A friend recently told me—tongue in cheek—that most of us are in one of two places: we’re either going through a challenging time right now, or we will be in the future.
But it is true: life brings us the unexpected, and if we’re not careful these unexpected events can take us down and take us out.
- A friend of mine lost his job recently. He showed up early to work and stayed late. He got raises easily and quickly. He enjoyed it and thought everything was going well—until he got the pink slip. They let him go. He couldn’t believe it! He was angry and wondered if it was racially motivated. How would he support his family? “Why did God allow this?”
- I got a text from a lady who is a good friend. Her boyfriend unexpectedly died overnight. She is in shock. We talked and prayed. She wondered “How could God do this to me?”
- Another friend shared with me that their spouse unexpectedly left them for a younger partner. They said “Why would God allow this to happen?”
Loss. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. Life in the pits.
Many times in life we find ourselves in a pit. We may have stumbled into it ourselves, or we may have been pushed in.
This is what happened with Joseph. This month we’re walking through Joseph’s life-story in our Certainty in Uncertain Times series. Joseph’s life goes from childhood innocence to betrayal, human trafficking and imprisonment. Unfair and undeserved.
But in his story, we see a glimmering thread of God’s presence woven throughout—even in the darkest times.
As a youth, Joseph was a favored son of his dad. He also had a couple of dreams. In both of these dreams his older brothers bowed down to honor him. And he seemed to enjoy sharing these dreams. A lot.
One day his brothers, tired of his arrogance and privileged upbringing, threw him into a pit while they decided whether to kill him or sell him into slavery. They discussed his fate over lunch and ultimately decided to sell their own brother into slavery.
Next he is taken into Egypt where he is sold as a slave to a high-ranking government official. Through these hard experiences, Genesis tells us over and over again, “The Lord was with Joseph.” He goes from slavery to an unjust prison sentence and through it all we’re reminded, “The Lord was with Joseph.” (Genesis 39:3, 21, 23). Through every hardship, we’re reminded that God is present—He was with Joseph in his suffering.
Usually when we’re in a pit experience, we have a hard time getting perspective. We miss what God is doing through our situation. But this is so important to remember: in these “pit” experiences—especially in adversity—God is with you. He is present in the pit.
When these “pit” experiences happen, what should we do?
Most of us are in one of 3 places today:
- The first is this: Maybe you have never had a “pit” experience. If this is you, you may be very, very young—or very blessed! Most of us have had trying, difficult “pit” experiences but it is possible that you haven’t.
- What now? If this is you, it is time to prepare for the future. The best way to prepare in this time is to grow in your faith, in two areas: Worship and Service. By focusing on God’s goodness in regular, weekly worship and using your gifts to serve others, it changes us from the inside out, making us more like Christ. Put yourself in a position to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ now. Prepare.
- The second place is this: You are in the “Pit” now. This is the place we never thought we would be, and certainly never want to be again. Sadly, for some, a “pit” experience can isolate us from others. We avoid people, insulating us in our loneliness. But God never intended for you to do life on your own. He made you to live in community with others. In fact, if we’re going to ever get out of the pit, it will take the strength, skill and help of others.
- What now? The one good thing about being in a pit is that it forces you to look up. If you are in a pit, the best thing you can do is to reach out to trusted people who can help give you a godly perspective. Put yourself into an environment where others can encourage you and walk alongside you. The best place for this stage is in a small group relationship. At CenterPoint we call these Growth Groups…they are a place where we can grow and get perspective together.
- The third place is You’re out of the “Pit.” You were in it, but now that is behind you. The upside of coming out of the pit is the practical experience you’ve gained. The downside is that because of the pain of your pit experience, you may do everything possible to never end up in the pit again—in other words, you eliminate all risk. You find it hard to trust, to take steps of faith.
- What now? If you’re out of the pit, it’s time to take a risk: it’s time to pay it forward. It’s time to help others hear what God did through your pit experience. It is one thing to read about what God did 3,000 years ago (in Joseph’s life), but it’s another to hear what he’s done in your life recently. Don’t miss the importance of this. Sit down and think through what God has done—how He was with you in that pit. Write it down; think it through and be ready to share it the next time that God opens a door. He has a powerful way of bringing the right message to someone else at the right time. And when you’re prepared, he will use your life story.
The good news is that Joseph does get out of the pit—and redemption is written all over his story.
My friend who lost his job, found another job 3 months later. Not only were the hours better, but it was his best paying job ever. He said “I never would have found this job had I not been let go from the last place.”
Here is how James (Jesus’ little brother) encourages us in the pit:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
God is still writing your story. Let your faith and trust in him grow. Don’t let the pit take you down; instead consider it an opportunity for great joy.
What have you found helpful to encourage others who are in the “pit”?