Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The good, the bad and the desperately ugly

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Photo by my son, Niah Ferlito
Genesis 50:20 (NIV1984)
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

In this passage it is good to know the story behind it. Joseph is now the number two guy in the world super power of his day. Has just buried his father and his brothers are worried that he might now take revenge on them for the many years of hardship that he suffered because of their jealousy and wickedness. It was betrayal of the highest degree. His own brothers tossed him in a pit and were going to kill him but decided to sell him to slave traders. 
Most of us could understand how he might still hold a grudge against them. 

I think of the story of Corre TenBoom who forgives the guard that was responsible for her beloved sisters death while in a concentration camp. A camp they ended up in not because they were jewish but because they felt compelled as believing Christians to help their Jewish neighbors. 

So you are probably thinking that Joseph and Corre were super duper believers. How does one go through the hardship of loosing family, friends, the dream of the life you had planned, to end up in prison, or as a slave? How is that possibly God's plan.
If you go back to verse 19 you see a bit of Joseph's heart and character. "19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?" It is God who judges the hearts of men. It is God who looks at our motives, our fears, our failures. Joseph knew that he could not see the whole picture - and so he left judgement in the hands of God. 

We don't know if and when a heart will turn to Jesus and be saved. That thief next to Jesus on the cross was a bad dude who deserved to be punished for his wickedness. Yet he decided in that moment to believe Jesus was actually who he claimed to be. You talk about a death bed conversion - minus the comfy matres, pillows and blankets.  We just don't know when people will break and finally be able to receive the Lord. Saul was persecuting Christians one day and ran into Jesus as a blinding light and a voice from heaven on the way to trouble and murder more Christians. He in that instant realizes he was on the wrong road and God uses him to take the gospel to the gentiles. Why him? He was a jurk, a killer, educated, powerful bad guy. Why bother to transform and save him?

I suppose part of going through hardship and the loss of the life we thought we were supposed to have is to realize who we belong to. To know that God walks with us in the dark valleys. In those places where the people we should have been able to trust have betrayed us. In the places where some accident takes away our ability to function and do the things we loved doing. We might even have made poor decisions and choices that have cost us dearly or harmed someone else. We feel guilt, shame, grief, and the loss. We could blame others, ourself and even God. We could live our life as a miserable bitter retch or we could turn to God and say "I don't know how this mess can possibly bring you glory but I give you all of my life the good, the bad and the desperately ugly - I give you permission to use it in ways that I can't even see or understand at this point. I choose to trust you." 

I think that Joseph and Corre and others who have sufferer have a choice to make. Will you choose the path of self pity and bitterness, or will you choose the path of trust and forgiveness. Both found themselves in horrible conditions and yet were able to trust God even when everything made no sense to them. They stopped asking the why's and started looking for opportunities to depend and rely on God right in the middle of all the badness. 

Corrie at one point helps the other women to give thanks for the flea infestation in their bunks. Because of the fleas the guards came in less and left quickly and they had a bit of privacy to pray together and talk about the truth's of the Word there in their flee infested chambers. 

Often it is the difficulties that we face that mold and shape us into Gods person. Joseph is able to save a nation of people and his estranged family from famine and death. He went from prison to guy in charge in one defining moment. But was it really one moment or was it a life time of trusting God and making the best of the bad hand he'd been dealt. 

Prayer: Lord, We choose to forgive, and if we don't know how to forgive, we choose to be willing to forgive and to allow you to begin to work forgiveness in our hearts. We choose to surrender our life to your plans and purposes. We choose to thank you for the blessings that are often in disguise. We choose to thank you for those difficulties that cause us to realize we have no where to turn but to you. We choose to suspend judgement on what is going on and to watch and see what you do with it in time. We give you the good, the bad and the desperately ugly of our lives uses it somehow for your glory and your fame.  

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” 
― Corrie Ten Boom

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