|Photo courtesy of liesmich|
I don't think I would be telling you anything new if I were to say that we live in a world that is increasingly dark, dangerous and evil. Despite the claims of some that say we, as a human race, are evolving into a better and better race, the evidence to the contrary seems to be overwhelming. Though some say that humans have been around for several hundred thousand years we are still dealing with the same vices and social misconduct that has been occurring since the beginning of recorded history. Each and every day the drama of Cain and Abel is played out on the news right before our very eyes. One thing is very clear to me, and that is the truth of an elderly King Solomon's words that there is "nothing new under the sun."
For many of us tragedy and heartache does not come in forms that are "newsworthy" by the world's standards. Most of us, if we have traveled around the sun more than two or three times, have experienced disappointment on one level or another and have come face to face with the darkness that this world has to offer. A large number of men and women have experienced, firsthand, the vileness of war and the killing fields of Europe, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other unnamed theaters of combat. Nearly everyone has been touched by the awful disease of cancer. Most have lost loved ones, and if we haven't, we surely will someday. It is no wonder that many...too many... people decide that the difficulties of this life are not worth the effort and choose death as a viable alternative.
My dear readers, how ever many or few you may be, I want you to rest assured today that God's Word is clear that as long as humanity survives in this world there will be sadness, heartache, death and tragedy. Unfortunately, this is the result of the choice we have made to follow our own selfish desires instead of God's commands. Human suffering in this life is a result of our own choices and the activity of evil forces lead by Satan.
Now, having painted a rather grim picture I want to offer you the beautiful "other side of the coin." After God placed humanity on this earth and we subsequently rejected His will and ways, He could have done what most of us would have done...given up on us. Thank goodness He didn't. Despite our rejection and arrogant demands that we do things our way, God has not given up on us. You see, one of the most powerful truths of Scripture is that God can redeem any situation for His purposes. There is nothing, or no one, beyond His expansive reach of grace and mercy.
In the passage exemplified by the verse above, Joseph acknowledges that his brothers sought to do something evil to him. That is, they were jealous of his favored position in the family so they sold him into slavery and told his father, Jacob, that he was dead. The only shred of compassion that we see in the brothers comes from Judah who suggested they make a profit off of their brother and sell him rather than kill him. Their act of jealousy was purely evil. However, God was not satisfied to stand by and allow their evil intentions to go unchecked. Instead, God used their evil act to do something great for His people, namely situate Joseph in a position that would lead to the provision of His people in their time of great need. What they meant for evil, God intended to use for good. He redeemed a bad situation.
This is still one of the most glorious ways in which God acts in this world. In spite of so much evil and darkness we can still, if we are willing to look hard enough and long enough, see God's hand at work. The most amazing example of this truth is seen in God's plan for the redemption of mankind from our sins. What happened to Christ on the cross was an unadulterated act of evil. Up to that point man's evil actions were typically directed towards other men and God's messengers (think about the prophets). That day, from the Garden of Gethsemane to the hill of Golgotha, man's evil was directed at God Himself and His one and only Son. Then, just as man and Satan thought they had achieved a measure of victory over this pesky God, Christ lifted His eyes to the heavens and proclaimed, "It is finished." Three days later, just in case there was any doubt about the real victor in this situation, Christ arose victoriously from the grave defeating even death. God Almighty had redeemed the human race by redeeming an awful means of torture and execution. Today when we see the cross we are far more likely to associate it with the salvation that God offers us than with a cruel instrument of death. From that day forward the cross would never be the same and neither would humanity.
While we should never loose sight of the gruesome beauty of the cross we must also understand that God is still doing the same thing today. His ultimate work of redemption may have reached it's zenith on Calvary but He didn't just quit. Evil men and evil forces of Satan may have evil intentions but God can still turn them on their heads and use them for good. It is as if God looks down and says, "You think you are going to win. You think you're going to thwart my work in this world but watch this!" The grave mistake that many people make is that they believe that God and Satan are co-equal but opposite forces. This could not be further from the truth. There is no yin and yang. The power of God is not subject to the laws of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. God is so vastly superior to Satan that the two should not even be thought of as similar in any form or fashion.
I don't want the immensity of this truth to escape you. Every murder that is committed, God can redeem somehow. Every diagnosis of disease, God can redeem. Every broken relationship, God can redeem. Every war, tragedy, and evil action, God can redeem! Let me offer an example. When I was very young my parents separated and ultimately divorced. This was a horrible blow to our family as it would be to any family. However, despite that tragic situation God still worked among the members of my family and redeemed it for His purposes and glory. Because of that divorce I have been blessed with three step-sisters, two additional parents and three additional grandparents. That is not to mention the opportunities that I have had as a result of the break and re-formation of what I now call my family. My suspicion is that each of us can find similar examples in our own lives and this is one of the most breath-taking parts of God's work in our world. There is no evil or tragedy that God cannot overcome and use, none, period, end of story.
As rough as our world is and as much suffering as we encounter it will never be enough to overshadow the limitless power of God to work things out for the good of those who love Him. That is the power of the Gospel that we can see, very vividly, in this life. Take heart, because the talking-heads on the news may not know what we know. Shoot! They may not know who we know. Those who say we have no hope are countered by the Living Hope that we have in a resurrected, glorified and active Savior.