Focal Passage: Genesis 41:28-36, 46-49
By Van Richmond
Pastor, New Life Church, Nashville
Hard times come in many forms. Some of what we might call hard times are actually nuisances rather than extreme challenges. A dear lady had a husband who was an airline pilot, and he often had difficulty locating items around the house. One day he asked his wife where the salt was. Annoyed, she responded, “How on earth can you find Detroit at night in a blizzard, but you can’t find the salt in your own kitchen?” “Well, darling,” he replied, “they don’t move Detroit.”
Perhaps you are attempting to find relief or reassurance right now in the middle of your own trials. Charles Stanley described hard times in this fashion: “We all know what it means to be broken — to feel shattered or blown apart, as if our entire world has fallen apart. We all have had times when we didn’t want to raise our head off the pillow and when we felt certain that the tears would never stop flowing.”
While we intellectually understand that hard times can strike at any moment, part of what makes overcoming those harsh challenges is the suddenness with which they can appear. After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, Egypt began preparations to fend off the worst of the possible consequences that were to follow the seven years of abundance. Since most of us typically don’t receive a seven-year advance warning, feeling “shattered or blown apart” is a classic response when a personal disaster arrives with no notice. There are truths, though, that enable Christians to overcome life’s most difficult challenges.
Remember that even when we cannot see Jesus, Jesus sees us. After feeding the 5,000, Jesus went to the mountain to pray while His disciples sailed back to Bethsaida. Though they were very experienced, their seaman’s skills were insufficient to overcome the storm that engulfed them. Six to nine hours of arduous rowing against a powerful headwind had only moved them about three miles. You may have felt that way, too. Buffeting winds, no progress, and mounting fears create a sense of desperation within us. But though the disciples couldn’t see Him, from miles away Jesus could see them. He saw their difficulty and came to them. “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”
Remember that God cares deeply about you. When hardship tracks you like a blood hound, it can be easy to slide into a self-pitying “God has forgotten about me” mode. The fourth chapter of Mark captures the scene when Jesus slept in the boat while a raging storm threatened to sink the small craft. His frantic disciples woke Him and accusingly asked, “Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” How could they possibly say “Don’t you care?” The disciples suddenly bought into Satan’s most effective lie — “God doesn’t care about you.” The thought that nobody cares is a common thread in most suicide cases; people frequently feel abandoned during their storm. II Corinthians 2:14 (NASB) strengthens us, though, when it says, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us to triumph in Christ.”
Remember to “Keep the faith, baby.” Adam Clayton Powell Jr., left a distinct mark on Congress during his 12 terms in the House of Representatives. A staunch activist during the civil rights movement, “Keep the faith, baby,” became his legendary slogan.
Even after the unbelievably hard times of 13 years of forced family separation, slavery, and imprisonment, Joseph still kept the faith, maintaining his trust in the Lord and his caring. God blessed Joseph’s faithfulness, leading him to name his first son Manasseh as he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles.”
Jesus helps us overcome our hard times as He did for Joseph and for His disciples, and the result, the reward, is so enticing: “And there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39 HCSB)