The Gift of Difficulties

There’s something very special about a godly man or woman that I believe thrills God’s heart.  After all, He did make us in His own image.  Adam and Eve were created to have intimate fellowship with God.

Psalm 4:3 tells us how God feels about a person who commits himself to a life of obedience to God:  But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself.  He is “set apart” by God, for God Himself.  God says, “This one is mine.”

When God sets you apart, it’s not just a title.  We are set apart for a purpose, and God uses both godly men and women to accomplish His sovereign plans.  And let’s be real –God’s plans often cause us pain!  This path of total commitment to our Master, Lord, and Savior is not an easy path.  It leads through dark and difficult days, when the path grows dim.  But it is those times that His Word truly becomes a light to our path – giving us just enough faith, just enough light, and just enough joy to keep walking.

How does a godly man or woman respond to difficult circumstances?

Joseph is a perfect example, especially now during Christmas, as we are all focused on the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Matthew 1:18-15 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Joseph woke up one day to find his whole world upside down.  All the plans he had made – to be married to a godly young woman, establish his home, and create a family – were in jeopardy.  His reputation was at stake.  His livelihood was at stake.  And the very life of the girl he loved was at stake!  What would he do?

What the world says is a tragedy or a betrayal may be God at work to bring an unbelievable blessing into our life!

The challenge for a godly man (or woman) is to ask God how to respond.

Joseph’s godly character and his corresponding actions give us great insight.  What can we learn from how he responded that will help us face our own tragedy, betrayal or disappointment?  Here are seven simple principles to guide the godly man or woman in troubling times.

#1 – Ask the question, “What will honor God in this situation?”

Joseph was a righteous man.  Some translations use the word “just” to describe Joseph.  It describes a person whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life (Blue Letter Bible).  Joseph was more concerned about doing the right thing that honored God, than he was about his own reputation or feelings.

#2 – Choose the path that avoids bringing hurt, embarrassment, or disgrace on others.

Joseph had the right to have Mary stoned, but even before the angel told him what God was doing in their life, he chose the path of kindness.  When tragedy or betrayal happens to us, we must stop and think about how our reactions will affect the others involved.

#3 – Find out what God says, and listen.

Joseph received clear direction from God through the message of the angel.  While God can still speak through angels, we don’t have to wait for a heavenly visitor.  We have His Word in written form, and it contains every bit of wisdom we need.  We just need to hear it, or in our case, read it!

#4 – Don’t be afraid.

Joseph’s life was turned completely upside down.  This situation was out of his control.  No one was going to believe his story.  God knew this.  The angel’s message was clear: Do not be afraid.  Afraid of what?  Afraid of obedience!  When you know the right thing to do, even when it’s scary, do it!

#5 – Have faith, even when it’s illogical.

The angel’s message was completely illogical by human standards.  But Joseph chose to believe, knowing that God could do the impossible.  He had the word of the prophets to rely on, and when viewed through eyes of faith, it made perfect sense.  What God had promised had now come true.  When it seems impossible, that’s when God does His best work!

#6 – Risk your reputation.

Joseph had two options.  Claim his own innocence, disgrace Mary and have her stoned, thus saving his own reputation.  Or, believe the unbelievable and take Mary’s disgrace as his own, and risk his standing in the community, as well as his ability to provide for his family.  He chose to lay aside his own reputation.  Hmmm…that sounds familiar.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did when He came into our world (see Philippians 2)?  We should care less about what the world thinks of us, and more about pleasing our Father.

#7 – Set aside your own feelings, needs, or rights.

Even after Joseph took the giant step of faith and married Mary, he set aside his own rights as a husband until the baby was born.  He knew what was at stake.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, by-passing the sinful nature of men.  Joseph wanted there to be no doubt that this Child was the Son of God, and was willing to give up his own rights to protect the reputation of both Mary and the Child.  Real love for God overrides our own self-love.

Think about this.

The troubles and difficulties that God allows into our life are often just the wrapping paper.  The real gift is inside.

The gift of faith.

The gift of joy.

The gift of perseverance.

The gift of seeing God do the impossible.

The gift of a changed heart.

The gift of intimacy with God.

The gift of spiritual growth.

The gift of Christlikeness.

The gift of Himself.

When trouble comes, will you throw the gift away, or let God lead you through it, to the blessing that He has planned for you? Joseph chose to open his gift of tragedy, trusting God for the outcome.  As a result, he spent his life in the presence of the Son of God.  Now that’s Christmas.

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