“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26-27.
Maybe you are in a job (or lacking a job) and are dejected. Perhaps your misery stems from the relationship you are in (or not in). Or maybe it comes from relocation to a new area and having to leave your friends (or perhaps you wish you could escape your family and social circles). Then again, it is possible you feel like you are drowning in an almost inexplicable loneliness and emptiness; you have this nagging sense that your life matters not. You are depressed. You are living a life of quiet desperation.
I don’t know the reasons, but I do know what it is like to feel miserable because of less than ideal circumstances. What’s worse is feeling despondent when you are convinced that you are exactly where God has placed your for now.
Several years ago I worked in a place where I was miserable. I loved my job; but gloom and negativity seemed to reside in my work environment and have a stranglehold on my coworkers. I tried to overcome evil with gospel good, but it seemed like I was fighting a losing battle. For a very long time I cried every day after work. I begged God to give me another job. But he didn’t right away. I couldn’t understand it. I was right where God wanted me and I was obeying Jesus–so what was the problem? Was it that I just worked in really good places before?
There is much more to this story but I don’t think this is the place to flesh it out. However, I realized that if God had me there, then I was going to have to make the best of it and depend on Christ and his body to uphold me as I went to work every day (or perhaps I should say, as I entered a spiritual battle every day). Over and over again at that time, I read the story of Joseph’s life and found great comfort (I’ve written about that elsewhere on this site). Joseph tremendously suffered many injustices. For some reason, God didn’t immediately remove him from his suffering.
But he was to be the person God called him to be within his prison cell–within captivity. This reminds me of the story of King Midas who possessed the golden touch–whatever he touched turned to gold. While in the story, this proves to be a curse, I can’t help but think about how whatever Joseph’s life touched prospered and what life would be like if everything and everyone touched by the lives of Jesus’ followers prospered (not necessarily or even financially). It’s not a direct parallel, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.
Joseph was a blessing to all those who crossed his path. And of course Jesus was although he suffered like none other and because of us! But if we are sure God has placed us where we are, isn’t it to be a blessing to others and to him–sort of like Abraham the great Patriarch? Can not the power of the Holy Spirit give us the strength and love and the manna we need for each new day as we live within the Christian community?
We are blessed by God to be a blessing to others, to everything and everyone our lives touch.
Again, though life is not free of difficulties nor unforeseen tragedies, can we not bless everything we touch with our lives because we follow Jesus? As Acts 17:26-27 tell us, God has marked out our times and places in history, the very place we find ourselves in right now (I am not talking about abusive situations) so that we would seek him and find him. And I believe this is the case so that we might be a blessing to others.
God is using these situations and circumstances we find ourselves in, hard though they may be, to make us like Jesus. He desires that we be transformed from the inside out into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). And in that we can rejoice (see James 1).
Could it be that he turns this barren and depressing wilderness land we find ourselves in into an oasis? Can he not bring forth streams in the desert (Isaiah 35)? I think so. I believe so. He has done so for me innumerable times in my life, even in the situation mentioned above.
Maybe he is going to use us to cultivate a garden in the barren land we now find ourselves in–right in this very spot. As we take our cue from him and joyfully follow him (obey him) it will transpire. Perhaps we will see seeds sprout sooner than we imagined. May we ask for eyes to see!
God wants us to trust him so that we can flourish where we are planted…so that everything our lives touch is blessed. In turn, we will be blessed in ways we cannot right now imagine. Isn’t interesting how God used Joseph’s captivity to bless him?
With Dallas Willard I say:
“First we must accept the circusmtances we constantly find oursleves in as the place of God’s kingdom and blessing. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being ‘right,’ we will have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.”
Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering the Hidden Life in God. pp.348-349