Monday, January 21, 2013

A Thousand Different Things

In the new devotional A Quiet Place, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, the Bible teacher quotes this John Piper statement:
In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know (January 8).
 Every situation. Always. A thousand different things.

For some reason, this reminded me of an illustration the late Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of German concentration camps in World War II, used to use. She would hold up a piece of cloth covered with snarls and knots and criss-crosses and weavings in of thread of various colors. This, she said, was what life often looked like to us. What a mess. What chaos. The embroiderer clearly did not know her craft very well, did she?

Then Miss ten Boom would turn the fabric over to reveal a glorious golden cross wreathed in jewel-toned flowers. The reason it all looked a mess before, she would say, is that we were looking at the wrong side. And so it is with life. When things look to be a mess, chaos, the catastrophic creation of fumbling fingers, it's because we are looking at the wrong side. One day we will see things aright, and we will see the glory all those snarls and knots and doublings back have woven together.

What difference would it make in my present circumstances and in my feelings for the distress of loved ones if I believed to the marrow of my bones that the apparent mess means God is at work doing something glorious? What difference would it make if I had full confidence in the goodness of the God who is "always doing a thousand different things that [I] cannot see and [I] do not know" in the boundaries, trials, opportunities, and gifts I face today?

Did Joseph, whose story I finished reading today, have an inkling of the thousand different things God was doing in his life when his brothers threw him in a pit; stole, shredded, and bloodied his splendid robe; sold him to Midianite traders; and passed him off to his father as dead? Did he know he was looking at the wrong side of the cloth?

By the end of his life, he at least knew that his brothers were merely the instruments God used to send him ahead to Egypt to preserve many people alive (Gen. 50:20). The Lord had plans for a famine in the land promised to the patriarchs, and they would need someplace with food where they could wait out the hard times. The famine would be so widespread that only giving the greatest ruler in the world at that time advanced notice to fill his storehouses would ensure food for His people.

So He sent Joseph, the "lord of the dreams," as his brothers called him, ahead. He was in the right place at the right time to interpret Pharaoh's prophetic dreams because he was in the dungeon at the right time to interpret two of his servants' dreams. He was in the dungeon at the right time for that because he was falsely accused by his employer's wife. He was working for this boss to begin with because the Midianite traders had sold him into slavery there. The traders sold him there because his envious brothers had sold him for the price of a slave. Ergo, as Joseph reasons, "God sent him to preserve many people alive."

What we can also see (that Joseph perhaps couldn't) is that during all those delays and difficulties between Joseph's own prophetic dreams and the fulfillment of those dreams when his family bows down to him in Egypt, "Until the time that his word came to pass,/The word of the Lord tested him" (Psalm 105:19). Some have also seen in the story a foreshadowing of Another who would suffer unjustly for the eternal salvation of many. And who knows what fruit came of the other slaves and prisoners watching on in amazement as everything this Joseph touched turned to gold (or grain, which is sometimes more to the point)?

Those are no small gleams of glory from this one story. "A thousand different things"? It boggles the mind. As Elisabeth Elliot's second husband used to say, "You can't unscrew the inscrutable."

The devotional entry which began with the Piper quote concludes with this paragraph:
You will never be able to fully fathom what God is doing in your life. You cannot possibly see the end or the outcome of each situation. Not yet anyway. But you can be sure that He knows what He is doing. He is God and He is working--purposefully, skillfully, lovingly. And one day when you look back on your journey from heaven's perspective, you will see His hand in all those inexplicable circumstances, and you will say with wonder and worship: "You have done all things well!" Count on it.

Lord, mark our lives indelibly with Your unique fingerprints, that the world may know that You are with us. While we wait beneath the wrong side of the fabric, strengthen us to keep trusting that You are doing a thousand different things in our circumstances, and that those things are for our good, Your glory, and others' gain, because of our most glorious Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thanks be to God for some of His (ten) thousand gifts I can recognize now:
God's beautiful masterpieces in His children's lives :: Joseph's story (Gen. 37-50) :: "endurance and encouragement from the Scriptures, that we might have hope (Rom. 15:4) :: more x-rays confirmed no ankle fracture :: a friend's father-in-law's extreme suffering is over :: attending Bible study for the second week of this new session :: lunch with a friend afterward :: her daughter most unimpressed with me :: another session of physical therapy beginning Friday :: grace for a scheduling misunderstanding :: Panera salad afterward :: Google chat with a long-time friend :: strength to work hard Saturday on shopping and food preparation :: husband's hard work cleaning up the mess the live oak made in front of the house :: persevering in exercises old and new :: empathy with sister who injured her own ankle before Thanksgiving and has not healed any faster than I have :: grace for all the things left undone at the end of each day (including comments and e-mail replies to no few of you) :: two more verses of Ephesians learned
(gratitude journal #8890-8907)


1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful illustration for Corrie Ten Boom. I've never read her story, but I've always intended to. I know she is an inspiration to many people, and how could she not be? The story of Joseph always inspires me too. Thank you for your prayers about all things dreamy, too. It means so much to know I'm not alone as I step out in faith. So many blessings to you.


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