Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Yet almost every time trouble comes into my life, my initial reaction is surprise, as though trouble shouldn’t have come, or at least shouldn’t have come to me. Are you this way? Do you ever presume that for every trouble you face, there should come an equal blessing? Have you tried to live by this math?
In the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, “That way madness lies.”
Somewhere along the way, western Christianity has come to doubt that trouble is compatible with the life God intends for us. But when we look at the key figures in the Bible—from the Old Testament to the New—we see that their lives were full of trouble.
Think about it. Adam was kicked out of the garden. Noah’s entire world was destroyed. Moses’ anger kept him from entering the Promised Land. David had an affair with his friend’s wife and then had his friend killed. Peter and Paul were both imprisoned and later martyred. John was exiled to Patmos. Jonah and Job could have written books on the subject. In this world, they all had trouble. So shall we. And no one has promised that our troubles in this life will be balanced with blessing.
Joseph’s life is the story of one trouble after another. After he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he came to be respected by his new master, Potiphar. But then Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, later claiming that he tried to accost her, which resulted in Joseph being thrown into prison.
In prison, Joseph was found to have the ability to interpret dreams, which brought him before the Pharaoh who had trouble of his own in the form of nightmares. Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams, and in the process ended up saving both Egypt and his own family from famine and ruin. As a result, Joseph earned both the respect and confidence of the Pharaoh, who made Joseph his second in command over all Egypt.
At this point, we might be tempted to say, “See. After all his trouble, things worked out in the end,” as though the end of the story somehow softens the middle. But remember, Joseph’s exaltation before Egypt came at great personal cost. And because it did, Joseph’s story frees us from the madness of trying to balance out all the bad things that happen in this world with the good.
In this world we will have both blessing and trouble. And they may or may not seem to be in balance. But that doesn’t matter. Joseph’s position of power in Egypt, as glorious as it was at the time, was never meant to last. And here is where we are like Joseph. We are neither meant to be this world’s prisoners nor its kings. We were made for another world—one built on the covenantal grace of God in Christ, which was preserved through both Joseph’s exaltation and his troubles.
This world is out of balance. But take heart. Christ has overcome the world.
Written By Russ Ramsey