We are facing a second spike of the Corona virus. Just as life was beginning to look normal again, whatever that means, we have new lockdown restrictions, which impact our social activities, face to face worship, and our lives more generally.
It is easy to get discouraged by such things. Questions like “what now?” rise, and it seems that there is no relief in sight.
But I would like to look at a few individuals in the scripture, that their “improved” lives took backwards turns they might not have expected.
Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is one of these. I am not going to look at too many particular verses, but at an overview to make my point. Joseph, while a younger son, had dreams in which there seemed to be clear prophecy that he was chosen for greatness. These dreams suggested that he would have authority of his brothers, and in fact over his parents as well. Things seemed rosy for Joseph. Later he finds the favour of his father, and he is given a special garment, marking him out as the favourite. Life was good to be Joseph, then the setback came. His brothers in a fit of jealousy beat him and sell him into slavery.
Does he fall into despair at this unexpected turn? No. He works hard and wins favour with his master. He becomes the lead and most trusted servant. All is good in being Joe again.
But then he comes to the attention of his master’s lustful wife, and being a man of integrity he resists. False accusations follow and he is thrown into prison. This time it looks like there is no way out. Whatever happened to those dreams? But even there he became favoured. God remained with him, because he remained with God. He eventually through more God-centeredness becomes all his dreams predicted, becoming second only to Pharaoh.
There is a lesson in this. Exodus shows us the same in reverse as well. God had rescued the Jews with a mighty hand through a series of plagues, and the parting of a sea. But as soon as the people come up against adversity, they see only the problem, not the solution. The spies had seen that the Promised Land was good, but all they reported back was the setbacks of walled cities and giants before them. All except Caleb and Joshua. They for their part experienced the promise.
Do we look at situations, and only see what is wrong with them? Job’s friends and wife were the same. His blessed life took a detour as well. But he trusted God, not curse him. He received all he lost back and more.
The disciples were no different than the people of Exodus , or Job’s friends. At what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode in triumph into Jerusalem. All was looking up. But then came betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and death. The disciples despaired. The put themselves in a self-imposed lock-down (there’s that word again). But it wasn’t the end of the story.
Romans 8:28 says it all – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
We face the re-emergence new measures. We see our forward progress, being set back.
My pastor, back when I was a teenager, told a story about him in college. He played football. And in one game, with them trailing by only three points, he received a pass and dodged and weaved his way through the opposition. Things were looking up, glory was on its way. Well until he was tackled on the 3 yard line as time ran out. He was at a Christian university, and as he returned despondent to the bench, his coach asked him a question that changed the course of his life. He asked, “What does it mean in eternity?”
Our lives may be having setbacks right now, but remember ALL things work together for good!