Perhaps you know this verse by heart just from seeing the reference, or perhaps the image helped jog your memory, because it is one of those verses we use very often to illustrate the necessity and fruitfulness of faith in our God despite dismal circumstances, and is a reminder of the existence of purpose somehow behind seemingly meaningless suffering.
“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.”
Joseph’s words, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” don’t often get quoted with the pointer that there was a time of probably 24 odd years between his being sold into slavery by his brothers and his saying these profound words. Time is a great teacher and counsellor, and I’m sure it took Joseph a while to ‘get it’. Hence, in regards to trusting in God for redeeming our messes, the lesson is this…
Don’t be discouraged about getting discouraged.
It will take time and then more time and then some for us to see some of the good God intends and ordains. I don’t think this means we have to repress hurt, and then smile and laugh for the sake of showing joy. Rather, it seems appropriate to me that God is pleased when we are faced with gut-wrenching, forehead-holding, tear-jerking situations, sob the sobs and still maintain that God Himself is sovereign and good. Being discouraged is not good, but God’s grace covers that just like it covers everything else, like the mistakes you make along the way. In any case it could take anywhere from a few days to twenty-four years to see how God meant it for good. I’m betting that discouragement will recur between now and then. His grace covers us even as we use what seems like our last reserves of energy to live zealously, proclaiming God’s perfect kingdom still to come.
[Note: Click the image above for a further interesting blog post on the Joseph situation that I read re: prayer. The rest of the blog is good too.]
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
So begins John Keats’ ode To Autumn, the oft-chosen favourite of high school poem reciters. This is due to its great multisensual imagery as well as its accessibility: it’s not too lewd, not too metaphysical, and still a classic poem. I quote it here because it mentions seasons of fruitfulness and how full they seem; so full that you begin to think this is they way things will always be.
When you’re in a season of something, it is easy to imagine it going on indefinitely, whether in good times or bad. The thing is, we are not to know when everything will come to pass, or when seasons begin and end. What we do know is that God has fixed these times for his good reasons, and he changes the times. You may have a season of joblessness, or of loneliness, or of public acclamation, or of deep companionship. The fruit from these times will last, but they are fleeting in light of eternity.
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22)
This section is titled “Love, for the Day is Near”. That’s difficult. I would like to love as if we’d all be back tomorrow. I’d love to ttyl or cya tmr. But I guess I could very well not, if God decides to clean up. I feel like, to deal with this, I need to restructure my heart and mind a bit.
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. (12a)
I always enjoy the microcosmic conceit of the cycle of night and day (and all its connotations of dark/evil and light/good) for time on the grander scale. And the achronism always strikes me as so suitable too.