In life and leading there are so many factors and forces at work that it is impossible to for us to control everything that is happening. As a leader, this is frustrating because at some level we all want to be in control. Control, as my pastor and friend Perry Noble says often, is an illusion. We will never be in control, but fortunately for all of us Someone is.
The God of the bible shows Himself in complete control of all things and all people at all times. Our inability to fully understand this is softened by the fact that though its a hard concept to grasp, He does let us know the purpose behind it. Romans 8:28 tells us that ultimately God is shaping all things for our good and His glory.
Even if we can find faith in the promise that Romans 8:28 offers, it doesn’t change the fact that we will face difficult circumstances that seem to be telling a different story. So, what can we do if we find ourselves in difficult circumstances that knock us off course or seem to be setting us back? The story of Joseph, found in the book of Genesis, gives us some insight.
Joseph was his dad’s favorite and because of this his brothers didn’t like him very much. Joseph didn’t help his situation very much because he knew he was his dad’s favorite and wasn’t shy about letting his brothers know this. Eventually his brothers have enough and sell Joseph into slavery. Not exactly what Joseph would have planned for himself, but we see this statement throughout the life of Joseph, “The Lord was with him”.
Somewhere along the way from being sold into slavery to working for a man named Potiphar, Joseph must have decided to make the most of whatever situation he was put in. Potiphar quickly put him in charge of his whole estate and things were looking up, until Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attacking her. Joseph is then sent to prison.
Once in prison, Joseph makes the most of that situation and is put in charge of all the prisoners. While there he correctly interprets some fellow inmates dreams which eventually put him in front of Pharaoh to interpret his dream. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he puts him in charge and Joseph leads Egypt through a terrible time of famine.
In the meantime, Joseph’s family needs some help and they come to Egypt seeking food. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph is in charge of dispersing the food. In time, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, meets their needs and actually sets up his whole family to not just survive, but thrive. In doing so, Joseph didn’t just provide for his family, he also provided for us by keeping his brother Judah alive which eventually led to the messiah’s birth.
In Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph says to his brothers (the ones that sent his life on an tough and unpredictable journey), “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” In saying this Joseph reveals that he now understands why things didn’t always go the way he would have wanted. There was a bigger plan and a greater purpose taking place in his life. Essentially, Joseph is saying that even though he wasn’t in control and would have preferred a different route, Someone was always in control for the greater good.
How often do we find ourselves in circumstances that we would rather not be in? How often to we want to focus on ourselves and fail to see that something greater is happening? How could our lives be improved if we simply took our focus off the story and put them on the Story Teller? What if we began to take what is happening and where we are and then do all we can to make it better than we found it (or than when it found us)?
God is always at work making things better for us and often its also for the people around us. If we begin to live like that is really true and begin to work to make things better, then I just believe that at some point we’ll be able to both see and say, “God intended this for good.”
So what can we do when we find ourselves in circumstances that seem out of control? We can do what Joseph did and use our gifts to start making the place we find ourselves in better. We can do this knowing the Lord is with us and by trusting in His promise to eventually make it good.