The Struggle is Part of the Story

ABOUT A BOY

There was this guy. He had it all. Money. Looks. An adoring father. Wearing a brightly colored coat, he had dreams, plans, and visions. But he also had a bit of pride. A tattle-tale to daddy. His brothers hated him.

Joseph, of the Bible… I truly have a soft spot in my heart for this man and his life. Something resonates in my soul when I read his story. (see Genesis 37, 39-50). It is a harrowing tale of immaturity, pride, hatred, jealousy, lies, accusations, promises, and redemption. The perfect plot line for a movie.

Joseph was 17 when we first meet him in Genesis. He was fresh out of the fields shepherding his father’s flocks. God had given him two specific dreams while he was out with the sheep. He couldn’t wait to tell his brothers and father.

Being the youngest, favored son, Joseph probably felt the need to validate his greatness by flaunting his dreams out for all to hear. The need to be admired, the desire to be looked up to, and confirm with proof that he truly had it all together.

Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it. //Genesis 37:6-7

Oh Joseph. Sweet, immature boy. You can’t help but cringe at his eagerness to prove his self-worth. The driving force to show he was great and important. God had great plans for him. This was evident to all who heard of these dreams.

BUT timing is everything.

God had more to do in the life of this ruddy shepherd boy. Greatness didn’t arrive in the fashion he had hoped.

In a jealous rage, the Lord allowed Joseph’s brothers to do the unthinkable. They removed him out from the protection of his father,  stole his splendor, and ultimately wiped any living proof of his existence. The dream of greatness was shattered when he was thrown into the pit awaiting the slave traders.

He was stripped bare. Humility was forced on him without warning, but God was there all along.

He was there when Joseph entered the glitzy halls of Potiphar’s house. God was near when he earned the respect of his master. And even when Joseph was falsely accused, God knew. In jail with no hope of freedom. Forgotten by his fellow prisoners for freedom, but not forgotten by the Lord.

Joseph had a choice at the beginning of all of this: to fight or to abide.

He chose the latter, and I am so very glad that he did. Wave after wave of difficulties pelted that young boy. Under the watchful eyes of a loving God, Joseph learned how to abide under the pressure knowing that there was good to be found through it all. God’s timing ultimately proved trustworthy and Joseph was ready. God restored Joseph back into community and fellowship with his family. He raised the humble, broken, and accused man to a place of prominence and respect. The trials Joseph endured were for the purpose of maturing a selfish boy into a godly man of humility. He was refined through the fire of difficulties.

ABOUT A LOVING GOD

All of us who are Christians have no veils on our faces, but reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in the ever-increasing splendor into his own image. // 2 Corinthians 3:18

God’s ultimate purpose through the trials and difficulties of life is to simply conform us to the image of Christ. He will use whatever means possible to shape, mold, and chisel us into the likeness of his Son. Our heavenly Father will even use our weaknesses and imperfections to draw us to our knees in utter dependency for his help and strength.

Why?

Love.

Recently, my daughter and I spent the day at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. We meandered through room after room, drawn breathless by the beauty of these famous works of art. I was singular in purpose, even though we were slow in moving through the exhibits, focused on a specific destination. I have held a deep, deep love for the Impressionists: Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Pissarro.

At the end of the last corridor, the room opened up to a grand ballroom sized exhibit. Seeing these works of art up close was an emotional experience for me. I was having a serious fan-girl moment in that gallery. My poor teenage daughter was trying to act like she didn’t know me.

When I was able to collect myself, I was able to share with my daughter why I loved Impressionism so much.

When you stand up close to each piece, you are able to see a multitude of brush strokes. To the untrained eye, it can look haphazard and messy. Up close, the picture resembles nothing familiar. Colors blending in odd combinations, movement in paint texture seeming to have little to no direction or purpose.

But when you take several steps back from the artwork (I love to stand about 5 feet away) the picture takes on the artist’s intended form. The chaotic brush strokes show a movement and direction that highlight and draw your eye to beautiful sceneries. The details that seemed incoherent all now work together to create a landscape of purpose and form.

This is so like the Christian walk. So much like my life.

My life is just like a Monet painting. All I can see are the haphazard brush strokes of pain, failure, and trials. I sometimes wonder if there is a purpose or a plan in it all. The story of my life is woven with scarlet threads of discord and strife, bound together with victories and joy, and unraveled in places to allow His glory to stream through my brokenness.

The crushing pressure and intense heat of life feel more like a punishment than a blessing.

But if I were to take a step back from the emotions of my struggling soul and survey the course of my life so far, I will see a completely different picture. The chaotic mess of day-to-day life slowly fades into an intricate pattern of purpose and design. I will see the Lord’s presence, knowing that His hand is leading, guiding, and protecting me. A beautiful representation of grace and love created in my life.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. //Romans 8:18

My limited scope of understanding will remain in place until the day I stand face to face with my Savior in heaven. And just like Joseph, now in this season of life, I can choose to fight, doubt God’s goodness, or simply abide. I am learning to abide in the refining process of allowing him to change me into the image of Christ.

So which will it be for you?

Will you abide under the pressure?

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. // 1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT

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