Dear Fellow Children of God,
What injustice, what heart-wrenching loss, or what long-standing problem is causing you pain, grief, or trouble? That’s not a very pleasant question, is it? Nevertheless, everyone faces trials in this life. And these trials are not just minor inconveniences. These tragedies and losses can change our lives, seemingly for the worse.
So, as you consider your serious life challenge, or challenges, please also consider the following question. “How is God using your struggle, disappointment, or pain to bless you?” You might respond to me by asking, “What!? How can this gut-wrenching trial be used by God?”
This year for my personal devotions I am again using the “Today’s Light Bible,” which takes a person through the Scriptures in two years. As January concludes I am near the end of Genesis and reading about Joseph. Now Joseph is a man who suffered injustice, loss, and trouble!
Joseph’s 11 brothers were jealous of him. So, according to Genesis 37, beginning when Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers made life difficult, if not miserable for him. They hated him, and sold him into slavery. If that was not enough, Joseph became a slave in Egypt of a powerful official of the government. But, he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct and thrown into prison. Joseph spent time in prison until he was 30, according to Genesis 41:46. In part, Joseph’s time in prison was because he was forgotten by people whom he had helped. Therefore, for 13 years, from when he was 17 until he was 30, Joseph suffered injustice, loss, and trouble. Notice, these were not inconsequential troubles. Imagine what that kind of trouble would do to your life!
However, in his trials God had not forgotten Joseph. In fact, God used the evil brought on Joseph by others to bless him. As God worked in Joseph’s life, Joseph was released from prison and became the second most powerful man in Egypt, overseeing an effort to deal with an approaching famine. Joseph saw GOD’S presence even in his suffering and pointed to the blessings of God as he named his two sons. Please read Genesis 41:51-52 with me.
51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." Joseph saw God acting in his life to use the evil caused by others to bless him. Notice, according to the names of his sons, Joseph says that it is God who made Joseph forget his trouble. It is God who made Joseph fruitful. Joseph testifies to God’s faithful goodness during his trials, in the way that he names his two sons.
I share this insight from my personal devotions as I prepare for worship this Sunday. Most people attending a traditional liturgical church this week will hear Jesus speak what we call “The Beatitudes” from Matthew 5:1-12, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells people they are “blessed” when they are poor in spirit, they are blessed when they mourn, and they are blessed when they are persecuted. Who wants to suffer these trials? Yet, Jesus is saying that, just like God used Joseph’s suffering to bless Him, God uses our real and significant suffering and loss to give us His love, to bless our relationship with Him.
Do not be confused. Please understand what I am not saying. I am not saying that God causes these trials and heartaches. God is not the source or the cause of evil. Evil and sin are in our world through the efforts and temptation of our enemy, the devil, and because of our own weakness and rebellion against our Creator. Yet, while God does not cause the evil in our lives, He does use our trials to bring us back to Him, to bless us!
This week I am again the volunteer chaplain at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. As I visit patients in the hospital, I have pamphlets which the hospital provides that I can share with these people. One of those pamphlets shares Lamentations 3:22-23. In the New American Standard Bible this Old Testament verse reads, “22 The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.” This verse was written when the Israelites were in Babylon lamenting, regretting, crying, weeping, because of their exile. Yet, they know that God’s lovingkindness never ceases. His compassions never fail. Even in their forced relocation God is with them and working to bless them.
God used the injustice and trials in Joseph’s life for good. Jesus calls us blessed even when we mourn, or are persecuted. Let me ask you that question again. “How is God using your struggle, disappointment, or pain to bless you?”
A Child of God, Trusting in the Blessings of God,
P.S. I visited with the Neslunds on Tuesday. Kristine has been keeping baby Bjorn home to protect him from possible illness. Nevertheless, this almost 19 month old miracle boy is growing and healthy! Here is a picture. God is good!! https://goo.gl/photos/dece2HxW2oujJKfB7
P.P.S. In worship we continue to focus intentionally on God’s call to share Jesus.
P.P.P.S. I went fishing Monday and stood out in the 0 degree weather in the 20 mph winds Monday. I got cold, but caught no fish.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.