I have found that the older I get (now 57!!), the more I come to realize the inexorable reality that things are just not getting better. Not in me and not in others. Yes, people change—profoundly at times. But for the most part, we trod through life, hoping for personal improvement that seems remote and frustrating. Fighting the spiritual wars of the heart is relentless and exhausting. Beyond that, the woes of life are frequent and profound. Daily encounters with our own sin and those of others, as well as the inescapable reality of our getting older, along with an assortment of other discouraging reminders of the brokenness of our world can be overpowering. The Christian life, though buttressed in great hope in God, is one of depletion and need of replenishing. Self-improvement and physical preservation are those things that we learn over time are slim possibilities. It is easy to become discouraged.
The story of Joseph as recorded in Genesis 37-50 is perhaps one of the more remarkable in the Bible. Perhaps the most stunning feature of the story is his forgiveness toward his hating, jealous brothers. After having been severely mistreated by them, even to the point of being sold by them as a slave, Joseph is carried away to Egypt. There he is careful to maintain his perspective of God’s sovereign oversight of his life. Through a series of events that most of us would consider misfortune, in which he was falsely accused, neglected, forgotten, and used, Joseph finds himself useful to the Pharaoh of Egypt, interpreting his troubling dreams. Through this divinely appointed meeting, God positions Joseph to save the people during an intense drought. Among those Joseph saves are his duplicitous brothers.
For several years I’ve been reading, thinking, and praying much about the meaning of the Gospel. As a biblical counselor, I believe the gospel is the central element of change. By that I mean that the gospel is necessary in order to change the heart from its natural pursuit and slavery to sin toward the pursuit of Christ and the things pertaining to Him. The gospel is good news. But what is the good news? And what is the substance of what we are believing when by faith in that gospel we are changed?
Many of our experiences in life confirm that our perception of reality is, at best, skewed.How often is it the case that we have firmly believed something about someone or a circumstance that we later come to the see that we did not have the right perspective?Since that is true in the physical realm, much more should we humbly acknowledge our propensity to get things wrong in the spiritual realm. In fact, if we trust the truth of God’s word and become honest about the human condition, we must admit that people are in many ways totally blind. We are, without divine assistance, naturally oblivious to ultimate spiritual reality. By that I mean that we do not naturally see the glorious nature of the person of God and His marvelous works. To make matters even worse, we are oblivious to the very presence of this blindness in moments in which it is most profound. Therefore, we read ourselves, others, and situations with perception that is frail and distorted. The result is that our living in a corrupted and corrupting fallen world, combined with our tendency to misread and wrongly reacting, makes for more trouble than we can adequately be aware. But add to this that our greatest blindness is toward God. Our assessment of Him leads us toward greater blindness in regard to all other reality. We try to make God a god of our own liking, who caters to the desires of our hearts—the very desires that cause us to want a lesser god than the glorious, holy, matchless one He truly is.
Life is war. On many levels, each day is a struggle at worst to survive or at best to thrive. The struggle can become so intense that we seek just to “make it” another day. For the Christian, who at some level understands that he is living in a fallen world, gains a degree of clarity that things are, in a sense, as should be expected. We get no further in the Bible than chapter three of Genesis but that we are confronted with the source of the world’s brokenness (namely, sin) and the consequences of it. Things are painful, messed up, perverted, corrupt, poisoned because of the foolish rebellion of man. Ironically, that same foolish rebellion which gave rise to fallenness is also the expressive fruit of it. The result is chaos, disintegration, sickness and disease, wars, fighting, strife, animosity, addiction, loneliness and more. One can easily become discouraged and even depressed, or turn to pseudo means of escape in order to avoid the painful realities of living in a fallen world. Our own sin—both as a condition of our hearts and also as the sins it produces— compounds our suffering and pain, making worse our experience of living in a fallen world. We just are in a huge mess with no means to extricate ourselves apart from divine intervention. We desperately need help if we are to battle well in life.