This picture was taken at Calloway Gardens in Georgia while attending a Women’s Conference in 2011. Reminded afresh that God is a strong tower, very much like the towering trees that provide a coolness in the shade from extreme heat. He is our very present help in time of trials and need.
I remember as a young girl spending two weeks of my summer vacation with my Aunt Alma and Uncle Ralph in the small town of Bedford, Indiana. My sister and I looked forward to it every year. It was a sweet time of childhood innocence basking in the pure delight of bonding with extended family. Fond memories flood of pruning her garden for 25 cents a day (imagine that), daily devotional bible readings (awesome) and playfully running through neighborhood yards (imagine no fences) of grassy fields to the community swimming pool. Those days were filled with discovery and joy! Every night before bedtime my Aunt would read from the Bible but one story in particular captured my attention and that was the life of Joseph. Often I would ask her to read it over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. I suppose it was because it would hit a familiar cord. I have cherished and loved that story my whole life. It has brought much strength, encouragement in times of personal trials and testing. Those treasured moments of years spent with my Aunt reading from the Word of God later became evidence that God’s Word did not return void in my own life. I praise God for his faithfulness.
As a young boy and then well into his adulthood God allowed Joseph to suffer various trials for a greater purpose and blessing. I’m sure he didn’t always understand the “why” of his sufferings or the gross injustice of his circumstance, yet nonetheless, Joseph was pressed in the midst of his worst nightmare and able to surrender into it. The purpose: He learned obedience through what he suffered, the trials served as a catalyst for him to press into the heart of God. Joseph may not of been able to see God’s hand in these trials all the time but even if he couldn’t he knew he could trust in the heart and the love of a God of whom proved trustworthy. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. He was a human being made of flesh and blood just like you and me with imperfections and flaws. His story became an example to me of a faith that persevered, of a God who provided grace that permeated Joseph’s soul, proved constant and in action! That same grace is available for you and me today. A grace that enables us to see beyond our trials, a daunting circumstance, rest in a faith that is founded on Christ.
I’m reminded of three scriptures. The first is a definition of faith.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)
You might ask faith in what or who? Is there anything or anyone worth believing in, suffering for, or placing a confidence? Where are we to place our hope? What assurance do we have? What is it we do not see? What sustained Joseph’s faith? For Joseph it was a faith in the Almighty God and in the promise of the coming Messiah, a Savior unseen.
The second reminds that which is unseen is the sustainer of a faith that sees.
Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Third is an example of a love offering on our behalf, of Christ and his obedient sacrificial act of suffering for the whole world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)
The blessing was that God brought good from Joseph’s brother’s evil intent and deed, Potiphar’s wife false accusation, the cup-bearer’s neglect and seven years of famine. Those experiences taught him that God does bring good from evil for those who trust him. The same is true today. Do you believe God is able? Joseph thought so. And I do too. God is able to overrule all evil intentions to bring about his intended good. The secret of Joseph’s faith (and ours) is found in a lifetime of trusting God and most often in the unseen valley of not knowing why. Faith is simply like a muscle, it grows when it is exercised and that exercise often comes in the form of trials.
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:19-20)