blame Him when He doesn’t follow through on the promises we tell Him to make us. Did you catch that? We state the terms and then forge His signature at the bottom of the contract. Then, when something goes “outside the lines” of our perfect plan we huff and we puff and we shake our knobby little fat fingers in God’s face with blame and a sense of injustice.
Here’s the deal. He didn’t say we wouldn’t suffer. Any notion about a blissful-pain-free-problem-free-easy-peazy-lolli-pop-unicorn world comes straight from the pit of hell. That’s right. You heard me. (Is this thing on?) Seriously. It’s a lie. It sets us up for disappointment. It’s just not going to happen. In fact, Jesus was very clear about suffering and that we would INDEED have suffering. But here’s the hope. Jesus actually makes three promises to us in our tribulation (John 16:33):
1. He will give us peace
2. He promises that He has overcome the world
3. He promises to be with us
First, through prayer (to the Father through the Son by the Spirit), we have access to a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). Second, Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Our sufferings won’t even compare with the glory that we’re going to someday see. And, third and MOST IMPORTANTLY, HE IS WITH US.
You can’t put a price on the Jesus entourage.
This is cool. Remember how God promised to be with the descendants of Abraham? It was a big deal. An exclusive club. A divine selection. A tremendous privilege and blessing. Well, if you are in Christ, that’s YOU. Galatians 3:29 says, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” We’re His. We’re Abraham’s offspring. We’re heirs because of promise. He says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
So He will grant you peace. He has already overcome the world. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, He is with you.
Even if it doesn’t look like it or feel like it.
We gotta start being kids that stand on TRUTH, not on feelings or emotions. What a privilege it is to stand and worship, really worship (without contingencies) in the midst of suffering. Can I get an AMEN? I know you’re out there and you know what I’m talking about. It’s a privilege. For Joseph it was a privilege. If you’ve never read the rest of Genesis from 39 on, do it! I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s a direct quote from Joseph’s lips: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20a) Someday, just like Joseph, we will stand and look back. And then we, like Joseph, will look back and see how God used all that was intended for evil for His good (Romans 8:28). On that day…on THAT day, will you be found faithful? Will your trust in God be stronger than it is today? Or will it all have dried up? Will you be a shell of your former self, someone ruined by bitterness and anger shaking your finger in God’s face and pointing with your other hand at His forged signature?
Here’s the prayer of my heart tonight:
“I want to be a daughter that believes…in her MARROW…so that when all of the circumstances point to failure and disaster and hopelessness, I remain steadfast because I KNOW YOU ARE STEADFAST. As you grow me in faith and endurance and longsuffering help me to question and doubt less and less and more and more infrequently. Help my default to be truth and trust and make it unnatural to fear and doubt. I want it to become easier and easier to look past present sufferings and harder and harder to dwell on the here and now and temporary. Change my heart, O God.”
Gonna wrap it up with an in you face quote and an equally in your face question:
“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe in him at all.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Let’s Get Journaling:
What do your circumstances reveal about whether or not you really believe God? And do you need to repent?