I am headed to Nashville today for a week with the PCA’s General Assembly where I may run into some old friends, hear some of my favorite writers and teachers speak and in general be encouraged in my faith by those who are far wiser than I may ever be. For a lot of people, this sounds like an incredibly religious and excruciatingly boring way to spend a week. I, however, am really excited. It hit me just this morning, as I was picturing myself showing my children the Vanderbilt campus, that God was giving context to the story I now find myself in, even if not fully explaining it.
The very place that started my trajectory of drinking up the Living Water of God’s grace in place of my white knuckled striving, where I was first introduced to the Gospel as it emphasizes the life of Jesus on my behalf as being just as important as His death on my behalf, the very place where I met the dear friends with whom I’ve shared our church planting adventure is where God is taking me this week in the midst of an otherwise confusing and seemingly forgotten story. Seeing the details of this timing, the personal way this particular context speaks to my heart like no other, reminds me that God has not forgotten me, my current unpredictably and uncertain circumstances can be trusted as part of His larger life-giving story, and He is always so intentional and exceptional in the way He crafts His story.
Joseph (Genesis 37-50), a child favored by his father and resented by his jealous brothers, was sold into slavery by his brothers who faked his death to their father. That alone would make for an intriguing and tragic story, but it was just the beginning of Joseph’s. He grew from childhood into adulthood in captivity. He went in and out of favor with his superiors, he was falsely accused and thrown in jail, he became an authority figure to the leaders based on the wisdom God gave him, and he ultimately was made second in command over the very country that enslaved him. Those are the highlights, and they are much easier to hear because we can see the full story in just a few pages. But for Joseph, living in this story for years, he must have felt lost, forsaken, lonely and quite confused many times over in the course of things.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 1 Cor. 1:27-29
Joseph went from a home of privilege where he was cherished and honored and spoiled by his father to the life of a servant where he was not known, not honored and suffered in multiple ways. Sounds a little familiar…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5
Joseph was foreshadowing what Someone else would do generations later. Joseph’s story helped explain with a little more detail what had first been promised in Genesis 3:15 and 20. Someone would come in Adam’s place to complete the work that he had abandoned and bear the punishment that he deserved, and this wasn’t merely for the sake of that one account but for all of the offspring of the woman for generations to come.
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. Genesis 50:19-20 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Acts 2:23 Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Acts 3:17-18 In both cases, men acted wickedly and out of ignorance but God was still writing the script. What this means is that even my wickedness and ignorance, even other people’s wickedness and ignorance which negatively impacts me, doesn’t mess up God’s good plan for bringing life both to me and His entire kingdom. This is the hope in the midst of heartache and disappointment, confusion and meaningless – that He is not confused or disappointed but is doing something far more beautiful than my limited perspective can grasp. It gives meaning and value to my suffering because it is not wasted or shameful but part of a greater context than I may now comprehend. As I return to Nashville this week, it will be a time of remembering what God has done and regaining a vision for what He will do. Moments like this which provide a wide angle view of the bigger story in which we find ourselves are rare and need to be received as gracious gifts. As they increase my faith that God is intentional in all the details, that not a hair falls from my head which is unknown to Him, and that He is good all the time and to be trusted, I am compelled to worship even in confusing chapters. How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13