Recently my 98 year old grandmother passed away, and I shared a few thoughts at her funeral. Never underestimate the power of influence you have in others, especially younger children.
If you are like me you can look back at an unfavorable circumstance that ultimately worked out in your favor.
Stories like this abound in the Bible. There is the story of Jonah who ran from God. That is not the brightest thing to do. Eventually Jonah found himself on a boat in the midst of a violent storm. Then the men on board threw him into the sea and Jonah winds up inside a large fish. God used all of those unfavorable circumstances to accomplish His purpose which was for Jonah to bring revival to the city of Nineveh.
Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, cast into prison in Egypt, and forgotten. Yet God used the positive and the negative circumstances, one circumstance after another to bring Joseph all the way to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt.
Your life will likely be the same (excluding the Prime Minister part). Circumstance after circumstance, good or bad, will be used by God to accomplish His purpose in your life. It takes all kinds of circumstances to produce the person and the outcome God is after. God has a particular design in mind for you, and He will work through each one until He arrives at the finished product. His personal development plan for your life will be multi-faceted, but you will like the finished product.
Circumstances. At times you will wonder what’s going on. Your patience may run thin as you speculate as to whether God is actually in your court.
In fact, God is right in the middle of your circumstances!
In my recent post, Life Can Be Cruel, I mentioned three things that seem to compound the intensity of our sufferings. Joseph experienced all three and stands out in the Bible as one who maintained a positive attitude and reflected a kind, and uplifting demeanor through it all.
For many of us it is much more natural to become angry when we do not get our way. Or we become very impatient after a ninety second wait at our favorite fast food joint. If someone really ticks us off or highly offends us then we get bitter.
Our series of misfortunes and mistreatment run the gamut. When we survey Joseph’s life I wonder if we just gloss over it figuring he must be the exception.
But the Bible is clear that the stories were written to encourage us and give us an example to follow. With that in mind, three words come to mind as we take a closer look at Joseph’s life.
1. Walk. Joseph knew that he was walking with God. There was no obvious sin in his life which brought on his personal hardships. While he was not perfect, he was not living under a cloud of guilt.
2. Willingness. One of the hardest truths to accept is that God often uses suffering to refine us and shape us. In the NT Peter mentions this in one of his letters. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” Yet how many of us find ourselves willingly suffering and trusting in God’s purposes?
3. Witness. This no doubt gets overlooked way too often. One reason we keep singing and smiling is to show God’s strengthening grace. You can’t explain it, but you can experience it, and expose it. What a testimony to those who do not know the Lord. What a testimony to fellow Christ-followers. What an example for our kids.
There is too much at stake to allow the hardships, the unjust cruelties, and the slander of others to get us down and keep us down.
Three simple words to keep you smiling when life is down.
I can still recall playing outside with one of my best friend in third grade. His brother was also playing with us, and for a reason I can no longer remember he picked up a rock and hit me upside the head. I do recall he that he got in a lot of trouble.
Rocks hurt. They hurt worse when coming from a friend.
Reminds me of Joseph. He seemed to love his brothers, but their feelings for him were just the opposite. In fact, they hated him. So much so that one day as the opportunity presented itself the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.
Joseph’s story includes three things that often occur in our own lives, and all three seem to intensify the pain. You can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-50.
1. Indifference. Later in the narrative the brothers are discussing how they heard his cries, but they ignored them and continued to eat their lunch. Let’s be honest most are thinking only of themselves. There were many Saturdays when I was the only one to show for work. They weren’t too worried as to how their absence affected me. People quit their jobs without any notice at all, being totally oblivious to any hurt they may cause. Friends hurt friends, spouses hurt spouses, and employees hurt employers and never stop to consider the hurt they cause. Indifference hurts.
2. Injustice. Joseph was later thrown into prison by his master after he was falsely accused of attempted rape. There he sits in the cell thinking, “What good does it do to be good?” I can imagine a wife feels the same way after her husband leaves her for another woman. How many times does life appear to go well for the guilty husband. It just doesn’t seem fair, or just. And injustice intensifies the hurt.
3. Ingratitude. After some time in prison, Joseph gained hope. He gave the interpretation to Pharaoh’s former cupbearer’s dream. Three days later the cupbearer was released from prison and forgot all about Joseph. So after Joseph requested that the cupbearer remember him, he forgets him. It’s as if he is not thankful at all for the interpretation of his dream. That had to hurt. Ingratitude.
If you are Joseph how do you maintain hope? If your dream has been dashed by family and friends how do you keep hope alive? How do you keep smiling? Is it possible to persevere with a positive attitude?
It is, and in my next post I will give you three keys to surviving the cruel encounters of life, because life can be cruel.