Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Avoiding Suffering and Loss



This last Sunday, we attended the Shakopee Campus of Friendship Church, which is the church that I grew up in.  Pastor Mike spoke about the story of Joseph (staring in Genesis 37) and all of the challenges that he faced leading up to his ultimate reign over all of Egypt.  It is a pretty great story.  Towards the end of the sermon, Mike made an observation about the story of Joseph that stuck with me.

He said, "If you take away the suffering in Joseph's life, you have to take away the blessings, as well."  If you go through the long list of horrible things that happened to Joseph and all the injustice he experienced and take it all away, if you spare him of all that pain and hurt, then you must also take away God's provision for His people and the family of promise.  You can not have one and not the other.  Joseph would never have ended up in a position of power at the end if he hadn't first been sold as a slave by his brothers. These realities are two sides of the same coin and inextricably linked.

Our American culture often tells us that suffering is something to be avoided, something to flee from. We work very very hard to avoid difficulty and keep ourselves safe and secure. But if we avoid suffering, we also give up the blessings of that suffering. So many times as I look back at my life, I say to God, "If that had not happened, life would not be so hard" or "God, if you would only shield me, if you would only take these hard things away, my life would be more full."

But if God takes away these hard times, if all we get are the good times, then we also have to give up those moments of release where we hand our life over to God and say, "I can't do this. Please help."  We also give up the meaningful relationships that are formed in the fieriest furnaces.  We give up the deep communion we get with God as our heart becomes more and more dependent on Him and holds less and less to our emotional anesthetics. And finally, we give up God's miraculous provision that is seldom early and always on time.

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com