Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lemons and Dirt

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 (KJV)

He had always been a good child…he had always done the right thing.  He loved his father and mother and brothers.  No doubt he grieved deeply the day his mother died while giving birth to his baby brother, Benjamin.  He was young, full of hope for the future, and he was a dreamer.  He dreamed dreams that were troubling to his father.  Dreams that meant one day his family would bow down to him and pay him respect.  When he shared his dreams with his brothers, they became jealous and began to try to think of a way to get rid of him.  If they could just do away with him, his dreams would never come true.  They plotted against him and sold him to be a slave to some foreigners.  They, in turn, took him and resold him to Potiphar, a man of great power in a distant land. 

He was alone, away from his family, in a strange place.  No doubt he had to wonder about his dreams.  Why weren’t they coming true?  This sure didn’t look like he was being respected.  His brothers had won, and he was paying the price for their mischievous victory over him.  Surely his dreams must not have meant anything. 

Everything he touched in his new home was mingled with God’s blessing.  He became a trusted servant in his new position, and his boss ended up putting him in charge of everything he owned.  He was nice-looking and desirable and his boss’s wife began to eye him and set out to seduce him.  He nobly resisted her advances day after day, but she was a determined woman and bound to get what she wanted.  One day, she saw her chance.  It was just the two of them…alone in the house…so she called him to her.  Something within him was stronger than her power of persuasion.  He ran out of the house away from the temptation of her invitation.  He refused to be seduced!  As he ran, she grabbed his coat and kept it with her.  You have heard of the fury of a woman scorned, and this woman was no exception.  She was furious!  How could he resist her and what she had to offer?  After all, she had planned and plotted for days and waited for just the right moment.  How dare he resist her!  Her anger turned diabolical, and she began to scream to attract the attention of her husband’s guards.  They came running to her, and they found her holding his coat.  She began to lie and make accusations of assault.  When her husband found out, the punishment was severe.  He was dealt a sentence of life in a stinking, cold, damp dungeon….and he had done nothing wrong.  No one wanted to hear his side of the story, and it did no good to try to defend himself.  This was his boss’s wife, and it was her word against his.

Have you guessed yet who I am talking about?  If ever someone had a reason to turn bitter against God, to give up hope of God’s plan for their life, to let go of their dreams….it was Joseph.  This is absolutely one of my favorite characters and stories in the Old Testament.  How he must have wondered about his teenage dreams as he looked around at his surroundings, longed for home, and questioned the outcome of his life!  But, do you know what he did?  He kept doing the right thing.  He continued to be obedient to God’s laws, he ended up finding favor with the warden, and he attained a position of honor…right there in the dungeon…in the midst of the disappointments and cruel, unfair hand he had been dealt.  He took a bad situation and made the best of it. 

Eventually, a dream was the tool God used to get him out of his unpleasant circumstances.  There was something about Joseph and dreams.  He interpreted the king’s dream, he was restored to a place of great honor, and he never had to spend another miserable night in the dungeon.  God used him mightily to look ahead and plan for the famine that was coming. 

One day, his brothers showed up needing food.  They would starve to death if Joseph didn’t help them out.  Aha!  The dreams…they came flooding back through his mind.  Now, they were coming true.  His brothers were begging from him!  They were showing him respect!  They were bowing down to him, and he held their lives in his hands.  If he said no, they would die.  Here was his chance for revenge!  He could pay them back for the last 22 miserable years of his life.  What would he do?

As I read the story of Joseph, I don’t think he even hesitated on his decision…not even for a second.  He held no animosity.  He didn’t hate his brothers.  He wasn’t about to let them starve.  He did what any upright person would do…he gave them what they needed, and he brought them and his father to live near him in the best part of Egypt.  After their father died, his brothers began to fear that Joseph would not have a reason to restrain his revenge against them any longer.  His answer to them?  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good…” Genesis 50:20

We’ve all heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  I consider it good advice. 

Romans 8:28 doesn’t say everything that happens in your life will be good and life will be a bed of roses with no heartache, sickness, grief, or hurt.  There are no promises in this verse of smooth-sailing or wealth or fame or a perfect picturesque existence.  What it does say is that “all things”…every detail, every sadness, every happiness, every smile, every tear…all of them will work together for a good outcome if you love God and you are called according to His purpose.  In other words, if you are living a Christian life, giving it your all, doing your best, then every single happening in your life will ultimately work for your good.  You may not see it today.  You may wonder about what is going on and how in the world it could all bring about any good.  But, you and I don’t see the whole picture.  We have tunnel vision.  God has a plan…for YOUR life.  In that plan, He must allow some rain to fall, along with the sunshine, in order for you to grow and develop into the person He wants you to be. 

Did you ever hear the “mule in the well” story?  I wish I could give credit to the author, but I could not find out who it is.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“One day a farmer's mule fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway.  It just wasn't worth it to retrieve the mule. So he invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the mule realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the mule was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up, stomping the dirt under him. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the mule stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.  He had used the very thing that was thrown at him to hurt him, to save his own life and get out of the well!”

We are all going to be dealt lemons and have dirt thrown on us from time to time.  Life is just that way.  Now, what will we do with them?  Will we allow them to make us sour and bitter and cynical against God and everyone else around us?  Or will we make the best of it and allow God to work out His perfect plan for GOOD in our lives?  Will we allow the dirt people are throwing at us cause us to be buried in self-pity, hatred, malice, and the desire for revenge?  Or will we step on that dirt, put it under our feet, rise above our circumstances, and climb out of the hole?  There will always be cruel people in our lives.  They intend things they say and do against us for evil, but do you know God means it for GOOD? 

So what about you, my friend?  Will you allow the lemons and dirt to destroy you and all of the good things in your life?  Or will you make lemonade and stomp the dirt under your feet, using it to boost you upwards?  It's your choice.  I hope you choose to make your stumbling blocks stepping stones.

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