This past Sunday, I wasn't able to make it to church because I was just hurting too much from surgery and chemo. So, I stayed in bed and spent my morning watching TV preachers as my pain medication had me drifting in and out of sleep. Interestingly, two of the preachers spoke on the same passage back to back... Was God trying to tell me something?
Genesis 37 and the chapters following recount the story of Joseph. Here's a guy who was betrayed by his brothers... thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused and tossed in prison, and after years of unfair circumstances finally ended up second in command ruling the country. Some story, huh? If you're not familiar with it, you should go read it sometime. There were several lessons from Joseph's life that really spoke to me while I listened to those two pastors last Sunday.
First, God had promised Joseph that he would be lifted up, but before that could happen, his brothers became jealous of him and threw him into a dried up cistern. Can you imagine the questions that ran through Joseph's head while he was sitting at the bottom of that pit... what happened to the promises you made me, God? This isn't what I expected! How does this fit into the big picture? God, where are you in all of this? What's going on? ...Some of the same questions, I must admit, have crossed my mind through treatment.
Well, I was reminded that God definitely knew what he was doing when he allowed Joseph to sit there in that pit. He hadn't left him alone in the midst of his bad circumstances. In fact, God was using all of those circumstances to shape Joseph. Remember, Joseph went all the way from that pit to the palace... but God's way of getting him there was through the prison. No matter how long and difficult his circumstances were, God was hard at work through it all!
I was reminded that I don't have to dread those times of breakdown in my life. I can even thank God for the breakdown because he uses times like that so I can breakout of old shells and breakthrough to better things. The lesson is - it doesn't matter how deep your pit is because God is using it to prepare you for what he has prepared for you! God doesn't cause the bad circumstances in our lives, but he does use them to accomplish his purposes for us. What an encouragement at a very low point in my life!
It was a reminder I needed to hear. You see, when I'm feeling terrible physically, it's really difficult for me to be positive emotionally. It's like I'm lost in a forest of trees and I just can't rise up enough to see the big picture all around me. So, I was encouraged to remember that God is at work in my difficult circumstances... even though I often don't see it from my vantage point.
Second, there's a phrase that comes up several times throughout Joseph's story: "and the Lord was with Joseph...." No matter what the circumstances, good or bad, we're reminded that the Lord was with Joseph through it all. If you read Joseph's story, you'll see that God was with him, he was walking beside him, he was working for him, and he was witnessing through him every step of the way. Whatever our circumstances are, we are promised that God is always with his children and always working through their circumstances. The question is: are you under your circumstances or under the God who is over your circumstances? Are we going to respond to the circumstances that look like they're in control or to the promises of God who is in control?
Again, it was a reminder I desperately needed to hear. At this point in my life, it certainly seems like my circumstances are out of control and it's easy to come to the conclusion that nothing good is going to come from it all. Yet, God's promises remain true. Every day, I must decide what I will focus on and believe: my circumstances or God's promises.
There was one final thing that impacted me this past Sunday while I listened to those TV preachers: While everything on the outside may be all bad, everything on the inside is alright because God is with me. Going through treatment is a very difficult thing. The circumstances in which I find myself definitely aren't what I would ever ask for... but because God is with me through it, truly, I can say it is well with my soul...
Seems like God was trying to tell me something after all!