It is a simple fact of life that there will be difficulties, setbacks and disappointments. And no one is immune from pain, suffering and loss. Mankind has to endure this broken and cruel world, as a result of sin and our fallen state. We all have our fair share of setbacks and disappointments in life, as well as pain, suffering and tears.
It is important for us to note first and foremost that being a good disciple of Christ does not mean that there will be no setbacks and disappointments. Quite the contrary. We are forewarned by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:17 that when our identity is in Christ we will experience difficulty, setbacks and disappointment. Such experiences are inevitable, even inherent, in what it means to be a Christian.
If we are heirs with Christ we will suffer with Him. We are not to think that if we are Christians, we will have an easier road than people who are not Christians.
“…. and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellows heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him”. (Romans 8:17)
Knowing that this is the same pathway for everyone, then what is the difference? We suffer or go through difficulties and challenges in life – with hope. That’s the fundamental difference for us Christians. Our faith gives us a different perspective from which to live through those difficult times.
We are reminded by the apostle Paul in Romans 5 it is through them that we are moulded and formed into people of maturity and strength. We often wish that it would not be this way. No one enjoys going through suffering and difficulties. But Paul reminds us: “….suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”. (Romans 5:3-4)
What is most critical is our response to suffering and setbacks. The same set of circumstances and situation can either break us or make us. Either we become angry, bitter and cynical, or, with God’s grace, grow through endurance and become people of character, maturity and of hope.
We can learn some lessons from the life of Joseph. He suffered greatly and endured many setbacks and trials. He was bullied, treated most unfairly and almost killed by his own brothers and sold into slavery. He became a common slave in a foreign land. He was falsely accused of attempted rape and unjustly imprisoned. In that prison, he was forgotten by many. Even the chief cupbearer whom he had helped forgot about him.
Praise be to God! Joseph was forgotten by man but not forgotten by God. Genesis 39:21 says, “But the LORD was with Joseph”!
While Joseph was languishing in prison, he did not spend his time feeling depressed, or getting angry or giving up on the Lord. Instead, he was helping his two fellow prisoners, the cupbearer and the baker. He was thinking of others, not himself. Joseph was actively looking for ways to glorify God while he waited in that prison. And the Lord blessed him. “And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:23) Joseph must have been disappointed that he was forgotten, even by the cupbearer. But he never lost hope and trust in God. That God will move in His time. The LORD did move right on time.
Through all those suffering, setbacks and disappointment, the LORD was with Joseph. In the same way, our ever faithful LORD will see us through our difficulties, because He will never leave us nor forsake us. That’s His promise.
By Andrew Yap, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin 25&26 April 2015)