A friend of mine told me a story about how when he was a young man, his boss came to him and told him the company had been bought out. He said the new company was going to lay off most of the old employees, but not to worry because he would protect him. When the layoffs came, everything happened just as the boss said. Then a few days later, the boss came back and apologized. He had to let him go. It turns out his boss let go of the new owner’s nephew and was forced to hire him back.My friend was upset. He didn’t have a degree, and his wife was pregnant with their first child.
In moments like these, we normally cry out to God, “What are you doing?” Have you ever had one of those times? Everything points to God allowing you to be crushed, broken and ruined. We wonder where God is and why we have to go through it. The ten sons of Jacob who went to Egypt for food had one of those moments. They had gone to purchase food, but didn’t recognize their own brother they had sold into slavery. They bowed to him just as Joseph had dreamed years earlier.
Joseph didn’t let on that he was their brother. He held one in prison to make sure they came back. Then he had their money returned to them in their bags of grain. When they were a day away, one noticed it. Genesis 42:28 says, “‘Look!’ he exclaimed to his brothers. ‘My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!’ Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, ‘What has God done to us?’” (NLT) They couldn’t see that God was actually blessing them.
That brings me back to my friend. Because he got fired, he found a job with a major company. He then got a degree and moved up in the company. He was able to provide for his family more than he would have at his old job. What looked like an end was really a beginning. What looked like a curse was really a blessing. If you’re going through something you don’t understand, don’t be quick to judge God. Give Him time to work things out for your good. He has a pretty good record of blessing His people.
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One of the hardest things to do is to see God in the middle of our struggles. I’ve found that the further away from it I am, the more I can see what God was doing. Even now, God is showing me things that He was doing two years ago in our lives. At the time, it was like we were in the middle of a tornado that was ripping through our lives, uprooting everything. We shed tears, asked God where was He in all of it and began to lose hope.
Because our outside world was crumbling, our inside world began to get affected. Like Peter, who took his eyes off Jesus as he walked on water, our hearts and minds began to sink within us. When that happens, it becomes very difficult to see God. We become more concerned with finding answers than finding God. We look at everything that’s going on instead of at the One who holds us in His hands.
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus was speaking to a crowd from the side of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. One of the things He said was, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (MSG). For many of us, including myself, it takes a while for us to get our inside world put back in place to be able to see God in our outside struggles. I believe He is telling us that we can have that peace and clarity in our storms though.
If you’re going through a difficult time right now, pray that God would help you get your inside world right. Ask Him to help you to keep your eyes on Him, and to trust Him. Remember that He is your refuge and protector. He knows that without struggles we can’t get stronger. He uses them to prune us and transplant us so we can experience more life. Even if you have to rebuild your life after the storm, it will be better and stronger than before. Also, don’t forget to look back. The more you look back and see God in your past, the easier it is to see Him in your present.
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Patience. It’s not a word we like very much. We like to have results quickly without having to put in the time and effort. We want answers given to us without us having to dig for them. We want growth without risk, and we want fruit without tending the garden. We’ve heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” but who really wants to wait? We live in a now society where everything is given to us quickly. The temptation is to let our societal speed carry over into our spiritual growth.
Endurance. It’s not something you get in good times. It requires pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of. It takes mental toughness to get it. You have to withstand pressure repeatedly in order to attain it. Giving up can’t be an option if you’re going to increase your endurance. You have to keep your mind on the prize to keep your mind off the struggle of you’re going to build your endurance. It isn’t given to you, it’s earned.
Both of these things are required of us as Christians. The more of God you want to know, the more patience and endurance you’re going to have to have. If we are willing to give up in the struggle, we will miss the blessings God is preparing us for. Hebrews 10:36 says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised” (NLT). When things appear to be going wrong in our life, God is preparing us to receive all He has for us.
We can’t be like Jacob and fight it. In Genesis 42, there was a famine in the land. Jacob sent 10 of his sons to get food in Egypt. Joseph wanted them all there so he pretended to not know them, sent them home with their food, and held one brother captive until they returned with their other brother. Jacob felt like he was being punished when God was just trying to get him to the land of plants. In verse 36, he cried out, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!”
If everything is going against you, it’s quite possible that God is actually trying to bless you. Jacob waited a long time before he sent his sons back to get more food and their brother. He could have been living without fear of starvation. He could have had the relationship with his son restored. God was trying to use what appeared to be negative circumstances to move him into a place of blessing. Imagine what God could be trying to do for you in your situation. Work on having patient endurance instead of complaining, and see what God does.
Each of us have things go wrong in life. Each of us have those periods where it seems nothing can go right. It can get to the point of ridiculousness that all you can do is laugh at how bad things have gotten. There’s also that temptation to just give up because no matter what you do, you fail. In those periods of life our response matters. They can create good things in you like perseverance, patience, endurance, strength or they can bring out the worst like selfishness, resentfulness, anger or bitterness. Our reaction is our choice.
In the book of Ruth, we see the story of Naomi who was Ruth’s mother in law. She had been going through a rough time. Due to circumstances, she had to move her family away from their home. Some time after they arrived in their new country, her husband died and left her to raise two boys. They grew up and married. After ten years of marriage, neither of her sons were able to produce an heir and both of them died. She was left with two daughters in law to care for and no means to do it. She decided to return to her homeland, but knew there wasn’t enough to sustain all of them. She encouraged her daughters in law to stay behind in their land and to remarry. One stayed and one clung to her side and wouldn’t leave.
When they arrived back in her hometown, the people were excited to see her. They asked, “Is that really you, Naomi?” Her response was, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter… I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t.” She allowed her circumstances to make her bitter. She was so bitter that she asked them to call her Bitter as her name. She felt like God had abandoned her and that He didn’t even know her name. She felt alone and hurt. I wonder what would have happened to her if Ruth hadn’t made the trip back with her.
The good news is that Ruth saw the bitterness and struggles in her mother in law and refused to leave her. She became a support person for her. It wasn’t long after they arrived back in Naomi’s hometown that Ruth met Boaz. After they were married, God gave them a son. Chapter 4:14 of Ruth says, “The town women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.” Naomi loved that baby so much that the neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s boy”. His real name was Obed. He would become the grandfather of King David and also part of the lineage of Jesus.
Whatever your circumstances are today, you have a choice to make. Will people call you “Bitter” or will they call you “Blessed”? While Naomi went through a time of bitterness, ultimately everything had to happen that way so that a line of future kings could be born and ultimately our savior. I don’t know what difficulties you’re facing in the present, but I know that God can use them to create an amazing future. Difficult times and periods of life are not without purpose. God has a plan for you and the future of your family. This rough patch is simply getting you into position to change you from bitter to blessed.