Let’s consider the fruit of the Spirit1. A couple of those have been a little hard for me to swallow sometimes. Peace and joy are not derived from our circumstances, but how do you maintain peace and joy when your world is blowing up around you? We’ve all been there. You lose your job. You get sick sometimes with something more annoying than the cold. A friend, loved one, or someone you should have been able to trust betrays you. Someone you love dies, perhaps unexpectedly. You basically have one of those days that sounds like the fodder for a country song or the script for an episode of a new soap opera called As the Stomach Churns. You’re supposed to feel peace and joy during these times when what you really want to do is use up an entire box of tissues or take your frustration out on the nearest hapless, breakable thing in reach? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean that you have to shelve your feelings.
Let’s consider some examples of people whose lives blew up. Begin with Joseph, the Old Testament one, not the husband of Mary. Joseph, the first son of Rachel, was the beloved of his father, Jacob. Things were going along pretty well for him. He got a spiffy coat from his daddy, and God blessed him with prophetic dreams. Unfortunately, he didn’t use those dreams well, and his brothers hated his guts. While he was on an errand for Dad, Joseph’s brothers decided to dump him down a deep hole then sell him into slavery. To give them something to tell their father, they tore Joseph’s nifty coat and bloodied it with goat blood then concocted a story about how Joseph had fallen prey to a critter2.
Sold into slavery is pretty rotten, but the setup isn’t finished yet. Joseph got there and was falsely accused of trying to seduce his master’s wife. You can tell, however, that Potiphar didn’t buy his wife’s story. How? He was the captain of the guard. If he had believed her, he would’ve killed Joseph on the spot. He didn’t, but to maintain some face, he imprisoned Joseph for a crime he didn’t commit. But wait, it gets worse. While Joseph was in prison for something he didn’t do, he helped two other people out and although one promised to bring his case up to Pharaoh, no sooner was the guy free than he forgot about it3. So, to recap, Joseph lost a prized gift from his father, was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned unjustly, then forgotten about.
He’s not the only one who had major problems. Our next stop is Job. If you ever needed a poster child for how much your life can blow up, you can’t find many better examples than Job. He was going along doing his thing so well that God commented to his angels about how fabulous a guy Job was. Satan suggested that Job was such a spiffy dude because he had it all, but take it away and watch what happens. So, Job lost all his kids, all his flocks, all his wealth, his health, and then had his loving wife tell him to just curse God and die. Then, if that wasn’t enough, three of Job’s “friends” came to visit and told him that he was an unrighteous twerp, and that was why God was out to get him. With friends like that, who needs enemies4?
But wait, we have Jonah, too. God gave him a job he didn’t want to do, so Jonah ran for it and got eaten by a great fish. Many say that he actually died for three days and was resurrected because Jesus used Jonah for a sign5. Either way, Jonah got to spend some quality time considering God’s path for him. He wanted to see Nineveh get squished but didn’t get his wish. This was hardly the caliber of Job’s adventure, but for Jonah, it was pretty huge6.
Our next stop is David. He was anointed king of Israel7. Saul tried to kill him a few times8 then chased him around the countryside9. Then, finally, when David became king, he was subject to major dissention within his own family. One of his sons, Absalom, killed another then rebelled and tried to overthrow David10.
Naomi didn’t fare much better to start with. Her family went to Moab to find relief from a famine, and she lost her husband and both sons there11.
Next to last is Paul. After seeing the light12 and getting his sight back13, he went out preaching where he received such exciting responses that the people of Lystra rocked him to sleep … I mean … stoned him to death14. He was chased out of several places and ended up in a prison in Rome, deserted by virtually everyone15. He was eventually executed.
The greatest example we have is, naturally, Jesus Christ himself. He, who was perfect, took on all the sins we will ever commit against another person or others will ever commit against us. Although absolutely righteous, he suffered torment and humiliation on our behalf.
So, how did these people deal with the tragedy in their lives? Naturally, they, being some of the greatest in the Bible, all sucked it up and went about their life praising God, right? Well, not exactly. The Bible doesn’t tell us how they all reacted. Job said nothing for seven days then threw himself a good, old-fashioned pity party16. Jonah got ticked off17. David wrote poetry lamenting that God had abandoned him18. Naomi told her friends in Bethlehem to call her Mara, which means bitterness19. Jesus proclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?20” Did you know that’s the only time Jesus didn’t call God “Father?” He couldn’t. He bore all of our sins at that point21.
How did these people find joy and peace through the major storms battering them? Joseph recalled God’s sovereignty and recognized that what his brother’s meant for his harm God turned to good22. Job realized that life had its ups and downs23. Jonah humbled himself and praised God24. David wrote poetry proclaiming God’s greatness25. Naomi helped her daughter-in-law arrange a fortuitous marriage26. Paul wrote letters from prison and spread the Gospel in Rome27. Jesus knew what he was getting into but kept his eyes on the final goal28.
We can do the same. Consider Romans 8:28. That’s how Joseph dealt with his brothers’ betrayal. What they meant for evil, God turned to good. Job saw that life’s ups and downs don’t separate us from God. Nothing can29. Take a page from Jonah’s or David’s book and praise God when you’re down, not for the things that are assailing you but for who God is and what he’s done for you. Be like Naomi and use your tragedy to help someone else. It’s strange how I’ve been able to relate to two different people because of two of the worst disasters in my world. I couldn’t “solve” their problems, but I can identify with what they’re going through and offer the encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. Paul grew where God planted him. He was stuck in Rome, so he used the opportunity to write encouragement to others, pray, and evangelize. Like Jesus, we can keep our eyes on the end. This life is transitory. We’re here, then we’re gone, and we find out what God has in mind for us in eternity.
Going through these times when you feel like a butterfly in a hurricane are not amusing, but remember Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to endure. 4 And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. 5 And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
1 Galatians 5:22-23
2 Genesis 37
3 Genesis 39-40
4 Job 1-2
5 Luke 11:29
6 Jonah 1
7 2 Samuel 2:4
8 1 Samuel 20:33
9 Much of 1 Samuel.
10 2 Samuel 15:10-12
11 Ruth 1:3-5
12 Acts 22:9
13 Acts 22:13
14 Acts 14:19
15 2 Timothy 4:16
16 Job 3
17 Jonah 4:1
18 Psalm 6
19 Ruth 1:20
20 Mark 15:34
21 Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. … and a few other repeats in other studies. Koinonia House.
22 Genesis 41:16; 50:20
23 Job 1:21-22, 2:10
24 Jonah 2
25 Psalm 3
26 Most of the book of Ruth sets this up.
27 Ephesians is an example of one of the letters. Philippians 4:22
28 Philippians 2:5-11
29 Romans 8:35-39