I Am Joseph

What is the right response to suffering?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately and God has been so gracious each time my heart has a question like this one to guide me to the right answer and example in scripture. In my Bible study, we are still working our way through Genesis. I’ve talked about Abraham, Job, Jacob, and even David on this blog. Are you ready for the next Bible character that I’m finding myself in. If you know your bible, you may be able to guess which one comes next. It’s Joseph! And oh boy, what an amazing story is Joseph’s story. It’s a story full of unfair and unjust suffering, but one that is overflowing with God’s goodness and good purposes!

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve kinda created a new little saying that I keep telling myself each day. I’ve been saying “I am Joseph”. As I read the story of Joseph and look at my life, I keep finding myself saying “I am Joseph”. In my Bible study, we were discussing the life of Joseph and the sudden onset of suffering he faced. Joseph went from being the most favored/spoiled child to becoming a slave all in less than a day. I was thinking to myself, “wow, I wonder what it must have felt like to have everything and then lose everything”. Then I literally felt like I had my eyes opened up to the fact that, that is my story. I saw an almost identical pattern in a way my life has been these past few months. Only months ago I was so happy. I was finally on the verge of all my dreams coming true. I was engaged and in the process of starting a life with someone and oh it was bliss. But then it ended so fast. One thing after another came to light and before i knew it, it was all gone.

I AM JOSEPH. I can feel the same hurt and pain and disappointment that he must have felt. All his dreams, gone. All his family and friends gone. His life suddenly taking a completely different route and an unwanted move to a new location. (Okay, wow, there really are a lot of similarities here, granted I still have my family and friends, but I moved to a new area and have been struggling to get connected so I do relate in a way to the loneliness and I do in a way also feel like I lost a family because how close I became to his family).

There really is not a lot of good happening in Joseph’s story, but if you keep reading the story of Joseph there is something very encouraging. It is said at least three times in the book of Genesis that God was with Joseph. In each season of suffering Joseph faced, Joseph had every right to complain and despair. Maybe he did at times, but the Bible never mentions it. Instead Joseph rose to the top of every situation he found himself in. He was greatly blessed and God gave him success in all he did. Even as a slave Joseph rose to high favor. And let me tell you something, you cannot rise to favor if all you ever do is complain about how bad your luck has been.

I imagine Joseph must have known that God was with him. How else could he have had the faith to keep on going without despairing. His pain had to have been great. And I’m not saying he no longer felt the pain and hurt that his brothers inflicted on him. Later in Genesis Joseph says “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” So obviously, his pain during this time was constantly on his mind. But what Joseph shows us here is how to rightly respond when suffering happens and we have no control over it. We must get up and keep going. We have the choice to either wallow in our self pity and despair, or make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. I’ve gotta believe that when we choose the latter, God truly blesses it, just like he blesses Joseph.

God blessed Joseph and gave him favor in each place he found himself in. In Potiphar’s house, he rose to leadership. In prison, he rose to leadership. Then, lastly, in Pharaoh’s kingdom, he rose to leadership. None of these places Joseph found himself in were places he wanted to be. In fact, if he had the choice to go back to his family, I’m sure he would take it without even looking back. I can tell you that there are definitely times in my life that I wish I could just go back to those happy days and forget about the pain. But I have no control over the place I’m in right now which is why Joseph’s story has been so encouraging to me. I’m learning from Joseph’s story that God’s will for me in this season is to keep on trusting Him and to find ways to keep on serving Him even while I’m hurting.

I also want to talk a bit about the end of Joseph’s story. As I’m sure you are familiar with how in the story of Joseph we get to see how all his suffering would one day make sense and play a role in God’s amazing plan. God used Joseph to be the means of saving many nations, including Israel, from a devastating famine. Joseph became a great leader in Egypt, a wise man who was full of integrity. But if he became a ruler in Egypt right away without first spending years as a slave and in prison, I don’t believe he’d be the same ruler. God was using the hard seasons of suffering in his life to teach him how to be humble and also how to lead and manage other people. When God’s time was right, Joseph was given one of the most coveted positions in all Egypt. Truly, Joseph was finally able to say that God had taken all his sorrow away.

I think that it’s so encouraging to see how God was using Joseph’s suffering to position him in the right place at the right time to bring provision to God’s people. God was preparing Joseph for something greater. And that is what God is doing when we suffer! God is preparing us for something bigger, better, and greater. God is using all the suffering in our life for his good purposes. Often times, like Joseph, we can’t see the whole picture of what God is doing while we are in the middle of it. Maybe all we see is the pain and unending waiting. But we can hold onto the truth that God is going to work all things out our for good and God will be with us, as He was with Joseph.

So yes, I am Joseph! And maybe as you look at your life, you are Joseph too. Maybe God has brought sudden or unjust suffering into your life. The big question to ask yourself then is “what is my response?” Remember, it’s okay to feel hurt and pain. In fact, if you don’t feel any pain as you suffer I’d be worried that something is wrong with you. What really matters the most is what you do with the hurt? Do you dwell on it and let it lead you to despair. Or do you get up and keep on chasing after God and serving him in the place your at, trusting that God is going to do something great through it.

Let us hold onto the truth that God is always with us through every trial we face. Every season of suffering has a purpose that we may not be able to see until the time is right. But we can know this, God is taking us down these hard paths because he wants to prepare us and make us into something greater! God’s purposes for your life are so much greater than whatever it is you have lost, so let’s be like Joseph and keep on suffering well in this life!

Unfulfilled Desires

Do you have any unfulfilled desires? What do you do with them?

These past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about unfulfilled desires. It seems we all have something in our life that we want but God has said no or not yet. The other day I was seeking counsel from a dear friend and she asked me a hard question. She asked me how much of my wanting this relationship to work has been me just simply wanting to have a relationship. Ever since I was a young girl I’ve had the desire to get married and start a family. It’s always been my biggest unfulfilled desire. It’s also been the hardest thing to surrender to God. The more time I spent thinking over this question the more I realized how much my desire really has played a role in my decision making.

Let me tell you all, I’ve been doing some deep heart searching this past week and it’s been hard. I’ve come to realize my desires aren’t wrong. Marriage and a family is a good thing to desire. Whatever it is your waiting for, if God says no, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing to desire. We often forget that God has plans for us that we can’t see. God’s timing is always going to be best for us. But making these desires come about with our own method will not lead to the blessing God desires to give us.

I believe that I’ve been desiring certain good things of God so much that I’ve allowed it to cloud over my vision and cause me to make poor judgments. I feel almost a bit ashamed of all the years I’ve spent chasing after something I wanted so bad when I can see clearly now that God is saying not yet, wait longer. So I decided that I needed to come to terms with these unfulfilled desires that I have been letting rule my life. I talked to God about the desires of my heart. Instead of just surrendering to God my relationship I also gave to him my desires for marriage and a family. I told God that I desire this good thing, but I desire it to be from Him. I desire God to lead me to it in His timing and in His perfect way.

I didn’t feel better right away. My desire is still here and still very strong. But God did give me his peace and I can feel God slowly working on my heart and putting this desire back in it’s rightful place. I’ve also come to realize that I’m quite content right now being single and growing in my walk with God during this season. Honestly, those are words I never thought I’d hear myself saying.

As I continued to think about all these unfulfilled desires we have, this question crossed my mind; What are we supposed to do you with these unfulfilled desires? I didn’t have to think hard to find the answer. You do the only thing you really can do. You just keep following God with all your heart. You keep trusting that God truly does know what’s best for you and the path your on is His will for you. This really is the only way for God to bring us to a place where we can truly be ready to receive the good things that we desire. It allows us to rest knowing he will bring it to us in His timing and He is all we need in the seasons of waiting that we must walk through first.

Lastly, as I finish up my thoughts on unfulfilled desires, I find myself thinking of Paul in one of his letters. In Romans 1:10 Paul says – “and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Paul had unfulfilled desires. He had been desiring to go to Rome for some time, but the Lord was not opening the door for him to go. Even though Paul wanted to go to Rome, he never took action to make it happen. He stayed where he was called and served God with all his heart. Finally, when the timing was right, God took him to Rome in chains.

When the timing is right God will bring our desires to fulfilment, and hopefully for us it won’t also entail being in chains, as it did for Paul. But like Paul, while we are waiting for the God’s timing, we can keep on serving God and pursuing the calling that God us in the place we are in right now.

Stop Fighting

I just want to fight

I don’t want to give in. I don’t want to make these changes. I don’t want to go down this long path of waiting. I want to fight. I want to fight to have my way.

Why is it that even though I am doing what I know is right, I feel far from being at rest. Surrendering is not easy. One day I’m at peace and happy and the next day I’m struggling. There’s a part of me that wants to fight hard as I go into this unexpected season of my life. I want to kick my legs and scream at myself. I want to feel bad for myself for how things turned out as if I somehow could have changed it. I feel like a little toddler having a temper tantrum at God because I am not happy with how things turned out.

But where does this get me? Where does fighting ever get us when we know what God wants us to do? Fighting with God is a waste of our energy because God is sovereign over all things. We can fight all we want to, but God’s will is still gonna be done. If anything, our fighting and unwillingness to surrender peacably is only going to wear us out and prolong our waiting.

So why do I feel this way? It’s gotta be my sinful flesh telling me to fight. I think of the chapter in Romans where paul shared how he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do what he wants to do. I can relate to this internal struggle Paul is having. I know what I should do but my flesh says “no, no, no… “.

But the truth is, I’m only able to find peace and rest when I decide that I’m done fighting to have my way. I can’t change the things God is doing in my life. God has me on this path for a reason so the best I can do is accept it. I can’t go back in time and change things so the best thing I can do is move on. All I can do is do the next right thing and see where God takes me as I’m waiting. It’s only when I choose to stop fighting that God can work in my life.

The other day I was sitting by the river thinking about all these things. I decided I was done fighting. I reached the end of my rope. It was pointless to keep wanting things to be different. So I decided that I the only thing I can do right now is move on. I need to keep on going with my life while I leave the work to God.

I’ll probably still struggle a bit with my urge to fight, because of my flesh. But I’m realizing surrendering our life to God is a process of continually giving Him control and trusting Him even when we don’t like the place we’re in. It’s a hard walk, but what would this life be without these struggles that bring us closer to our dear Savior.

Letting Go

Have you heard the saying “let go and let God”

I’ve heard it so many times and I wish I could say I have followed it well. But here’s my confession. I’ve gotten really good at the let go part. Many times I have come to the point in my life where I know I can’t do anything, so I let go. I let go because I don’t have any other choice. But even after letting go, I don’t change anything. I stay where I’m at because I have to make sure I’m still able to help. Because God is still gonna need me, right? Surely part of the letting go and letting God work is gonna include me.

Wrong. To truly let go and let God, means we need to surrender and step away. When God works, He may or may not need us. God will make it clear if and when he may have something for us to do. But if we truly are to trust God to work, we need to be willing to let God do it on his own and in the way that is the most glorifying to Him. And sometimes, or maybe I should say often times, it means us not being there.

I don’t know about you, but this part about letting go and letting God is hard to swallow. It’s not easy to walk completely away and leave it completely in God’s hands. But I can tell you, it’s also so freeing. It’s freeing because I realize that God is the one working and God can and will be faithful to me. God is working, and he doesn’t need my help. Because God is working the outcome of the situation will not be based at all on any of my efforts. When I let go and let God, I am acknowledging that I can’t make things happen. It’s not saying that God won’t use me, it’s accepting the fact that God will work things out in his way, whether that involves me or not.

In a sense, it’s letting go of the control we want to have over our life and the way things are going. There’s song by Tenth Avenue North called Control. Everytime I hear this song these lyrics in the chorus get to me;

"Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control"

If God loves us so much, then we can be assured that He will work things out in our favor and for our good. If God loves us and is always for us then we can open up our hands and give Him control. If God loves us so much then it is our duty and an act of worship on our part to let go of the things we hold onto so dearly, and let God work.

Where do you need to let go and let God be the one to work in you life?

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28