Posted: 9/26/15 at 8:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Do you remember a day that began with you being behind schedule? And no matter what you did to try to get back on schedule, things mitigated against it? It happened to me just yesterday. I was on my way to Richmond to be at the hospital for someone having surgery and the trip has begun later than I had planned. Then I lost time waiting for a bridge to open.
Next, while traveling on a very narrow section of road, I encountered road work. It was only about a two mile construction zone, but the pilot car kept stopping, and the driver would have long, jovial conversations with various members of the road crew, not once, but four times.
With every unplanned and seemingly unnecessary delay, the pressure within me mounted. It took almost forty minutes to go less than two miles. Of course this sort of thing never happens to you, right?
Later that evening, I saw a video of a man in another country who was walking along a street and apparently stepped in some gum on the street. He stopped, lifted his foot up to look at the gooey substance on his shoe, bending his body in the process.
At that very moment a huge sheet of glass fell from above, and crashed like a guillotine less than a foot in front of him. The force of the shattering glass knocked him backwards. While the gum had been an interruption and unpleasant frustration, stepping in the gum and then pausing to look at his shoe, likely saved his life.
So you just never know if an interruption, or perhaps multiple interruptions that happen in succession, are not in reality God’s divine intervention to prevent you from being at the wrong place at the time of a catastrophe.
My wife often reminds me when unforeseen events disrupt my travels it might really be God’s mercy, slowing me down so I am not at an intersection when an accident occurs. We have seen this happen many times, when we come upon an accident that could have involved us if we had not been delayed by a few brief unexpected delays.
A historical illustration of this can be found in the life of Joseph, recorded in Genesis 37-50, although his setbacks continued for many years before his situation turned around. Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons of Jacob. He was going to be used by God as the person through whom God would save Jacob and his ancestors during a seven-year famine.
Joseph had a dream that the rest of the family would one day bow before him. The brothers didn’t like that, and did what they could to make sure it didn’t happen. They thought of killing Joseph, but instead sold him to slave runners heading for Egypt.
His situation was bad, but it put him in the country he needed to be in to fulfill God’s purposes. He would get ahead, then have setbacks. He excelled in leadership and integrity, but was imprisoned on false charges. He helped others and then they would forget what they promised to do to repay his kindness to them.
You will have to read the whole story in the Bible, but in the end Joseph becomes the second highest official in Egypt. He leads the country to store up food during good years so they won’t go hungry during the famine. God used him to provide life and security to the brothers who had betrayed him, when they came to Egypt asking for help.
When the brothers discover that the Egyptian leader who is saving them is actually the brother whom they betrayed, they bow before him and ask for mercy. When all these events came together, Joseph weeps, forgives them, and tells them that God used what had happened to get Joseph into a position where God could preserve the family.
In Genesis 50:20 (ESV) Joseph sums it all up in this wonderful statement to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Some of you are experiencing horrendous setbacks. Some have been betrayed by friends. Some may just be having a bad day, or delays in carrying out your plans. The encouragement to all of us is that we never know how God is at work in the things happening to us right now.
But be encouraged. God is at work in our lives and situations, and God is working for some overall good in our lives through these events.