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GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Max Lucado
All rights reserved.
GOD CARRIES US THROUGH
You'll get through this.
You fear you won't. We all do. We fear that the depression will never lift, the yelling will never stop, the pain will never leave.... We wonder: Will this gray sky ever brighten? This load ever lighten? We feel stuck, trapped, locked in. Predestined for failure. Will we ever exit this pit?
Deliverance is to the Bible what jazz music is to Mardi
Gras—bold, brassy, and everywhere. Deliverance:
out of the lion's den for Daniel, the prison for Peter, the whale's belly for Jonah, Goliath's shadow for David, the storm for the disciples, disease for the lepers, doubt for Thomas, the grave for Lazarus, and the shackles for Paul.
God carries us through stuff:
through the Red Sea onto dry ground (Exodus 14:22), through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5), through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), and through the deep sea (Psalm 77:19).
Through is a favorite word of God's:
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV)
It won't be painless.
Have you wept your final tear or received your last round of chemotherapy? Not necessarily. Will your unhappy marriage become happy in a heartbeat? Not likely....
Does God guarantee the absence of struggle and the abundance of strength? Not in this life. But he does pledge to reweave your pain for a higher purpose.
It won't be quick.
Joseph was seventeen years old when his brothers abandoned him. He was at least thirty-seven when he saw them again. Another couple of years passed before he saw his father.
Sometimes God takes his time:
one hundred twenty years to prepare Noah for the flood; eighty years to prepare Moses for his work.
God called young David to be king but returned him to the sheep pasture. He called Paul to be an apostle and then isolated him in Arabia for perhaps three years. Jesus was on the earth for three decades before he built anything other than a kitchen table. How long will God take with you? He may take his time. His history is redeemed not in minutes but in lifetimes.
But God will use your mess for good.
We see Satan's tricks and ploys. God sees Satan tripped and foiled.
Let me be clear ... You represent a challenge to Satan's plan. You carry something of God within you, something noble and holy, something the world needs—wisdom, kindness, mercy, skill. If Satan can neutralize you, he can mute your influence.
What Satan intends for evil, God, the Master Weaver and Master Builder, redeems for good.
The story of Joseph is in the Bible for this reason: to teach us to trust God to trump evil.
* * *
Good days. Bad days. God is in all days.
* * *
I look up to the hills, but where does my help come from? My help comes from the lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let you be defeated. He who guards you never sleeps. * As the mountains surround Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds his people now and forever. * You are my help. Because of your protection, I sing. * Our help comes from the lord, who made heaven and earth.
PSALM 121:1–3; PSALM 125:2; PSALM 63:7; PSALM 124:8
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF TOUGH TIMES
So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat a meal.
GENESIS 37:23–25 NKJV
It was an abandoned cistern. Jagged rocks and roots extended from its side. The seventeen-year-old boy lay at the bottom. At least he looked to be a boy: downy beard, spindly arms and legs. His hands were bound, ankles tied. He lay on his side, knees to chest, cramped in the small space. The sand was wet with spittle where he had drooled. His eyes were wide with fear. His voice was hoarse from screaming. It wasn't that his brothers didn't hear him. Twenty-two years later, when a famine had tamed their swagger and guilt had dampened their pride, they would confess, "We saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear" (Genesis 42:21 NKJV).
Joseph didn't see this assault coming. He didn't climb out of bed that morning and think, I'd better dress in padded clothing because this is the day I get tossed in a hole. The attack caught him off guard.
So did yours. Joseph's pit came in the form of a cistern. Maybe yours came in the form of a diagnosis, a foster home, or a traumatic injury. Joseph was thrown into a hole and despised. And you? Thrown into an unemployment line and forgotten. Thrown into a divorce and abandoned, into a bed and abused. The pit. A kind of death, waterless and austere. Some people never recover. Life is reduced to one quest: get out and never be hurt again. Not simply done. Pits have no easy exits.
Joseph's story got worse before it got better. Abandonment led to enslavement, entrapment, and finally imprisonment. He was sucker punched. Sold out. Mistreated. People made promises only to break them, offered gifts only to take them. If hurt were a swampland, then Joseph was sentenced to a life of hard labor in the Everglades.
Yet he never gave up. Bitterness never staked its claim. Anger never metastasized into hatred. His heart never hardened; his resolve never vanished. He not only survived; he thrived. He ascended like a helium balloon. An Egyptian official promoted him to chief servant. The prison warden placed Joseph over the inmates. And Pharaoh, the highest ruler on the planet, shoulder-tapped Joseph to serve as his prime minister. By the end of his life, Joseph was the second most powerful man of his generation. It is not hyperbole to state that he saved the world from starvation.
How did he flourish in the midst of tragedy? We don't have to speculate. Some twenty years later the roles were reversed, Joseph the strong one and his brothers the weak ones. They came to him in dread. They feared he would settle the score and throw them into a pit of his own making. But Joseph didn't. And in his explanation we find his inspiration:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20 NASB)
In God's hands intended evil becomes eventual good.
Joseph tied himself to the pillar of this promise and held on for dear life. Nothing in his story glosses over the presence of evil. Quite the contrary. Bloodstains and tearstains are everywhere. Joseph's heart was rubbed raw against the rocks of disloyalty and miscarried justice. Yet time and time again God redeemed the pain. The torn robe became a royal one. The pit became a palace. The broken family grew old together. The very acts intended to destroy God's servant turned out to strengthen him.
"You meant evil against me," Joseph told his brothers, using a Hebrew verb which traces its meaning to "weave" or "plait. "You wove evil," he was saying, "but God rewove it together for good."
God, the Master Weaver. He stretches the yarn and intertwines the colors, the ragged twine with the velvet strings, the pains with the pleasures. Nothing escapes his reach. Every king, despot, weather pattern, and molecule are at his command. He passes the shuttle back and forth across the generations, and as he does, a design emerges. Satan weaves, God reweaves.
And God, the Master Builder. This is the meaning behind Joseph's words "God meant it for good in order to bring about ..." (emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated here as bring about is a construction term. It describes a task or building project akin to the one that I drive through every morning. The state of Texas is rebuilding a highway overpass near my house. Three lanes have been reduced to one, transforming a morning commute into a daily stew. The interstate project, like human history, has been in development since before time began. Cranes daily hover overhead. Workers hold signs and shovels, and several million of us grumble. Well, at least I do. How long is this going to last?
My next-door neighbors have a different attitude toward the project. The husband and his wife are highway engineers, consultants to the Department of Transportation. They endure the same traffic jams and detours as the rest of us but do so with a better attitude. Why? They know how these projects develop. "It will take time," they respond to my grumbles, "but it will get finished. It's doable." They've seen the plans.
By giving us stories like Joseph's, God allows us to study his plans. Such disarray! Brothers dumping brother. Entitlements. Famines and family feuds scattered about like nails and cement bags on a vacant lot. Satan's logic was sinister and simple: destroy the family of Abraham and thereby destroy his seed, Jesus Christ. All of hell, it seems, set its target on Jacob's boys.
But watch the Master Builder at work. He cleared debris, stabilized the structure, and bolted trusses until the chaos of Genesis 37:24 ("They ... cast him into a pit" NKJV) became the triumph of Genesis 50:20 ("life for many people" MSG).
God as Master Weaver, Master Builder. He redeemed the story of Joseph. Can't he redeem your story as well?
* * *
Lord, even when I have trouble all around me, you will keep me alive. When my enemies are angry, you will reach down and save me by your power.
Joseph would be the first to tell you that life in the pit stinks. Yet for all its rottenness, doesn't the pit do this much? It forces you to look upward. Someone from up there must come down here and give you a hand. God did for Joseph. At the right time, in the right way, he will do the same for you.
In Her Own Words: CHARLOTTE'S STORY
For our seventeenth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me tickets to fly to Michigan to spend a week with my aunt and cousin for a "girls shopping" trip, something that I had wanted to do for several years. I flew from Florida to Michigan on our anniversary.
The next morning he dropped off our two daughters (then thirteen and fifteen years old) at church and went to the store, telling them he would be back when they got out. I was out with my cousin, aunt, and uncle when my uncle's phone rang. It was my mom: my husband had fallen, he was in the hospital, and they needed permission to perform emergency brain surgery on him. I called the hospital, gave permission for the surgery, and then rushed to the airport to get home.
God was in full control as I was able to get the next flight from Michigan to Florida. I was actually walking down the hall of the hospital as the doctor was coming out of surgery.
After my husband spent a very long month in ICU, it was clear he would not recover. He was taken off life support, and eleven hours later he joined God's choir. My daughters and I have felt God's presence with us since the minute my husband fell. Our church family had such a great impact on us during and after the ordeal.
I am very blessed to be able to say that since losing their dad, my daughters have also grown in their walk with God. All three of us have graduated from college. My older daughter is married to a wonderful godly man.
Now when I hear someone say, "God will carry you through," I am a true believer. He has brought me through—and continues to bring me through—hard times. The journey has not been easy, and tough situations aren't always resolved quickly. But God is faithful. Just lean on him.
* * *
You'll get through this ...
ONE THING TROUBLES CAN'T TOUCH
DON'T FORGET YOUR DESTINY
If you and I were having this talk over coffee, this is the point where I would lean across the table and say, "What do you still have that you cannot lose?"
The difficulties have taken much away. I get that. But there is one gift your troubles cannot touch. Your destiny. Can we talk about it?
You are God's child.
He saw you, picked you, and placed you. "You did not choose me; I chose you" (John 15:16). Before you are a butcher, baker, or cabinetmaker; male or female; Asian or black, you are God's child. Replacement or fill-in? Hardly. You are his first choice.
Such isn't always the case in life. Once, just minutes before I officiated a wedding, the groom leaned over to me and said, "You weren't my first choice."
"No, the preacher I wanted couldn't make it."
"But thanks for filling in."
"Sure, anytime." I considered signing the marriage license "Substitute."
You'll never hear such words from God. He chose you. The choice wasn't obligatory, required, compulsory, forced, or compelled. He selected you because he wanted to. You are his open, willful, voluntary choice. He walked onto the auction block where you stood, and he proclaimed, "This child is mine." And he bought you "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19 NKJV). You are God's child.
You are God's child forever.
Don't believe the tombstone. You are more than a dash between two dates. Don't get sucked into short-term thinking. Your struggles will not last forever, but you will.
God will have his Eden. He is creating a garden in which Adams and Eves will share in his likeness and love, at peace with each other, animals, and nature. We will rule with him over lands, cities, and nations. "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2:12 NKJV).
Believe this. Clutch it. Tattoo it on the interior of your heart. It may seem that the calamity sucked your life out to sea, but it hasn't. You still have your destiny.
My father had just retired. He and Mom had saved their money and made their plans. They wanted to visit every national park in their travel trailer. Then came the diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), a cruel degenerative disease of the muscles. Within months he was unable to feed, dress, or bathe himself. His world, as he knew it, was gone.
At the time, my wife, Denalyn, and I were preparing to do mission work in Brazil. When we got the news, I offered to change my plans. How could I leave the country while he was dying? dad's reply was immediate and confident. He was not known for his long letters, but this one took up four pages:
In regard to my disease and your going to Rio. That is really an easy answer for me and that is Go ... I have no fear of death or eternity ... so don't be concerned about me. Just Go. Please him.
Dad lost much: his health, retirement, years with his children and grandchildren, years with his wife. The loss was severe, but it wasn't complete.
Several years after dad's death, I received a letter from a woman who remembered him. Ginger was only six years old when her Sunday school class made get-well cards for ailing church members. She created a bright purple card out of construction paper and carefully lined it with stickers. On the inside she wrote, "I love you, but most of all, God loves you." Her mom baked a pie, and the two made the delivery.
Dad was bedfast. The end was near. His jaw tended to drop, leaving his mouth open. He could extend his hand, but it was bent to a claw from the disease.
Somehow Ginger had a moment alone with him and asked a question as only a six-year-old can: "Are you going to die?"
He touched her hand and told her to come near. "Yes, I am going to die. When? I don't know."
She asked if he was afraid to go away. "Away is heaven," he told her. "I will be with my Father. I am ready to see him eye to eye."
About this point in the visit, her mother and mine returned. Ginger recalls:
My mother consoled your parents with a fake smile on her face. But I smiled a big beautiful real smile and he did the same and winked at me.
My purpose for telling you all this is my family and I are going to Kenya. We are going to take Jesus to a tribe on the coast. I am very scared for my children, because I know there will be hardships and disease. But for me, I am not afraid, because the worst thing that could happen is getting to see "my Father eye to eye."
It was your father who taught me that earth is only a passing through and death is merely a rebirth.
Excerpted from GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH by Max Lucado. Copyright © 2013 Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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