Purpose in the Pain

“Joseph Arrives in Egypt” (c. 1869) by artist Owen Jones
Can you relate?

Joseph seemed to struggle with feelings of bitterness (anger, too?) toward his brothers for the way they treated him in his youth. And why not? Their behavior was nothing short of abysmal! To be honest, I can easily relate to Joseph’s struggle with his emotional response, his desire to “keep it together” in front of those who mistreated him – even years and years after the fact. And to add insult to injury, they were Joseph’s own family!

Let’s back up.

Joseph’s life began pretty cushy. Dear ol’ dad loved him most. Everyone knew it. He gave him a showy coat. He trusted him as his go-between with his other sons. Even Joseph’s unconsciousness seemed to bless him with dreams of greatness. What happened? His brothers sold his blessed life for a few coins just to be rid of him.

Skip ahead in Joseph’s biography. He’s now a slave in a well-respected Egyptian’s home. He’s kind of a big deal in the man’s house, a position he undoubtedly both deserved and earned. He was living large, for a slave. What happened? The guy’s wife began making eye babies at him and eventually lied about Joseph making a pass at her. And our guy Joe, who had done no wrong, had to exchange slavery for imprisonment.

Fast-forward to Joseph’s life in prison. Eventually even his jailers saw his integrity and rewarded him with elevated status, though he remained imprisoned. By and by, he did a couple of fellow prisoners a solid by interpreting their dreams and all he asked in return was to be remembered when they left the slammer. What happened? Absolutely nothing. He was forgotten.

Time passes. Cue Egypt’s #1 being plagued by dreams even his most trusted advisors couldn’t interpret. What to do? Only then did Joseph’s cup-bearing friend finally have a light bulb moment and remember the one whom he so quickly forgot.

The skinny of it is this.

Joseph so impressed the Pharaoh that he was released, elevated to  2nd in the land and basically not only saved all of Egypt from the ensuing famine, but “as fate would have it,” also his own family.

Speaking of which, those brothers who so altered Joseph’s pleasant life all those years ago – the brothers responsible for his slavery, the brothers whose actions led to his imprisonment – yeah, they showed up on his doorstep in need of a favor. They were starving because of the famine and needed help. They didn’t recognize their brother, but their brother sure did recognize them. And the emotion of all of his years of slavery and imprisonment seemed to wash over him when he stood face-to-face with them. He wasn’t sure what he felt toward his brothers and continued to struggle with his emotional reaction to them after so many years after their hurting him until he realized

“…it was not you who sent me here, but God.”           Gen. 45:8

It seems at that very moment the Tetris pieces fell into place in Joseph’s heart. He realized that it wasn’t his brothers after all who had sent him to Egypt so many years earlier when they exchanged his freedom for slavery, pocketing the coins. In His sovereignty, God had orchestrated it all

“…for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life!”    Gen. 45:5

Ponder this.

Joseph wasn’t delivered from the prison of his own bitterness until he realized every event, every wrong done toward him was a part of his sovereign God’s plan for him. And God’s plan was bigger than Joseph’s feelings or comfort level or preference in the matter. When he shifted his perspective from horizontal to vertical – when he quit glancing to and fro at the hurt inflicted upon him by his brothers and instead focused his gaze on God – that was the moment he was truly set free.

“The Messiah has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. So keep on standing firm in it, and stop putting yourselves under the yoke of slavery again.” Gal. 5:1

Are you in a prison of your own bitterness toward someone who has hurt you? Perhaps a family member, coworker, neighbor or longtime friend has wounded you? What do you feel the Lord saying to you today in light of Joseph’s life?


I’m embracing feedback this year, so please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent. I want to hear from you!

Technically Speaking


I wonder how often I blunder God’s plans and He graciously intervenes. I imagine its way more than I would think – and I think it would be a lot.

I’m “feeling” Abraham this morning (Genesis 20). Maybe a little too easily. Abraham got off on a technicality. Technically speaking, Sarah was Abraham’s sister. They had the same father, but different mothers (Gen. 20:12). He didn’t lie. He technically told the truth. He just didn’t tell the truth in it’s entirety.

And because he skirted the whole truth, it almost cost someone else their life. Wait, not just someone, but a LOT of someones. That’s because…

Sin always comes at a price.

Abraham spoke a half-truth hastily out of fear (Gen. 20:11) and the consequences of that sin would have cost others the ultimate price, except…

God is a God of Grace.

On the other side of the equation was Abimelech and his people. We’re not told much about them other than Abraham didn’t see a fear of God in his land. In today’s culture, people are quick to point out God’s justice (or His perceived injustice) when sin comes to collect. I fall prey to that head-scratching theology sometimes myself. But here, in the first book of the Bible, only 20 chapters in, we see God protecting – not just His children (Abraham, Sarah), but those caught in the crosshairs of His children’s sin (Abimelech, his people).

Some Points to Ponder

What role does the nature of “technicalities” play in our own lives when it comes to speaking the truth (the whole truth)? Do you see any possible consequences (to ourselves? to others?) when we let ourselves off on technicalities?


I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m embracing feedback in 2018, so please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent.

The Good News

As the accuser, the enemy of my soul is continually at work chipping away at my identity in Christ. He accuses me of how I never change; how wretched I am; how far I fall short…and he is right – I am and I do!

My performance, however, doesn’t make God’s Word about me, His love for me or what He has done on my behalf more or less powerful. It isn’t based on ME – my ability to live up to a standard, to do “this or that,” to achieve a certain level of performance or perfection. He came to seek and to save the lost! And I qualify!

THIS is Good News!

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Angels & Shepherds, the Expressive Ones

imagesRead Luke 2:1-20.

We live in a “PC” world. Oftener and oftener the Christian’s worldview is shushed in deference to the agenda of the moment. My husband and I were talking just this week about the big divide we’ve seen this holiday season. Currently there is a media-driven rebellion against wishing someone a “Merry Christmas,” even though the malls are packed with Christmas shoppers and Amazon is busily delivering packages in time for Christmas morning. “Happy Holidays” is the new trend and to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” is unbelievably considered offensive.

The thing is, what is considered “PC” is ever-changing. It’s tough to keep your finger on the popular pulse at any given moment these days. I think that’s why the response of both the angels and the shepherds of the nativity stand out to me so much this year in particular –

Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”  vv 13-14

the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. v 20

These last few days of the season, I want to challenge myself to live expressively in light of Emmanuel (“God with us”), the One for whom Christmas was named. I want to live uncensored in my praise of Him. I want my words and actions to express my beliefs. Like the angels and shepherds, I want glorify Him in an expressive way, that those around me may know the reason for the season by what I say and do.

On that note, I wish each of you a heartfelt Merry Christmas!

Action Items

I took a personality profile in college that pegged me as a “doer.” This wasn’t news to me, or anyone that knew me. I am an “action-y” person. I get things done. I don’t let dust settle on me, as the saying goes. I think I have viewed my walk with God through the doer’s personality lens. Working on my faith has always been another thing on my to-do list, until I came across this beautiful truth tucked into the first part of Hebrews 12 – Jesus (not myself) is the Perfecter of my faith.

Fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:2

According to this verse, my part is to fix my eyes on Jesus. That’s my sole action item. His part is to begin, continue and finish my faith. I had never before thought that anyone other than myself was in charge of my faith! Other Scripture backs this up – He is the Potter; I am the clay. He does the filling; I get filled. He is the Vinedresser; I am the branch. Just like so many times in my walk with God, another piece of the puzzle slipped into place. Perfecting my faith? That’s His action item.

PONDER: Have you assumed you were the perfecter of your faith? How does this verse change your perspective?

PRAYER: Father, thank You that your yoke is easy and your burden is light! Forgive me when I take Your job of perfecting my faith into my own hands. I realize now that I have a lifelong habit of attempting to do Your job for You. Help me instead to keep my eyes fixed on You while You continue and finish what You have started.

More Like Mary

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Mary (left) and Laura, Season 1 of Little House on the Prairie

Growing up, Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite t.v. shows. I could relate to Laura as someone who struggled to do the right thing when her feelings tempted her to do the opposite. One such example was from the first season. Laura and Mary had just experienced the first of many unpleasant interactions with nasty Nellie Olsen. Sitting on the stairs of the mercantile, Mary commented to Laura that she could never be as mean as Nellie.

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I confess – I loved this scened. Oh, Nelly!

Laura’s unforgettable reply was, “I could, if Ma and Pa would let me.” As she lived with her beloved parents’ daily influence, they molded Laura’s actions and reactions. In the same way, we have God’s Holy Spirit living within us.

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. – Ezekiel 36:27

His Spirit is constantly available to influence the choices we make and daily mold our actions and reactions, as well. While our feelings may echo Laura’s sentiment, with the Holy Spirit on duty within our hearts, our reactions can be more like Mary’s.

PONDER: In what situation are you most tempted to react in your flesh? Choose to submit your will unto God’s, allowing the Holy Spirit to mold your actions & reactions.

PRAYER: Father, I confess that my actions and reactions are more in line with Laura’s. Help me to be more like Mary, slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit living within me, teaching and guiding and directing me as I walk with You.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 4

This week, let’s implement yet another new pattern of prayer – The T.R.I.P. Method. This seemed like an abbreviated pattern very similar to last week’s P.A.R.T.S. pattern. Like the P.R.A.I.S.E. method, I enjoyed starting my time with God thanking Him for what He has already done. It positioned my heart for the next section, which is perhaps what I appreciated most about this particular pattern of prayer – the section on “regrets.” That is a category that I can relate to! Unlike “repentance,” regrets encompasses mess-ups that don’t stem from intentionality, but burden me, keeping me stuck in those moments. I appreciated this new aspect of talking through the times during the day that I missed the mark. It was unburdening to approach the Lord with these burdens, gratefully dumping them at His feet and being able to move forward – both in prayer and with my day. I feel that beginning with those two prepared my heart to intercede, praying for His will more than my own. And then ending by praising Him for His answers, whatever they will be.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 3

This week, let’s have our prayers focus on the P.A.R.T.S pattern, another new pattern of prayer for me. This prayer pattern didn’t flow for me as easily as the P.R.A.I.S.E. pattern did, but I appreciated the addition of “repentance,” as that is one area that I tend to forget amongst all the needs I find myself praying for more often. I also liked the “sharing” addition, as too often I keep my prayer & devotional life private. It challenged me to open up more with people and share what the Lord was actively teaching me and I needed that.

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A Time to Trust

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When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move;
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through;
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You –
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

Trust In You by Lauren Daigle

Oh my. This song has reverberated through my mind several times a day, every day, for several weeks now. I relate too-readily with the sentiment in the chorus. My heart is too ready to wallow in the feeling of God’s abandonment when anything is too tough or too long or too unpleasant or too uncomfortable.

Do I trust in Him when He doesn’t move the mountain in front of me? When He holds out His hand, offering instead to walk with me over the mountain, guiding me, helping me, do I eagerly take it or do I cross my arms and walk off in a huff, agitated and resentful?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t part the waters I wish I could walk through? When His wisdom dictates a more difficult or seemingly perilous route, do I drop to my knees – not in worship, but in a tantrum of two-year-old proportions?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t give me the answers as I cry out to Him? When He lovingly answers instead, “wait,” do I accept that as an answer or rebel against His not performing on cue?

Because that’s what is at the heart of this ongoing issue of trust I continually struggle with – believing He knows best when it conflicts with what I think I know is best. Trusting His plan when it doesn’t match mine. Surrendering to His will instead of arrogantly clinging to my own.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

PONDER: What mountains or waters or questions are you facing right now about which God is asking you to walk with Him in trust?