Tag Archives: Joseph

Pondering the Why of Suffering

When Jesus and his disciples encountered the man born blind as recorded in John 9, the disciples wanted to know why he’d been born blind. Was it the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that had caused this tragedy?

Why me? Why her? It’s a question we all ask in the face of tragedy and suffering. I know I do. Why did my mom have cancer not once, but three times? Why did her dad die of cancer when she was only 14? Why did my sister die of cancer at only 61?

Why was I raped by someone I thought I could trust when I was only 14? Why was I faced with the impossible situation of a teen pregnancy because of being raped again when I was only 17? Was all this tragedy ordained by God to make me the person I am today? Would I have been less compassionate and more judgmental if I’d never experienced all the suffering I have?

I have a friend who is a Christian and yet she lacks empathy and compassion. Her words reveal the pride and judgment of others that flow from her heart. She hasn’t experienced the trauma I have or anything close to it as far as I can tell. I wonder if I would have been just like her—legalistic and critical—if I’d been spared the fertile soil of suffering that mercy needs to grow.

Or perhaps my suffering and my mother’s suffering are God’s punishment for the sins of her parents, my grandparents, or even earlier generations. There is certainly scripture to support the conclusion that God punishes the children for the sins of the parents even to multiple generations.

Then again, my own suffering may have been the result of my own sin. The first time I was raped happened in large part because I disobeyed my parents and hung out with the guy who did it. And after that it was one sin after another that led to more suffering.

I’ll probably never know why this side of Heaven. I can speculate until I’m blue in the face and never know for sure. So perhaps it’s most profitable to stop asking why and focus on the next part of the story of the man born blind.

Jesus answers His disciples, saying that the man was born blind that God might be glorified. Then He heals the man. He gives the man who had never seen so much as a blade of grass full sight. He took the man’s utter darkness and gave him light.

He did the same for me and that’s what matters. He healed my brokenness that He might be glorified. I’ll admit that there are days when even that answer can cause tears of anger to well up in my eyes. Couldn’t there have been an easier way for God to be glorified than for me to struggle under the weight of multiple traumas?

Then I remember the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail by Pharaoh for a betrayal he didn’t commit, and then ultimately raised to a position of power in Egypt. When his brothers came to him for food in time of famine, fearing he would punish them for the wrong they had committed against him, Joseph responded: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV).

I ponder that perhaps God intended the harm that has befallen me for good, to accomplish great things for Him. This helps me let go of the “why” questions and focus on where I can encourage others who have been through similar circumstances and haven’t yet found His healing light. Perhaps I can even be used by God to save many lives.

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Whom Can God Use? – A Poem

Three weeks into the study of Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship I’ve already learned — or been reminded of — a great truth. God can, and does, use the most unlikely and undeserving people to accomplish His great purposes for mankind. He can use even me and you, whether we believe it or not.

Whom Can God Use?

Whom can God use?
He used Tamar the Hittite
Rahab the prostitute
Ruth the Moabitess
And the Gentile wife of Uriah
to create the line of King David
the ancestors of Messiah

Whom can God use?
He used Pharaoh the hard-hearted
Moses the murderer
Herod the Great, a cruel king
And Joseph the carpenter
to set up and fulfill prophecy
of calling His Son out of Egypt

Whom can God use?
He used Peter the hot-head
Thomas the doubter
Mary Magdalene the prostitute
and Paul the murderous zealot
to spread the Good News
of His mercy and saving grace

Whom can God use?
He used June from Australia
My sister the atheist
New friends in Bible study
And an angel in a dream
to call me out of my exile
from the hell of depression to the Light

Whom can God use?
He can use you
no matter your past
Despite all I’ve done
He can use me
to share His sweet love and light
with a world lost in darkness

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Joseph: The Forgotten Character

When we think of the Christmas story, it seems we tend to forget the role that Joseph played in this historical event. We rightly focus on the baby Jesus, or often on His mother Mary. To be sure, Joseph is there in every nativity scene, but do we really comprehend the importance he plays in this story and what we can learn from him?

Mary knew beyond any doubt that she was a virgin and when she found herself pregnant she had no trouble believing that what the angel had told her was true. But Joseph had no such assurance. He had been told in a dream by an angel that Mary’s baby was the Son of God, but surely he had doubts. For Joseph to believe, he had to have faith and to trust God’s messenger as well as his new bride.

This afternoon I’ve been listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents to the smell of a rib roast in the slow cooker for Christmas Eve dinner. The song Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe came on and I found myself pondering the thought of Joseph accepting Jesus as the Son of God while at the same time treating the Holy Child as his own son.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “In love he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV). In the same way, Joseph adopted the baby Jesus as his son, even though he knew the child was not his. In faith, Joseph raised this miracle Child as his own, teaching Him the craft of a carpenter and the love of God. In all that Joseph did as the earthly father of Jesus, he glorified God the Father.

So this Christmas, let’s remember Joseph, the forgotten character of the story at the center of all history.

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A Lesson from Joseph

In church today we heard probably the most important lesson in all of Christianity. It is also the most important lesson in all of humanity. It is the lesson of forgiveness.

Our scripture reading for the day was Genesis 50:15-21:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father. ” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

When you consider all that Joseph endured all because his brothers were jealous of him and sold him as a slave to a passing group of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt, he certainly had good reason to hold a grudge. If anyone had good reason to pay back the wrong that had been done to him, it was Joseph.

But he didn’t. Instead he forgave his brothers. He looked at the bigger picture and saw that although they had intended him harm, God had used what they did to accomplish a greater good.

If Joseph had stayed in Canaan as the favored son of his father Jacob, there would have been no one in Egypt to interpret Pharaoh’s dream of the coming famine. There would have been no one to put into place the plan of storing away enough food during the seven years of plenty to survive the seven years of famine. Not only the people of Egypt, but also those of all the surrounding nations, would have suffered great loss during the drought.

Often it is difficult for us to see the big picture when someone hurts us, to see how God could possibly use what another intends to harm us and turn it to good. It is difficult to forgive, especially when it is clear that the person who has wronged us intended to harm us.

But as our pastor pointed out this morning, scripture doesn’t give us an out. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV).

This seems like a harsh and unfair command. But our Heavenly Father requires us to forgive because He knows that the poison of anger and unforgiveness will kill our soul just as cyanide will surely kill our body.

If we desire to live, to truly live, then we must forgive. We must trust that God will use whatever comes our way for the greater good. We may not enjoy the benefit of seeing that good, as Joseph did, but still we must have faith that forgiveness is the better path.

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