THE STORMS OF LIFE
by Tesh Njokanma 10/16/2013 / Christian Living
It was his third year in the cold, dark, empty prison cell. Life sure can be unfair to some people. To think that all he did to get into this horrible place was resist the seductive lures of his master's wife. Out of anger and desperation he gave a loud shriek as he slammed his hands against the hard prison walls. When would this bitter ordeal come to an end? When would he be free again to enjoy the cool wind blowing against his skin or watch the beautiful sunset?
Rape. That was the charge against him. The very thought of it made him laugh. He of all people rape a woman. That was the most absurd thing he had ever heard. He wasn't denying the fact that she was beautiful. Indeed she was a very attractive woman and any man would have given anything to have her. But he couldn't. Though she daily flirted with him, flaunted her well shaped body before him, and tried every provocative act in the book to seduce him, he just couldn't do it. How would he face his master? More importantly, how would he face his God? No, he couldn't. He couldn't flout and disregard God's standards for a few minutes of risky pleasure. He couldn't and he didn't. Yet, she craftily spun a wonderful tale of how he had raped her. Her husband and everyone believed her. And who wouldn't. She had such strong circumstantial evidence to support her story. What logical explanation could he give for his jacket that was found with her? His jacket he left in her hands when he ran out of the house and out of her trap. It was her word against him and no amount of pleading and explaining could change her husband or anyone else's mind. That was his story. That was how he was thrown behind bars. Life sure can be unfair to some people.
Does this story sound familiar? This Old Testament story of Joseph really touches my heart. Joseph's life was filled with many dark, difficult experiences, yet his final outcome was amazing. His life is a big testimony and source of encouragement to anyone facing stormy waters.
At the age of 17, Joseph was torn from his family and sold into slavery by his own blood brothers. On getting to Egypt, he found himself locked behind bars for a crime he never committed. Talk about deception, victimization and injustice, Joseph experienced them all. Yet, he came out strong and on top. How was he able to do this?
1. God's presence made all the difference
Joseph's life is a classic example of what the storms of life represent. The interesting part of Joseph's story which is worthy of commendation, was not so much the gravity of the storm that came his way, but a clear testimony of God's continued presence with him. God was so close to him wherever he went, whatever he faced (Genesis 39:2-3). But you may ask, if God was really with Joseph, why did God allow him go through all that hardship? Where was God when his brothers threw him into a pit or when he was sold into slavery? Where was God when He was unjustly put in prison?
From Joseph's life, it is clear that having the presence of God with you does not mean an absence of trials in your life. What it means is that when trials come, divine strength and enablement to face and overcome trying times will be given to you.
Whenever life brings disappointment our way, or our hopes and expectations are unfulfilled, or we are unjustly and cruelly treated, the best place to go is to the presence of God. When we are in His presence, God holds us so tightly and gives us grace to overcome. Though problems may threaten us, they can never overwhelm us if we are surrounded by God's presence. Surrounded by His presence, we can victoriously face the storms of life.
2. Blessings In Disguise
What Joseph's brothers saw as a way to get rid of their much hated brother, God saw as a way to get that much hated brother to a top position in society.
Nothing in this world happens without God's knowledge. When He permits a problem or trial to come our way, it is because there's a beautiful treasure; an amazing blessing underneath that bitter experience.
At the time Joseph was sold into slavery, it was hard to imagine how he could ever become someone great in a foreign land or what would make his family come all the way to Egypt to bow down to him. But Joseph held on to his dream and to His God. Though he couldn't understand why he was in Egypt at this point in his life, he believed that the God of purpose had a purpose for bringing him to a strange land.
Painful though it was, Joseph yielded to God and saw a beautiful plan unfold and take shape. Through pain and hardship, he discovered the treasure; the big blessing and promotion that had been prepared for him in Egypt.
When we give God full control of our lives, He can bring blessings out of trials, roses out of thorns, hidden treasures from boisterous storms.
3. The Waiting Game
Waiting on God to heal you of a disease, bless you with a child or life partner, provide a good job for you, or just turn things around for your good, can be very challenging. In fact, it takes the grace of God not to give up at such times. It is at such times that we can identify with the Psalmist who cried out to God saying, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1).
Joseph waited and waited and waited before his dream was fulfilled. At the age of 17, God told him that his family would bow down to him; that he was destined for a position of leadership. But he waited until he was 30 years old before this promise was fulfilled (Genesis 41:46).
It seems like God is never in a hurry to get things done. The reverse is the case with us. Everything we want, we want NOW! But like Joseph, we need to learn that the fact that God hasn't given you something, doesn't mean He isn't going to give you that thing. He is simply taking time to prepare you. The years Joseph spent waiting for God to do what He said He would, were years God used to train him for the promised leadership role. Without the waiting, there would have been no training. Without the training, Joseph would have badly messed up when he came into a position of leadership.
So don't get impatient and bitter at God when He is taking you through a waiting period. What He is doing is actually taking you through a training period. God always works with perfect timing. Giving us a blessing at a wrong time (our time) is like giving you an unripe fruit to eat. You may have the fruit quite alright, but you won't really enjoy eating it. When it feels like God isn't doing anything about the situation you are in, don't be fooled, don't be discouraged. Hold on, don't give up. God is seriously at work on your case. God is training and preparing you for something great.
4. Be a Blessing
It's amazing that even in the most trying times of Joseph's life, he still found a way to be a blessing to others. Imagine what would have happened to him if he never used his gift of interpretation of dreams when he was in prison. He would have remained in prison for donkey's years. It was because he chose to be of help, he chose to be a blessing even though he had every reason to be bitter with life and people that he got out of prison.
The easiest way to get out of life's pit and prison experiences is to be a source of blessing irrespective of what you are personally going through. Things may not be going well for you, but you can still be a blessing to somebody. Everyone has a gift, talent, ability or potential that is beneficial to someone out there. You never know where your gifts and talents can land you, so use them and use them well.
5. God Pleasers
One of the most profound statements in the Bible is the response Joseph gave when Potiphar's wife tried to lure him into sin. Joseph said, "how then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God" (Genesis 39:9). Pleasing God was uppermost in Joseph's mind. He wasn't ready to compromise God's standards for anything and anyone. But how easy it is for us to give in to the pressure around and find ourselves lowering God's standards. When your job is on the line, would you please God or would you compromise just to keep that job? When your comfort is threatened, would you please God or would you lower godly standards just to maintain that level of comfort?
I believe that whenever Joseph found himself in a situation that needed God's intervention, God would look at him with great delight and say because he goes out of his way to do those things that please me, I can't leave him in this situation, I can't allow this storm overwhelm him.
Are you facing a storm today and the waves look so dangerous like they are about to drown you? You can survive that storm; you can come out of that storm intact. Be encouraged by the fact that God has complete mastery and control over the oceans and seas. He brought the flood that destroyed the entire world excluding Noah and his family, to an abrupt end. He parted the Red Sea that stood as a barrier to the progress of the Israelites. With a word of command, Jesus put an end to the storm that put so much fear in the hearts of His disciples.
Forget about the noise the waves are making and invite Jesus to come and take over the boat of your life. Ask Him to forgive you for any and every way you have compromised and let Him down. Tell Him to make you a passionate God pleaser from today. Because you have allowed Jesus take over the boat of your life, like it happened to Joseph when he was locked behind bars, today is your day to be remembered. Jesus, the storm calmer, has taken over the boat of your life. Wipe away your tears. The storm is over!
Tesh Njokanma is a lawyer by training whose heart is in writing. She is a prolific writer with over 15 years experience as a magazine Editor. She is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God with a prayer and teaching ministry. Tesh is married with children. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.