God is at Work

The gospel reading recently in church was from the story of Joseph and his brothers, in the book of Genesis.  The brothers are afraid that once their father dies, Joseph, remembering how they sold him into slavery in Egypt, will take revenge.  They go to him humbly apologizing.  Here is his response:

“…. ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Genesis 50:19-20

Each week in Sunday School, after I’ve completed our opening prayer, I ask the class “how have you seen God at work this week?”  Usually the answers involve things like the beauty in nature, someone who has recovered from an illness, a word of encouragement, or a need that was met.  One person called them “mini-miracles.”  It’s wonderful to notice and give thanks for these.  However, it’s also important to realize that God is at work even when things are not going well.  Consider the case of Joseph, mentioned in the gospel reading above.  He was treated badly by his brothers, he endured slavery and prison.  Things looked bleak.  Yet, God was at work.  Through difficulties that seemed undeserved, He positioned Joseph to save his family.

There are other examples in the Bible.  The Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years — but through that experience, they draw closer to God.  Naomi and Ruth are left widowed and destitute — but through God’s provision, Ruth remarries and becomes an ancestress of Jesus. Jesus dies on the cross — but in so doing, atones for our sins and reconciles us with the Father.

Many of us are going through difficult times right now.  Some has lost jobs or incomes;  churches can’t meet in the accustomed way;  many have become isolated, anxious and depressed.  Yet God is at work.  From our limited viewpoint, things are bad, but God is not limited and His plans are good.  Take heart.  The best is yet to come.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

 

Positive Thinking

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

In these verses, the apostle Paul is basically telling his friends in the church of Philippi to keep their minds focused on the positive things in life.  For many of us, that’s hard to do right now.  We’re isolated and worried about many things: our health, our income, and the many people across the world who are being adversely affected by the corona virus.  While these are legitimate concerns, we should not dwell on them or catastrophize.  It’s amazing to note that when Paul wrote this letter, full of joy and gratitude, he was in prison!  It seems he was able to take his own advice.  In fact, he sees a purpose in his situation:

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”  Philippians 1:12-14

Here are some of the benefits of positive thinking:                                                                                                                                                                              Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Instead of telling yourself that you or your loved ones will probably get this disease and die, give thanks for our healthcare system and the many doctors, nurses and researchers who are working to save lives.  Instead of bemoaning the fact that you can’t get out and see friends, send cards and write notes to those who are in nursing homes who are permanently shut-in.  Instead of hoarding, offer to share with a neighbor.  Take this unexpected “time-out” as an opportunity to pray and read your Bible. When you feel fearful, write down some of God’s promises. You get the idea.  I’d love to hear some more suggestions from our readers and other authors.  Can you, like Paul, see some purpose in this trial?  Are there blessings amidst the difficulty?