Grace for Difficult Times

The Life of Joseph

Walking through the desertWe think we are doing well until all of a sudden we hit a dry spot where it seems that God has deserted us. God, of course, promises us that He will never desert us. This is true. But God's children regularly seem to be thrown into circumstances that are hard to understand. We wonder, "If God is gracious, then why does He bring His children into difficult times?" We looked at this discussion from the point of humility, but we need to now view our difficult times from the perspective of God's grace.

Grace makes us wonderfully satisfied. God deepens our desire and appreciation of His grace by having us journey through difficult times. This time is often called a testing or refining period. God says this of Joseph.

"He sent a man before them, Joseph, [who] was sold as a slave. ... Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. (Psalm 105:17,19).

Perhaps we would trust God more easily if He didn't so obviously say "tested him!" But He did. The "Word of the LORD tested him." We know Joseph had some flaws that had to be removed. He thought too much of himself. One would think there could have been an easier way for Joseph to learn these lessons. Through his life, he was humiliated over and over again. He was often treated unjustly. The fact is, however, that God chastises those He loves. Out of God's abundant grace come forth testing times for His servants. Grace paves a road that enables a man to walk more nobly. How does this work?

We see that God is interested in sanctifying His people. He desires His children to be thoroughly happy in Him. As long as we are focused on our own pleasures, we are more like the beasts than God. God wants to share His love by raising us up beyond our focus on our own lives. Trying times creates this deeper search for meaning in life. We all of a sudden remember that there is more to life than just feeding our appetites. We need to go beyond this and ask how God fits into these troubles.

"God isn't unnecessarily cruel; He does not enjoy our pain. When God encounters us with loneliness, silence, and struggle, He does so because He has an unimaginable pleasure for us: in our suffering He reveals His goodness. He wants us to revel in His glorious love. And it is in the midst of darkness that the brightness of His love shines with startling intensity." The Cry of the Soul by Allender and Longman, p. 238.
God is interested in developing our appreciation of His works. If we merely get by our own self efforts, we rather than God is being praised. We do not disagree that man can do many things, but the problem is that man forgets that even the most basic things he can do are all given to Him from God.

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. James 1.17

God takes us beyond our easy walk and makes us desperate for help. By putting us in difficult places, God has us reach up to Him and see how great He is. God causes joy to rise up in our hearts and we give praise to Him. God is then being praised and our hearts abounding in His love.

In a real sense Joseph didn't deserve all the bad treatment he got. He was persecuted by others for his righteous decisions. God, however, weaved into his life deeper plans than Joseph could ever see. They included both the greater plans for all His people as well as his own life. God will not change in His love for us. His favor is upon us as we seek His face. We need the eyes of faith to know how constant and persevering His grace is toward us. This finely tuned grace became a glorious example of graciousness in the way he later treated his brothers after Jacob, his father, died.

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom