“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)
We have all found ourselves confused and overwhelmed as we attempt to understand the circumstances of life and simultaneously discern God’s will for our life. As we contemplate what has happened or is happening in our lives, and as we consider the decisions yet to be made in the confusion of our lives, doubts and even fear can seemingly overwhelm our hearts and minds in this sin-cursed world. This is even though we have fully embraced the sovereignty of God, and fully acknowledge the providence of God as to His benevolent promises in our lives. The cacophony of a broken world easily produces confusion with its hesitancy, doubt with its chaos, and fear with its paralysis. Then what is it that would enable us to hear the symphony of God’s sovereign grace instead of the cacophony of sin’s despair as we press on, desiring to live effectively for Christ in this world?
Many believers attempt to solve the dilemma of doubts, confusion and fear, and make sense of what is happening around us and to us and how we should respond, by “reading the tea leaves” of life’s circumstances, looking for the hand of God’s providence. But in reality, that only furthers the dilemma by consigning us to the vagueness of speculation while deterring us from the stability-giving dynamic of first embracing the inerrant and sufficient gift of Divine revelation, the Word of God, “which is sufficient to equip the believer for every good work.”
Simply put, we cannot dismiss doubts, confusion and fear by “reading the tea leaves” of life’s circumstances as we attempt to grasp the will of God for our life. To the contrary, we must read the will of God─His Word─to understand and grasp the circumstances of life.
The Genesis Patriarch Joseph provides perhaps no better example of being informed by the Word of God when interpreting and responding to life in a broken world. Here is a man who received dreams revealing his calling to a position of power and authority for the benefit of God’s people and others. Yet in the circumstances of life, he received betrayal at the hands of his brothers, injustice as a slave from his master Potipher, even though he had been faithful and resistant to the temptations of Potipher’s wife, and then forsaken in prison by the fellow-prisoner he had assisted. Yet, knowing God’s Word and the covenant promises to Abraham, he interpreted the circumstances of life with clarity and confidence so that he was able to say to his brothers, “what you meant for evil God meant for good,” in the salvation of the covenant people of God and others in the overflow of God’s common grace. This then freed him to make a life decision to embrace a ministry of grace to his brothers instead of payback or personal revenge, as they came to him vulnerable and in need. God’s Word had positioned him to understand the circumstances of his life, and then respond to the glory of God as a minister of grace to his brothers while avoiding the emptiness of payback and personal revenge. He had seen that God had called him to suffer so that through that suffering, the Lord would bring life to His Covenant people in the midst of the Divinely appointed famine judgment upon the land.
Of course, we readily see how this short narrative in the life of Joseph points to the greater narrative of Christ, who willingly humbled Himself to suffer death on a cross that we might have life eternal instead of the judgment of hell forever. We witness the hand of God’s Sovereign grace implementing the glorious pattern of taking the catastrophe of sin in a fallen world and accomplishing the eucatastrophe of redemption for the world to come. So, follow the tracks of Joseph to Christ to trust Him who brings a grace of glory that is greater than the evil of sin and the designs of the evil one. But also follow the Joseph model as you make sense of life and as you make decisions in life.
God’s covenant people are not victims; His people are victors who live in a broken world, yet walk in the triumph of Christ. Christ-followers are not the overwhelmed, but the overcomers, who informed by God’s inerrant Word are enabled to examine life with wisdom and make decisions for life with clarity, confidence and courage that have a redemptive impact in the lives of others.
The eradication of doubt and its hesitancy, the removal of confusion and its chaos, the banishment of fear and its paralysis, comes not by gazing at the circumstances of life to know God’s will, but by knowing God’s will─His infallible and sufficient Word. We thus can then understand the circumstances of life so that doubt is banished by confidence, confusion is replaced by clarity, and fear gives way to courage.