A few days ago I wrote about a new understanding I’d had into Paul’s declaration that all things work together for good.
At the time I was a bit hesitant about the idea even though I went ahead and published it. I couldn’t see that the idea was wrong, but I didn’t have any other Scripture to back it up at the time. The Lord has directed my attention to a story that absolutely vibrates with a demonstration of this idea and I’d never seen or heard anyone make this application of it before.
Last week Melanie and I were listening to Joel Osteen talk about trouble being one way God transports us to where He wants us to be. One of his illustrations was the life of Joseph, the story that wraps up the Book of Genesis.
Joseph’s jealous brothers want to kill him but wind up merely selling him into slavery. Not a good thing. He is purchased by the Egyptian official, Potiphar, only to have Potiphar’s wife accuse him of trying to rape her when he refuses her flirtations. Not a good thing. Joseph is thrown in jail. Not a good thing. He helps two officials from Pharoah’s court who have also been tossed in jail, by interpreting their strange dreams. When the interpretations come true and one of the men is released, the man forgets all about Joseph and leaves him to languish in prison several more years. Not a good thing.
Then Pharoah has a strange dream of his own. And Joseph’s former cellmate finally mentions him as somebody who might be able to help Pharoah interpret that dream. And Pharoah calls him. And ends up putting him in charge of saving the entire country. And, incidentally, Jacob’s entire family out of which God is building His own people and nation.
A good thing at last, even though all the ramifications only become visible after several more centuries.
It is all those things, together, that have worked out for good. A good no one can see until they look back at the completed story.
As Joel points out in his sermon, if any of the links along the way had been broken, if Joseph had lost heart as one more day of bad breaks broke about him, the whole story would have ended there, badly. The good came as a result of all the things working together as God had planned from the beginning, at the time when that promise of good could only be held and seen by faith.
Melanie and I listened to a homily from another minister as we ate breakfast this morning. He mentioned a prayer by Thomas Merton. It is a prayer from the middle of our yet uncompleted journeys.
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.