When life is at its darkest it can be difficult to see any light ahead.
At a time of personal crisis it can seem as if there is no way for things to get any better.
Sometimes we find ourselves thinking we would give anything to get our lives back to where we were before.
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome gives us this piece of encouragement:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
When our life is in crisis, it doesn’t mean that God has forgotten about us or doesn’t care. When we go through sadness or pain, when we suffer ill health or lose our job or lose someone we love, it doesn’t mean God is angry with us (or them).
God will never allow us to suffer more pain or sadness that we are capable of enduring. For a Christian it is always possible to start again and build ourselves back up.
However, it may not be possible to start again from the place we were before. Sometimes God wants us to start again from a very different place.
We probably all remember Joseph and his amazing coat of many colours. What we might forget is what happened to him as a result.
Joseph had ten older half-brothers who were deeply jealous of his position as their father’s favourite son. One day they got together, snatched him and sold him as a slave.
He was thrown headlong into a situation of personal crisis. Separated from his family, perhaps still only a boy, forced to work as a slave in a foreign country where he didn’t know a single person.
How many times must he have lain awake at night, heart aching for a way to return to the life he had before?
Nevertheless he was able to start again in this new life, to work diligently and continue to trust God, building himself up to a position where his owner trusted him to take charge of all the household affairs.
Yet his suffering didn’t end there. His owner’s wife falsely accused him of assaulting her and had him thrown into prison.
Once again Joseph found himself in a position of personal crisis through absolutely no fault of his own. Even his life as a slave had been better than prison.
Once again, however, he trusted God and worked diligently until the prison guards put him in a position of trust. It was this position that eventually led him to make connections with the pharaoh of Egypt himself. With God’s help, Joseph was able to guide the pharaoh through a time of national crisis.
In his new position as the pharaoh’s right hand man, Joseph finally came face to face with his older half-brothers once again. As they cringed in fear at the thought of his terrible revenge, he simply told them:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Everything that had happened to Joseph ended up putting him in this position to save many nations, including his own family, from starvation. This was something that in his darkest hours of sorrow he could never possibly have foreseen.
On the other hand, consider Jesus. He spent his entire life knowing exactly what lay ahead of him: the pain and humiliation of the cross. Yet an early Christian leader tells us of Jesus:
for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Does that sound similar to Joseph’s story?
What was true for Joseph and Jesus could also be true for us. A time of personal crisis in your life may turn out to be a pathway to a position where you can do great good for those around you.
Unlike Jesus, we will never know exactly where the future may lead us. Like Joseph, we must simply trust God and act with honesty and diligence at whatever life throws our way.