Frightening But Good (The Story: Chapter 3)
In the movie Parenthood, Steve Martin's character Gil is complaining about his complicated life, when Grandma enters the room.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story. [sarcastically]
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it. (See clip)
Grandma's roller coaster is an accurate way of describing Joseph's life in Genesis 37-50: his father's favorite son with a fancy coat, eleven brothers who hate him, a dreamer who dreams for God, his brothers sell him as a slave, earns respect in Egypt, falsely accused by the boss' wife, becomes deputy Pharoah...
The roller coaster can be an opportunity to live in fear and hurt. We wrestle with God and wonder where God is or if he cares. Betrayal and loss can define the rest of our lives, keep us stuck on the merry-go-round of resentment and disappointment
But God's dream for Joseph is the definer. Joseph reassures his brothers that God was at work all along in his life, through the ups and downs, and even through their betrayal: "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20)
What is the good God intends? And in the circumstance, if we can't see good, can we see God?
The upper story, God's grand story, is to fulfill his purpose: for God to be in relationship with a people in such a way that the world is blessed and comes into relationship with God. Joseph sees that his brothers' betrayal put him in the position to bless Egypt and to bless his family with land and food.
Keeping the upper story in perspective, our lower story circumstances can deepen our hearts of compassion, increase our wisdom, strengthen our faith, make us more present with others, and fuel our passion for the brokenness of the world and blessing our families, neighbors, and friends.
The apostle Paul also learned that God is at work on the roller coaster: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Throughout Joseph's story he experienced God's presence ("the Lord was with him"), maintained integrity ("there is no one so discerning and wise as you"), sought reconciliation ("am I in the place of God?"), and saw his story in God's greater story ("to accomplish what is now being done").
Seeing the good can heal but not change the past. Seeing the good can make us more present in the moment, anticipating God is at work, seeing God and maybe getting a glimpse of the good he intends. We discover God's good is not the same as what we want. We wrestle, we give grace, we listen.
And if that good creates a life of humility, love, faith, hope, joy, and authenticity, then God's good is being accomplished.
Grandma was right: I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.
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