Great Buts in the Bible: Part 2
In part two of this blog series, we find ourselves face to face with a reality we often do not enjoy. This reality is called PAIN. I do not enjoy pain and frequently position myself to avoid it at all costs. But I am not immune to pain. Neither are you.
All pain is not the same though. Physical pain is one kind of pain we can somewhat understand. This kind of pain forces us to wipe our eyes, put on a band-aid, take medication and/or just grin and bear it. Sometimes our physical pain subsides. Sometimes it does not.
Recently, I went through the torture of a kidney stone on our last pastoral staff retreat. My entire “retreat” was spent in agonizing pain. My doctor said what I experienced was equivalent to childbirth, without an epidural. I’ve never been in that much pain in my life. Ever! I was shaking like a leaf and throwing up due to the level of misery I was experiencing. The three heavy doses of morphine were not working so the doctor had to give me something that he knew would give me an allergic reaction. It finally worked and the pain subsided, but my eyes swelled up like Rocky Balboa.
This episode eventually passed and I have a tiny pebble to prove it. I clearly understand this pain was a result of a body not designed to have a rock rollin’ through its system!
There is another kind of pain that I believe is more painful than any kidney stone, broken bone, or physical ailment. It is the pain caused by people closest to you. It could be rejection, abandonment, abuse, gossip, or betrayal from a friend, sibling, spouse, parent, or pastor. This is the kind of pain that runs deep into the pores of our soul.
There is an Old Testament Bible character who experienced this kind of excruciating inner pain. His name was Joseph. Although he had a slight case of narcissism, he did not deserve the abuse and abandonment by his brothers. First they tied him up, threw him into a cistern, and told Joseph they were going to kill him. But then they had a change of heart – they decided to sell him as a slave instead. And you thought your brothers were mean!
Joseph’s life changed that fateful day. In one moment he was enjoying the life as a privileged son and the next day he finds himself on a dusty trail headed to a foreign country as a slave. Later, he is falsely accused of rape and lands in prison for many years. He had every reason to feel forsaken and forgotten. Incredibly, he didn’t. He had every reason to hate his brothers for what they did to him. Amazingly, he didn’t.
Years later, we find Joseph out of prison and in Pharaoh’s palace. What was wrong has now been righted and what was down is now up. Then his brothers show up.
This band of evil brothers hearts melted when they came face to face with the brother they had abandoned earlier. Fear was a real option because Joseph now held the power over their lives in his hand. They threw themselves on the ground and begged in fear for their lives.
Then Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Genesis 50:19-20).
What an incredible statement! Joseph was not bitter nor was he holding a long lasting grudge. His comment was evident that he had long ago forgiven his brothers. He had also come to realize a sovereign God had a plan for his life.
This is a great but in the Bible because the same God that helped Joseph is working in our lives today. People hurt us and we cannot understand why. Someone who claims to love us is found to be unfaithful. Parents who are supposed to be there for us, abandon us in their selfishness. People, intentional or not, hurt us. But God…
Our lives have unexpected twists and turns and we struggle to understand the rhyme and reason of it all. It is like we are driving down the highway of life in the midst of traffic jams, car accidents, and horrible drivers trying to navigate our way without a GPS system. Because of this, we can feel lost, confused, and frustrated because our earthly perspective extends just past the hood of our car.
But God. He has a clear view from a heavenly perspective. God sees every twist and turn according to his sovereign plan in our lives. While we may be surprised when we arrive at our destination, God is not.
Let me recommend to you a great resource. It is a book that I am currently reading called Project Joseph: Repairing Your Pain by Joe Castaneda. It is a closer look at the story of Joseph. It is a roadmap for us to navigate our own pain. Click on the link and order this book today.
I believe, when we get to heaven we will have quite the eye opening experience. We will see how all the ways, events, turns, and pain in our lives came together to form a beautiful fabric that makes perfect sense. Until then, we will need to trust a sovereign God who loves us enough to have a great plan for our lives.