FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of Others
Three and a half years ago I walked into an orphanage in Colombia and held my daughter for the first time. She was almost two years old, yet so incredibly tiny. She had the most beautiful deep brown eyes in combination with eyelashes I could only wish for. And her smile –goodness her smile. (I could write an entire book on that.) And while her dad, two brothers, and I met her with anxious, excited anticipation; she came to us with nervous uncertainty. Why? Because even as an infant, her world had failed her. The confidence and security that she deserved to be brought into were instead replaced with unknowns and uncertainties because of the decisions of others. And while I look at my beautiful little girl and wish I could take away any hurt she experienced; I know that simply is not a possibility. What I do know is that she will grow up to realize that regardless of our innocence; the mistakes, actions, and sins of others most often affect the ones around them more than anyone else.
The cost of suffering for the sins of another is not a new experience to the generations that currently exist. This pain has existed since the beginning of time. If we go to the later chapters of Genesis, we see a story of a teenage boy, Joseph, who was, without a doubt, his father’s favorite child. And as tends to be in situations where there is a “favorite,” that favorite is typically not preferred by the others that fall behind. Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy caused such hatred in their hearts that their decision was to first kill him. Their next thought was to throw him in an empty well, however, they end up landing on the idea that it would be best to sell him into slavery. As if this was not torturous enough, they then told his beloved Father that he has been killed. These brothers had allowed their jealousy to take root in their hearts. And as with other sinful thoughts, once planted they take root. The result is a domino effect of innocent people being caught in the path of the evil that resides in another’s heart.
And he identified it and said, “It is my son's robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Genesis 37:33-35
In the middle of sin, one’s thoughts are typically on their own selfish desires or spinning their wheels attempting to conceal those desires. Sin typically starts out slow, but the more we conceal it and feed it in private, the more it has a way of growing in public. That sin becomes evident in not only our thoughts but our actions as well. Eventually, it becomes unrecognizable as sin because our hearts and our surroundings have made these actions seem acceptable. But the truth is this; just because it has been justified and made acceptable by the ones that surround you, does not make it right –period! Just because Joseph’s brothers all agreed that they would be better off without him did not make the decision any less wrong.
“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
Can you imagine the fear of the unknowns and sadness from the rejection and abandonment that Joseph must have felt? However, despite the brothers’ actions to harm him, Joseph’s life began to look up. Well, at least until the deceitfulness of another once again left him in an unfortunate undeserving situation. This time it would be a prison, but thanks to a gracious, loving, and sovereign God, the story does not end there.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20
With the wisdom given by God, Joseph was able to interpret dreams. These interpretations showed him that there would be seven good years of plentiful harvest, followed by seven years of famine. Because of this, seven years were spent storing up food and preparing for challenging times ahead. The famine hit just as Joseph had predicted. The lack of food was taking a toll on the land of Canaan, the home of Joseph’s estranged brothers. In search of food, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt. The ironic part of this whole story is that the same brother they were so jealous of him, would be the same brother that would selflessly offer them food and save their lives. The young boy that was sold into slavery with a glim-looking future would, in the end, hold the highest position in Egypt under Pharoah.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
And just as in the story of Joseph, even if we were able to do, say and behave in a perfect manner for our entire lives (which of course we cannot), the sins and wrongdoings of others will eventually affect us. We will indeed suffer from the faults of others; faults that have nothing to even do with us. The brokenness we feel will be undeserved and most often unexpected. I would say that the wreckage that results from the sin of others is most often the saddest time of our lives. The reason being is that we had no control over it. But God –He is and will forever be in complete control. What others mean for evil; God can use for good.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18
You see, God had a plan for that precious little 2-year-old Colombian baby girl. In all His goodness –He had it all worked out. He knew that she would need a home before he even began whispering in our hearts. The truth is that He was calling us to something that we had never even conversated about. Grateful is absolutely an understatement. I am and forever will be humbled that He chose our family to be a part of a story that began with an undeserved amount of brokenness. And I'm beyond thankful to know that He was near her in those years of uncertainty. The joy that I have witnessed watching the God of Creation bring healing to the hurt and hope to the hopeless, is truly life-changing.
Do you, like Joseph, find yourself in this place today where the course of your life has been unfortunately altered due to the sins of others? I wish I could promise you that I could heal your pain immediately by offering an alternate route, but friend, I cannot. But with God; He is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Nothing is too hard, too impossible, too defeated, too lost, or too broken to be healed and restored.
If this is you, here are some practical tips to help during these times of defeat.
1. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on God.
2. Trust Him with the pain of your current situation. Nothing is impossible with Him.
3. Find helpful Bible verses and when the sadness creeps in, repeat them over and over. Pray them back to a Holy God who will never leave you nor forsake you.
4. Pray for the person that has hurt you. God’s resolutions are always more effective than our own.
5. Do not stoop to the level of the person who has brought you grief. Stand firm in your faith and allow the goodness of God to be your source of strength.
This week, the daily readings will focus on trusting the Lord to be your comforter, healer, and protector as well as being confident that He can grow you closer to Him during difficult times
If you have questions or things that you don't understand, please email them to me and I will add them to the Q&A section. I can't promise you that I will have all of the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them if I don't have them.
Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.