Monday, June 10, 2013

Beauty Rises Out of Rough Places

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the one of Joseph.  He knew what it was like to fall victim to the sinful acts of others, but despite the evil others committed against him he always found favor by those in authority.  The Scriptures say that not only was the Lord present with him, but the Lord showed kindness toward him.  Those who treated Joseph well received this kindness, too. Who was this man?

As a young boy Joseph received prophetic dreams from the Lord.  In these dreams Joseph’s father and brothers bowed before him.  Joseph constantly talked about his dreams, and this infuriated his brothers.  To make matters worse, Joseph received a special multi-colored coat from their father.  Jacob favored the first-born son from his wife, Rachel, because the wife he loved was only given to him after being deceived and bamboozled into marrying her older sister Leah first.  She died after giving birth to Joseph’s brother, Benjamin.

One day, Joseph headed out to the fields in search of his brothers.  They couldn't miss him as they saw the brightness of his coat as he approached.  A deep root of anger and jealousy simmered in their hearts, and now an ideal situation presented itself for them to lash out and rid their lives of the one that vexed them.  They tore his coat from him and hurled him into a dried out well.

As they ate and contemplated their exact plan of action, Joseph must have wondered if his dreams actually came from the Lord now. He probably struggled with how he was partially at fault for his predicament.  When his brothers finally decided to sell him off to some travelers instead of killing him, he still probably questioned the validity of his dreams and how he might have done things differently so that his brothers wouldn’t have sold him.

Regrets or not Joseph made the best of his circumstances and quickly found favor with Poptipher who put him in charge of his household. He held this position until one day when Potipher’s promiscuous wife got a hold of his robe and used it as evidence to make false accusations of rape against him.  His continual refusal of her advances angered her, and this landed him innocently in jail. Even there he gained favor among those in charge. 

By the time Joseph turned thirty he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt and was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  This dream told about seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine coming to the land.  Pharaoh asked Joseph for a plan to save his people, and his solution so impressed Pharaoh that he placed Joseph second in command.

It was during this great famine that his life crossed paths with his brothers again.  Their father heard about a man he believed could help their hunger situation and sent his sons to Egypt for food.  Joseph instantly recognized his brothers, but his identity remained hidden from them until Joseph knew it would be safe to make himself known. 

Joseph questioned his brother’s intentions and also asked questions about their family.  He discovered that his father and his brother, Benjamin, were well. Joseph demanded they bring Benjamin to Egypt.  Only after practically starving to death, did Jacob agree to allow Benjamin to travel back to Egypt with them.  Joseph became overwhelmed with emotion when his brothers returned with Benjamin but still kept his identity from them.  He provided them with food and had a silver cup secretly placed in Benjamin’s sack.  When the brothers did everything to protect Benjamin from being punished for stealing the cup, Joseph knew their hearts had changed since his encounter with them as a young boy and revealed his identity to them.

With his entire family now united, Joseph cared for them throughout the rest of the famine.  Despite his provisions, his brothers never really understood or trusted the heart of the brother they had mistreated.  When their father passed away they continued to reel in guilt from their choices and feared for their lives.  Sensing their fear and distrust for him, Joseph took them aside and said, "What you meant for evil against me the Lord used for good for the preservation of many lives."

The bragging young boy had been transformed over their long years of separation. Joseph recognized the way the Lord weaved great beauty from the rough places he faced.  He trusted the way the Lord used not only his brother’s sinful response to his boasting about his dreams but his years in prison to bring about a plan for His people. Joseph submitted to the Lord’s will and allowed each difficulty to mold him into a man with a deep trust and faith in God’s sovereignty.

I admire Joseph, and his trust in God’s plan over his life. It helps me see the way the Lord desires for me to trust in the Lord’s sovereignty, too.  My life has tasted the pain caused by my sins as well as the sins others committed against me.  I’ve wrestled with the Lord over some of my experiences but in time have come to accept His plans for me, and the way He manages to bring good from it.

I imagine Joseph probably wondered where God might be in the midst of his trials though.   If he was anything like me, he at times pouted, sulked, and sometimes became angry about his situations, but eventually trusted that the Lord knew what was best for him.  The Scriptures don’t provide us with the reason Joseph constantly found favor with those in authority over him, but I believe it had to do with his attitude and ultimate trust in the Lord.

Trusting during difficult times isn’t easy, especially when troubles get compounded with many blows at one time.  I can pinpoint specific times in my life when my trials overwhelmed me and how I barely held on to my faith. I even considered walking away until I realized there was nowhere else to go to find the Words of Life. Unfortunately, in my times of doubt, I tended to slip back into unhealthy patterns of dealing with people and circumstances.  This eventually resulted in being alienated from those unable to deal with me in that state.  The enemy of my soul reveled in my unhealthy patterns and condemned me for being difficult for some to handle in those times.

Thankfully, Jesus reached out His loving and accepting hands to pick me up out of the muck and mire and redirected my steps. He showed me that while others pushed me away when I was stressed out, He wanted me to come to Him so that I might learn to truly rest. He never put His hand up to me or gave up on me.  He started a good work in me and intended on completing it. Despite my failures, He reminded me that His death on the cross provided the proof of His commitment to me forever.

Rehashing the exact details of all that happened to me offers no help to anyone, but knowing someone endured similar hardships is helpful for all. My hope is that just like Joseph’s story inspired me, I pray mine will do the same for others.  My life includes a lot of falling down along the way, but it’s a journey about getting back up, too.  Like Joseph, it reveals the way beauty truly emerges out of rough places.

As a child from a divorced home, I knew not only the hurt from only weekend visits with my father, but the way tension increased in a household when a second marriage brought into the home other hurt and angry children.  I’ve helplessly sat by and watched the destructive power of alcohol, and the trail of hurts it leaves on all the family members involved with it.  I’ve not only experienced being violated myself, but carried the burden of trying to protect a child from the same injury and failed.

I’ve experienced multiple times of abandonment from various important people in my life. It was during these times that a false belief surfaced that I was not valuable or worth anyone’s time.  Since age seven, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression that constantly left me with the sense that everyone would be much happier if I just died.  As an adult, I sometimes needed medications to keep my anxiety and depression at bay.

My marriage came with some built-in problems due to my unhealthy emotional responses to my past and my struggles to heal from them.  My marriage faced a time when divorce seemed to be the best option for everyone, but the Lord orchestrated through the death of my father a great healing instead.  Unfortunately some of the deepest wounds inflicted on my family and on me came from those within the church.

However, I can honestly testify with confidence that what those used by Satan meant for evil against my family and me personally have been used for good. The more I pursued walking according to the Spirit instead of the flesh, the more dross the Lord lifted to the surface to remove from my heart. He helped me face the lies I believed about Him and myself.

With time I’ve learned to release my hurts to Him and look at my past as His cleansing work in my life to help me become more like my Savior, gracious and merciful to others.  I know that as long as I take responsibility for my sins against others and strive to live at peace with others, then the Lord can handle the rest.

Life is filled with rough places.  Often times, we find ourselves in a bad place due to our own sinful choices but other times we are there because of the sinful choices of others.  Regardless of how we got there, the Lord wants to raise beauty out of the messes we find ourselves. 

What do you need to release into His hands today?  Will you open your heart unreserved to the One Who made you and is committed to healing you?  He sees your worth and value and desires for you to see it too.  Will you let Him carry you to a place of true peace and rest today? 

@copyright 6/10/2013

1 comment:

  1. Great open, honest, insightful post Beckie. Very thoughtful and thought provoking.