Monday, September 22, 2014

Dealing with Bad Things

The story of Joseph begins with his birth in Jacob’s later years. He was favored by his dad; in fact, you could say that Joseph could do no wrong in Jacob’s eyes. His dad loved him so much he made him a coat of many colors. Maybe you’ve heard that story…or seen the musical.
And then Joseph had these dreams where his siblings, and even his parents bowed down to him. Being the typical favored child he also told on his brothers.
Needless to say they didn’t share their dad’s love for their younger brother. It’s no wonder they threw him in that dry cistern and changed their minds about killing him; instead they sold him to the Ishmaelites.
It may have been on that journey to Egypt that he matured and began to lean on his faith in God. It may have been on that trip that he learned how to deal with the bad things that were happening to him.
So, how do we deal with the bad things life throws at us? What do we do when the car breaks down and there’s not quite enough money in the account to pay the mechanic? What do we do when our teenaged children rebel and won’t or don’t listen to us? What do we do when people spread rumors about us that may or may not be true? How do we deal with the news that we have a tumor growing inside of us? What do we do when our country is overrun with terrorists? How do we deal with bad things?
That’s what this scripture is getting me to think about. Is my faith in God strong enough to deal with the bad things of life? If I had been Joseph would I have been able to adapt and prosper no matter what situation I was in?
Just take the first situation Joseph found himself in, thrown into a cistern, hearing them talk about killing him and then being sold by his brothers to foreign traders and taken to who knows where. Was he angry? How long was he angry? Did he talk with God? Was he mad at God for what happened to him? How did he deal with it?
We can only imagine because we weren’t there…and we haven’t walked in his shoes. We only know how we would react…or how we think we’d react.
Some of us have had bad things happen to us. Some of us already know how we’ve reacted. Our neighbors know too how we’ve reacted or they think they know. No one really knows unless we’ve told them.
Again, I believe, it’s a question of faith. Most of us know we’re not been promised a life of wine and roses and an easy road. And yet, if our lives have been relatively easy without too many bumps, encountering a really big pothole or a major crisis can be a real test of our faith.
How do we deal with bad things? Some of you may have already asked yourself this question. I’ve been thinking lately about how I’d deal with bad things.
When the bad things come it’s then that I wish I could talk with God, and he with me. I mean like really hearing his voice and knowing it was God speaking; having a deep and intimate conversation with the One & Only God.
Did God speak to Joseph like he did with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? We can’t tell for sure from the scriptures. The reading from Genesis tells us that God was with him but don’t you want to know if he heard God speak to him. How did he know? Was it just because he prospered that he knew God was with him?
We might think that because the jailer trusted him and didn’t worry about anything he asked Joseph to do that being in prison was easy. I don’t think it was, at least not as good as working for Potiphar.
I think we have to be careful in how we understand this scripture. We could think that if we live a righteous life, doing all that Jesus commanded, that God will prosper us and make us successful. Friends, that isn’t the way God works. At least I don’t think that’s the way God works.
There’s too many examples of God’s prophets and Jesus’ apostles suffering, being persecuted, tortured, and killed. These were folks doing what God called them to do. We can’t say that they prospered; at least by the world’s standards. They didn’t all have an easy time of it and yet they received blessings from God. They dealt with the bad things because they trusted God.
Joseph dealt with the bad things that came his way by trusting in God to take care of him. Joseph had heard the stories from his dad about God’s grace. The example of Jacob must have made an impression on Joseph and he believed.  That must have been what helped him deal with the bad things.
So, the question has been, how do we deal with the bad things?  Is our faith, our trust in God enough for us to handle what life throws at us? Do we need more than our faith? What if our faith isn’t very strong? What do we do then? When life’s not fair, when life’s a burden how do we deal with that?
You may very well ask, “Pastor, how do you deal with the bad things?” It’s a struggle sometimes. To be honest I talk with God a lot about the bad things. It’s really good to talk. I’m sometimes angry when bad things come my way. I sometimes whine at God. Sometimes I don’t know what to say and I just sit. Sometimes my mind is just blank because I can’t even think about it.
I listen to music and read the Bible searching for help, for answers, for anything that can help me cope. And I continue to talk with God. When things are really bad I also count on my friends…to pray for me, to listen to me, to just be there for me. Without God, the church, and friends I don’t know how anyone can survive the bad things.
So, with all the stuff that happened to Joseph he may have done some of the things I did. It sounds as if Joseph was pretty good at networking whether he was a slave with Potiphar or working for the jailer in prison. He had friends, his network, that he could count on…and he had his faith in God being there with him, always.
And you know what, Joseph didn’t sit still. Wherever he was he kept going and didn’t look back.  He assessed the situation he was in, made a plan, and worked it always trusting in God.
So, my friends, the lesson for us today is to have faith, trust in God, and know that God is always with you. And if you’re one of the lucky ones with friends who believe in Jesus and believe in God then knowing that they have your back is a bonus.
Friends, through all of this life there are bound to be some bad things. Dealing with them is easier if we have faith in our God, trust in his grace and love in Jesus, and keep the communication channels open talking and listening for God’s voice.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.