When things can’t get any worse…
They get worse!
We all understand the saying, “waiting for the other shoe to drop”! And “tragedies come in threes.” And, “it’s always darkest before the dawn’, although that saying might actually be more about hope than nightmares.
Just when Joseph’s brothers, Jacob’s son’s think it is all finally going well, it all turns to sand in their mouths. Joy flees, and now everything they feared is coming true.
Certainly at least some of you have lived out this kind of mess in your lives. You lost a job, you couldn’t make the car payment and so they have come to repossess your car, and now the lights are all off because the electric bill hasn’t been paid.
And tomorrow the rent is due.
Tragedy is a part of life. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong!
So then, how does that square with what Jeff has been saying that God has got us.
If God has got me doesn’t that mean that I should be immune to tragedy? Shouldn’t that mean that life should always be a pathway of joy and praise?
I don’t want to suffer and if God has got me - then I shouldn’t have to.
And I can tell you for sure that it is really easy to get to that place, that kind of thinking. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to be victims, even if that is what our culture at the moment seems to be promoting.
Losing is wrong. Struggling is a sign that God hasn’t got you. Pain is the opposite of grace. God’s favored people only succeed. So, if you are struggling, you are out of the will!
I’ve had a heart attack, melanoma twice, and a quadruple bypass. Where was God in that? Aren’t they evidence true and sure that God is not in what I have lived up to this point, that in fact God hasn’t got me.
Unless the primary example of how our faith is to function, and whom we are to be following is not the pastor with the airplanes, or the social media influencer who has it all together, or the business man with so much money he wastes it on toys, or the politician who always wins…
But instead, Jesus, who died on a cross.
Jesus - who showed us that suffering can be salvific, that it can grow us closer to God, that it can shave off our selfish desire to be the ruler of our own lives and instead, humbly give back the crown to the one who has earned it by doing God’s work, not his own.
Just open the book and look for success stories. Everyone of them comes with a previous story of hardship, of disciples learning the hard way how to follow.
Of patriarchs and peasants all struggling to set their selfish desires aside, of the desire to control the future and instead looking to him who is taking us through the tangle of thorns to a place beside him for eternity.
It’s hard, it’s bloody, it’s terrifying, but God has got you!
Just like he has those brothers who now in abject sorrow must find a way where there is no way.
Yes, their suffering is Joseph’s doing. He is making sure they will never ever be anything but grateful to God for God’s provision, God’s mercy, and God’s protection.
They sold Joseph into slavery, and while it was a small part of God’s plan, there was no hope of blaming God for their choices.
They needed to confess their disobedience, their selfish choices, their uncaring arrogance and learn a lesson about love and grace and forgiveness.
But in order to learn not to touch the hot stove, these hard-headed brothers needed a chance to touch the stove. And now wiser and much, much humbler, they wee facing the ultimate test of what they had learned.
Some of us are book smart.
I was a National Merit Letter of Commendation winner, supposedly putting me in the top 1% of High School graduates in 1975.
Yet I burn my hand on the stove on a regular basis.
Some of us are smart in other ways. Geographically smart. Emotionally smart. Math smart. Mechanically smart. Physically smart. Musically smart.
Yet all of us, everyone has a burn somewhere from that hot stove.
All while God has had us. So don’t miss the lesson here!
This is no story of the health and wealth gospel – God loves you so everything will be joy and bliss and life over the rainbow.
No, this about training people of faith, a bootcamp that is rigorous and tough, but where at the end you will be known as the sons and daughter of God most high.
And while Joseph’s brothers and Jacob’s sons can’t yet see it, because all they see is tragedy, God has got them!
And God has got you.
God is watching you grow. God is seeing the sacrifices you are making and counting them. God is seeing your faith, and encouraging your every step towards him, like a parent inviting the toddler to walk.
Will there be crash landings? Absolutely!
But the destination is assured. God’s open arms.
Remember who has got you. The Lord of the universe! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Your joy is coming! And all God’s people said, Amen.