Monday, August 9, 2010

Storms and Blessings

Very few if any people walk through life without experiencing some kind of storm. Death of people, of marriages, or dreams come to everyone. Sickness, suffering, hurt. People act in ways that do not reflect the God that made them. So many possible storms.

I am finding more and more that what we see as storms are really God pouring out blessings that we just can't see. I am certain that when I get to heaven God is going to show me my life and where my storms are, I am going see that God was throwing a pebble (or sometimes a mountain) into my life that creates an endless ripple of blessings that spread out through the world. Life after life touched that in turn touched others.

But how can I truly know this to be so beyond the anecdotal evidence of my own life. Well I see it in life after life in God's word. For example, I am currently working my way through Genesis (yes, still!). I have just read about Joseph. If someone had storms, it was Joseph- beginning with his father's favoritism and his brother's jealousy (Genesis 37). This leads to his brother's plotting to murder him, but then they decide "nah, let's sell him into slavery instead. And tell our Dad a wild animal got him." That's one heck of a storm to endure. Torn from home and family, betrayed by your family. Anybody else know that feeling? God however brings him to Egypt and into Potiphar's house (Genesis 39). Here his character and faithfulness in being who God calls him to be brings him into the trust of Potiphar. But then another storm comes in the temptation of Potiphar's wife. This woman won't give up. So much so that Joseph has to avoid her. Unfortunately, she eventually catches him alone, he flees from her, and what does she do...lies. Here comes jail. I think I'd be praying "God, really? How much more?" But we don't hear that about Joseph. Instead, we see that he once again shows himself to be trustworthy and is given extra privileges. In the midst of the storm, he is given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker (Genesis 40). What Joseph says comes to pass, but the cupbearer forgets about Joseph for a two whole years. Finally, Joseph is brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams (Genesis 41). His revelations move him from a prison inmate to the most powerful man in the world next to Pharaoh. His actions save his family during a time of famine and bring them wealth and for a time a permanent dwelling.

Now despite his father's favoritism, his brother's jealousy, slavery, and imprisonment, God blesses him. Out of the storms, he is blessed with position, wealth, family. In time, he's reunited with his father and brothers. His family is blessed with wealth. They are spared the suffering of the famine. From his brother who is spared comes Christ through which the whole world was blessed.

What does the Bible tell us about OUR suffering?

Rejoice- yes it does say rejoice!
More than that we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
In my own life I have found that when I rejoice in the midst of my suffering, my suffering seems so much less. I take my eyes off myself and rejoice in the work God is doing. (But it's not easy to get to rejoicing.) My pastor once said, "God cares more about your character than your comfort." Comfort in the sense of having an easy life. Well, I'm glad he wants me to be everything he made me to be. I want to be everything he made me to be.

Lest we think God's only about our suffering, the bible also says we have comfort in our afflictions so that we can comfort others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)
A dear friend is a testament to this. She is currently struggling through a time of seemingly endless storm and yet I rejoice in the fact that through it all she has been able to comfort others. Her mother has brain cancer and is very ill, she's getting a divorce (I refrain from telling you more as this is ongoing and I don't wish to defame anyone), her grandmother recently died, and her grandfather is dying from skin cancer that has seeped into his brain. However, despite the moments when she begs God to send no more, She's been able to comfort, care for, and counsel a co-worker who has brain cancer. Though she's still enduring the storm of divorce, she's been able to counsel other couples to work on their marriage when they are having similar problems. Others come to her because they see in her a reflection of Christ. She is blessing others because of her storms.

And a final note...The best and worst this world has to offer is nothing in comparison to the reward awaiting us at the end of all this.

For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18 (ESV)
We are going to see God! FACE TO FACE! I can't think of anything more amazing for me. No greater reward.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (ESV)
Before you start saying, but you just don't understand what I'm going through. You haven't walked a mile in my shoes. YOU ARE RIGHT. I haven't, but I too have had storms. Perhaps not the same as yours, but I have raged and screamed in my suffering at God. Cried with a hoarse voice, a throat swollen with grief, and sobs racking my body... "God, no more!" and "Why me?" and "Why have you forsaken me?" and "What did I do wrong, God?" I have been brought low by my storms. It was in those moments that God drew me close and held me tight. He comforted me, taught me to rejoice, gave me opportunities to comfort others and revealed blessings I had been too blind to see. And now I hope that I can offer you some of the comfort that he has given me.

Our God is a big God. He can take anything you throw at him. It's okay to cry out like David and Jesus "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1a and Matthew 27:46), but realize he's already there waiting on you. He's already shown up, but he won't force you to take his hand. He loves you too much. May God reveal his blessing to you and pour out endless blessings on your life...even in the midst of the storm.