The topic for our Bible study time today was dealing with hopeless situations. So many people are dealing with situations that seem hopeless:
° The mother of young children whose husband has just abandoned her for someone younger
° The father who has just lost his job and has no marketable skills
° The family in New Orleans who lost their home during Katrina and can't afford to replace it
° The man who has just found out he has 5 blocked arteries, including the widow maker
° The teenage girl who is pregnant because she thought intimacy was the way to keep her boyfriend
° The teenage boy who took the dare to "just try it" because he wanted to be part of the crowd and is now hooked on drugs.
Normal responses to hopeless situations might be anger, depression, abuse of family members, drugs, alcohol abuse, to pretend that the situation doesn't exist, or to turn to some formulaic ritual.
I was impressed that Genesis 39:20-40:23 illustrates some very practical principles for dealing with discouraging situations. Joseph had been tossed in prison on the false accusation of attempted rape. Instead of succumbing to hopelessness, he did the following:
--> He recognized that God was with him even in difficult situations -- he trusted God (Gen 39:21-23)
--> He maintained a people focus, he helped others -- one of our group members stated that he looked outside himself (Gen 40:2-8)
--> He gave God credit -- he praised God (Gen 40:8)
--> He asked, appropriately, for help (Gen 40:14)
--> He lived by faith that God had not forgotten him and that God would work things out (Gen 40:20-23)
Faith in God in difficult circumstances is not a magic formula. The end result is not always the thing we might hope for. It's not like the joke that asks, What happens when you play a country music record backwards? The man gets his truck, his wife, his trailer, and his dog back. Joseph spent 2 more years in prison. But, by doing those things, Joseph didn't fall into despair, he was able to find meaning and significance in suffering.
Suffering is a part of the human experience. God doesn't protect us from the consequences of our own sin or, always, from the consequences of the sins of other people. But He does promise to be with us at all times and in all situations (Joshua 1:9 NIV -- ...Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.). I hope that's encouraging to someone.
Right now it's pouring down rain in Richmond and it's predicted to continue through Monday morning. That might mean a run on the dreadmill tomorrow. Yuck. I might choose to run in the rain.
WCSN is showing the Boston Marathon live, online, and free tomorrow. You apparently have to register for an account but it's listed as free.
Run well, y'all,