Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


4 Comments

Rejoicing with Those Who Rejoice

Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his own brothers. The motive? That boy was daddy’s favorite, and they were jealous. Murderously jealous. In fact, if a tribe of Ishmaelites hadn’t shown up at just the right time, the original plan was to kill the boy, their brother, the favorite son of their father.

It’s really a sad story. I can’t imagine being so totally rejected by my own brothers and sister. It would be heartbreaking.

But this story has a truly remarkable ending. Joseph is raised up among the Egyptians. He becomes the number two guy in all of Egypt and prevents the people from starving during a severe, seven-year famine.

He also finds himself in a position to make an important choice.

When Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery appear before him wanting to purchase food for their families, he could have repaid their evil with evil. He could have sent them away empty-handed, or sold them as slaves, or even had them killed. But he doesn’t.

Joseph forgives his brothers. Yes, he makes them jump through a couple of hoops and pass a few well-designed “tests” before he reconciles with them, but we don’t see him taking vengence or holding any kind of grudge against the men who kept him from his beloved father and baby brother for over twenty years.

***

So, one of the tests Joseph gives his brothers is to see if they continue in their jealousy. He has a feast prepared for his brothers, and he feeds them all more than enough food, but he gives to Benjamin–his full  brother, the baby of the family, and his father’s new favorite–portions five times bigger than he gives all the other brothers.

And the brothers don’t complain. If they are jealous or begredging Benjamin this bonus serving, they keep it to themselves this time. The difference in treatment brings out no apparent ill-will. Instead, the Bible says, the brothers drank and were merry.

***

As we discussed this story this morning at my Bible study, someone mentioned Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” And I found it so very intereting when she said, “It seems easy to find people who weep with us when we’re weeping–but how often do we actually rejoice with others who are rejoicing?”

There’s a funny thing with infertility and the infertility community that’s been bothering meI don’t want to be insensitive, but I feel this needs to be said. As people dealing with infertility–people who want to be pregnant or have children more than most–we have a tendency to complain about other people’s pregnancies. We whine and mope about seeing pregnant bellies while we’re in the grocery store or out to dinner. We cry about pregnancy announcements and pictures of babies and bumps on facebook. We talk about how hard it is to be around people who have what we want the most.

I wish I could claim innocence here, but I know I’ve been guilty too.

And we can sugar coat it all we want. One book I read said pregnant bellies were “grief triggers.” This book–with a Christian perspective–was arguing that it is perfectly fine to foster those feelings of disappointment and sadness when we see pregnant women or new babies.

But I think we go beyond “grief trigger” and quickly end up at jealousy. And it’s not fine. We shouldn’t be okay with those emotional responses.

Maybe we can’t help it. Our emotions sneak up on us and we aren’t really ever in control, right?

But maybe we should try.

Because you know what? I’m going to be one excited lady when I’m pregnant. I’m going to be praising God and smiling and joyful–even if I’m sick and tired and feeling bloated. And I’m going to hope that people will want to rejoice with me.

And I’m not a fan of double standards.

So I’m rejoicing with you while you rejoice, dear mama-to-be.

And I’m weeping with you while you weep, dear friend still waiting.

And I’m starting now.


10 Comments

What Promises Are Mine?

What promises does God have for you?

A few questions in my Bible study this week–on chapters 15 and 16 in Genesis–asked me about the promises God has given me. One question asked, “What questions about His promises to you would you like to ask?”

You know my answer? “What are God’s promises specifically for me? What verses in the Bible are meant specifically for my life?”

I know there are so many promises in the Bible that are corporate–for the whole body of believers–and I know that many of them will apply in the next life. But what–if anything–has God promised specifically for me? Is it even reasonable to expect, hope for, desire, or want a promise specific to my life from God?

Chapter 15 opens with a rather distraught Abram (not yet renamed Abraham). God has promised him a “great reward,” to which the already wealthy Abram basically responds, “What’s the use, when a servant of my household is going to be my heir?” You see, Abram is convinced that he will not have any children. This is despite the fact that God told him in the beginning of chapter 12 that he would give the land to which he guides Abram to Abram’s descendants.

Can we really blame Abram in his doubts? The man is 86, after all, and his wife is still barren. But God has promised. And God, in his great mercy, repeats the promise to Abram several more times and with increasing specificity. He speaks to him here, in chapter 15, saying, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir” (15:4). “And he [God] brought him [Abram] outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be'” (15:5).

What a promise. And now we see that Abram does believe God, “and He [God] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness” (15:6).

The commentary for this week’s lesson talks about this, saying:

Romans tells us, ‘He [Abram] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God’ (4:19-20). Abram recognized that, humanly speaking, what he was believing God for was impossible. It would take a miracle. The Scripture says, ‘He did not weaken in faith,’ but it does not say there was no tension, no battle going on as he struggled to hold on to his faith. He was open and honest with God. He asked Him how He was going to solve this. Then ‘the word of the LORD’ came to Abram in a vision.”

At the end of chapter 15, God adds to Abram’s confidence in the promise that his descendants will inherit the land currently occupied by the Canaanites by making a covenant with Abram. Traditionally a covenant is between two parties, both of whom have responsibilities to uphold in keeping their end of the bargain. But the funny thing about this covenant is that God is both parties. God makes and God keeps the covenant. Abram has no responsibility. The promise will be fulfilled on Abram’s behalf with no strings attached. I find this so freeing. You see, the promises God makes to Abram do not depend at all upon Abram’s behavior.

I think that is true of the promises God makes to any of us. He knows we are sinful people, that we falter, and that we are incapable of guaranteeing anything in our own power. So he doesn’t ask us to do that. God’s promises to us–God’s promises to me, whatever they may be–depend on God alone, not on my behavior, not on my actions, not on the amount of trust I have, or how fervently I believe.

If you know you have a promise from God, but it has not yet been fulfilled and you are waiting and wondering if you misheard or missed out, I want to encourage you that you won’t be the first to have doubts. You won’t be the first to try to help God along or take matters into your own hands, either, as we see Abram does in chapter 16, though doing so would be unwise. And I think it’s okay to ask God to clarify and ask God to bolster your faith. Because you know what faith is? It’s a gift from God.

And if you’re like me, wondering whether there are promises in his word for just you, wondering if you can claim as a promise an heir from your (and your spouse’s) very own body, as God promised Abram, or if that’s just too convenient–join me in asking God. He gives Abram clarification when he asks for it. He comforts Abram when he is in doubt and when he is distressed.

Our God is a great God. A God who loves all the people he has made and wants none to perish. A God who does not play tricks on us or deceive us in any way at any time. And a God with a plan and a path for each one of us. Sometimes the path takes us through difficult and dark and confusing places. And maybe we don’t get to know why. But I know where the path ends up and I’m going to follow it to my ultimate reward, with God’s gracious help.

And I’m going to be asking God to reveal to me the promises he has in mind specifically for me. And I pray that I will be content–even joyful–with whatever he reveals, even if it is not what I might have chosen for myself.