What in the world do you do when the trials just keep coming? When you feel like you honestly and truly cannot fight anymore? When you see all the positive promises of hope and goodness and prosperity and reward and can in no way identify or ever see yourself being able to identify with those verses?
Sure, we can cling to the verse in 2 Corinthians 4 where Paul says “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” and hang onto Romans 8:28 where we are told that “all things work for the good of those that love God, who are called according to his purpose.” But what happens when that really doesn’t help anymore?
This journey I have been on has been one trial after another and just when it seemed to be lifting, yet another wave came crashing down. Through it all, I have been keenly aware that it is God’s sovereign hand over my life and that this really isn’t about me, although I will come through an entirely different person, praise be to God. But knowing that doesn’t make the pain any less painful. It doesn’t take the discomfort away or make the extra time necessary to live life any less frustrating.
So what do you do when there seems to be no rest for the weary and a relentless torrent of trials crashing through your life.
You go beyond religion and fall on Jesus. You study scripture and seek Him,
God led me to study Genesis and Job this year so far and he spoke so clearly to me specifically through the stories of Joseph and Job. That is what truly has been sustaining me through this time. You can know the truth and Bible verses to back it up and still feel the pain of life. At least that has been my experience. But through my study God taught me a few things that have been more of a balm to my soul.
1. God is always, always, in control.
In both Job and Joseph’s story it is super clear that nothing happened that was not in God’s plan. We are actually given the pre-story to Job’s suffering which is the conversation between God and Satan. And when you look at Joseph’s story it becomes clear that not only did God use Joseph to save many lives including his families lives, but he also used Joseph in Egypt to keep the Israelite nation pure. The Egyptian people hated shepherds and the Hebrew people, so they were not going to embrace them and Joseph was in authority enough to assign his family the best land in Egypt for their flocks and herds.
2. Sometimes God’s trials last a long time.
Although we do not know how long Job suffered, Joseph’s trials lasted 37 years. He did not have an easy life at home with his brothers as he grew up and then was sold at 17 and lived in Egypt 20 years before reconciliation. Talk about bad getting worse!
3. God’s trials produce character growth and do not end in ruin.
Job, although his loss and suffering was great, was doubly rewarded afterward. And although he was not given double the children, he had the same number but was a changed man and parented quite differently which produced godly children.
Joseph was changed from an arrogant man with intense pride to a man who would take no credit but give all the glory to God. He was able to forgive those who had mistreated him by accepting that God’s way was best. In the end, Joseph was made the highest in the land under Pharaoh himself, was reconciled to his family and saw relationships mended. God fully put back together what he had taken apart.
4. There is a purpose; therefore, there will be an end.
Because God is in sovereign control, these things that happen to us are not random out of control circumstances. None of what we go through surprises God and they have been allowed on our lives for a specific purpose. While sometimes they can be consequences, sometimes they are simply to test us, like Job, or to prepare us for something God has for us to do, like Joseph. And like Job and Joseph, there will be a completion to the process we find ourselves in.
Despite what I was going through, I found great comfort in the insight God gave me as I read and studied the stories of these two men. They were more comforting to me than the verses of promise usually given to comfort the trials of life. We were made for community and relationship and to share in each others sorrows. Even though these men have long since been in heaven, their stories offered an empathy that was soothing.
But I’m curious. Has God led you to a specific story that has offered soothing empathy during a time of trial in your life? I would love to know which one! Leave it in the comments below. 🙂