If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You

By Cassandra Walsingham

Sometimes I find it really hard to connect to historical figures of our past, especially ones who are mentioned in the Bible. The historical context is just so far-gone from me that I find it hard to relate. But, the story of Joseph is one that did not segregate my needing to belong. He was treated poorly—really, he was disregarded as one who was meant to belong to a family. If you’ve not read the full story of Joseph, I would urge you to stop and read it at some point. It’s Genesis 37-50. 

What did I really learn about Joseph and what do I want you to know and consider? He forgave without knowing if there would ever be reconciliation. He accepted that the hurts and trials he went through were all part of God’s plan for refining him to be the leader that he needed to be. Rest assured before you read on, that the trials you face today are part of God’s perfect plan. There are no mistakes in perfection. 

Wow, isn’t that a difficult perspective to buy in to? I don’t know about you, but the thought of accepting pain, betrayal, and difficulty doesn’t sound appealing to me.  I actually avoid those things like the plague. (Bible joke for you.)  But what we are promised is that God loves us, and He has promised us eternity if we ask, and that, my friends, is just skimming the surface of what God does for us. Considering that, we should be all more than willing to commit our lives to living for God and forgiving each other, even when we have no true guarantee of reconciliation. 

Amidst learning these things about Joseph, I was and am being faced with trials in my own personal life. The focal point is not what I’m going through but rather what my perspective should be in this all. Friend, I am with you in the trenches. I’ve felt betrayal, distrust, emotional abuse and abandonment, and the list goes on. Until now, I’ve always understood the truth that we find in Ecclesiastes that says, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Now, understanding even more scriptural context, I find that not only is the season something to consider, but that the season itself is something to glean from. Instead of begging, “God, get me out of here” praying, “God, how are you changing me?” 

Joseph was plucked from his family life, sold as a slave and lived his life a prisoner for many years. Can we pause and consider the trauma there? If my siblings sold me as a slave out of a family life where I was legitimately the favorite child, I would be really bitter and hurt. It took Joseph time to stop fighting God’s will which meant accepting that being sold as a slave was part of God’s holy plan. He didn’t “get it” right away. As you read through Genesis, you hear Joseph retelling his story with a tone that doesn’t quite say “I’m okay with this.” Joseph did what he could to fix things for himself, but each time he tried, he failed. This is Joseph not accepting God’s will, but instead trying to create his own. 

One instance is when he befriended a prisoner by interpreting his dream and in turn requesting him to mention his name to Pharaoh when his friend was released from prison. Guess what? His fellow prisoner forgot him. Ouch. Not only was he wounded by his family, but now someone he considered a friend, his fellow prisoner. Sure Joseph, stay in prison a little longer. I can hear Joseph crying out, “When will the hurt stop, Lord?” I know that would be my prayer.

Remember, God does not and will not send us through trials without intention. God is not cruel, but he is just. He loves us enough to refine us for the perfect plan that he has for us. When you think about the person you most admire, did they get to be that way just by being born, or is their testimony the reason why you admire them? Joseph was “left” in prison. His fellow prisoner forgot about him, but can’t you see? That was God’s will. He wasn’t done with Joseph. He hadn’t been refined to God’s liking quite yet. God knew Joseph needed more time.

The most miraculous thing about God is that He knows our future and the big plans that He has for us, just like the big plans He had for Joseph. I think about some of the world’s leaders who are decorated in experience. Those decorations really fit the bill when we consider them on a ballot, don’t they? Have you considered the pain and growth they had to experience to be awarded the decorum? Experiences are what make us who we are, whether we accept the experiences in a positive manner or play victim to them.

Joseph’s story is a story of nurture over nature. Our nature is sin, and God is the one who is nurturing us. The definition of nurture is the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something. That is God. He is encouraging us to grow and develop into who we need to be so that His will is complete.

I really believe that Joseph, like the rest of us, spent a lot of time feeling bad for himself. He told a sob story to his friends about how mistreated he had been, and that he didn’t deserve what he was getting. At some point, Joseph stopped trying to reverse the tailspin his life had become, and rather embraced the fall until he met the ground where God was waiting to pick him up. THEN. That is when God decided that Joseph was ready for the next part of His perfect will. When Joseph completely surrendered and died to himself and his own agenda, God allowed Joseph to move forward. 

That is when life turned around for Joseph. No, Joseph’s life wasn’t immediately turned around, but his perspective made a complete shift. Instead of saying “poor me,” he started saying “God, this is your will. I’m here, what do you need to me learn and do for you.” He became a different person. His heart had been changed. He accepted God’s will, and that was life-changing for him. Accepting God’s will and knowing God’s will are two very different things. We can know something but not accept it. 

The story of Joseph is really encouraging to me. Say it with me, “this is God’s will; God, what are you teaching me?” Eventually, this truth will permeate my soul, and my soul will accept it. The heart and the mind are constantly fighting in my being. My mind says, “but God says” and my heart says, “but that’s not fair!” What an internal conflict! Thankfully, the Holy Spirit lives within me to remind me that I’m human, but that my soul is eternal. 

My prayer for you and for myself is that we can see that God’s will is perfect, and not only that, but that we can accept His will. It took Joseph being sold as a slave and living as a prisoner to fully trust and surrender to God’s will for him.  God will never give us more than we can handle, even though our struggles oftentimes seem unbearable. God is in the business of makeovers, and it usually gets worse before it gets better.  God is preparing us to be the best that we can be. Remember that if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. When you are feeling challenged, imagine this: You are clay, and God is molding you. He may be taking bits of imperfections away and pressing you in an area that really hurts. But, stop! Remember, you are in the loving, strong hands of God. He’s there through the pain, and He will be always there to hold you. 

I would like to finish by tying this to a song by Bethel Music, “Raise A Hallelujah.” The chorus goes as follows:

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

God knows the trials I’m walking through because I need them in order to complete His will (and He has allowed these things to happen.) I heard this song played twice on the radio in one day (God, I know you’re listening). This song really envelops my whole thought here. We have to sing and praise God in the middle of our trials because of what it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God will work even the disasters in our lives for good. A snippet of a verse from “Raise A Hallelujah” goes like this:

I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me

We don’t have to know the “why” behind the mystery, but because we know Who holds tomorrow, we don’t have to be afraid, and we can continue praising our wonderful, mystical Creator. I hope you will sing this anthem with me, Joseph, and every other person who is going through a storm that doesn’t make sense quite yet. In heaven, all the mysteries will be revealed. Hold strong, friend.

“Raise A Hallelujah” by Bethel Music

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