Have you ever had a fight with your family? Ever had a friend walk away or betray you? These kinds of hurts are a different level of discomfort, yet everyone at some point in their life goes through a pain like this. Growing up I had an extremely rocky relationship with my family and had friends who beat me up on the playground at school. I moved between parent’s, eventually getting kicked out, then tossed to live with someone I’d once called a friend where I was betrayed in a way that will impact me for the rest of my life. I know the sting of unfathomable family feuds and betrayals from loved ones and friends, the people you trust most.
But would you change any of it if you could? Looking back, do you see nothing but the pain and discomfort, or is there something else there that makes you think twice about changing it all if you could? I asked myself over and over for years. No matter the incredible pain I’d endured for so many years, though, I look back now and don’t long to change it anymore. I did for a long time, not understanding, just hurting and wanting comfort, wanting relief. Sound familiar?
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23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off Joseph’s robe, the robe of many colors that he had on. 24 Then they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty, without water. 25 They sat down to eat a meal, and when they looked up, there was a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying aromatic gum, balsam, and resin, going down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,” and his brothers agreed. 28 When Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 37:23-28 CSB
How could his family do this to him? His own brothers? His own blood? How could they have such hateful hearts? Such evil intentions? Against their brother? How could family treat family this way?
Joseph knew the pain of utter betrayal.
When we are in these moments where the agonizing questions flood our minds and no comforting answers come after them it is certainly an opportunity. In these moments we have a choice. I know, it sure doesn’t feel like it, but we always have a choice.
Choice #1: Let Satan in
In these moments we can let the darkness and the pain consume us. We can let it in, let it take hold, let Satan taunt us with his lies. Satan whispers to us “you’re not good enough”, “you’re unlovable”. He deceives us into believing that we deserve this pain, and he will tell us we’ll never feel anything but pain so we may as well give into it, may as well get used to it, may as well accept it and not fight it.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 ESV
Our most tempting choice is to give in, let Satan in, believe his lies, and this is a temptation all of us are familiar with to some degree. After telling the Corinthians of the need for self-discipline in a city wrought with sin and idolatry, flooded with temptations of various kinds, Paul encourages the Corinthians, as well as future generations of Christians, that God will always provide a way out of temptation.
Every temptation we face has an exit ramp.
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 ESV
Choice #2: Let God in
The exit ramp for every temptation is to let God in, to choose God, to trust God’s truth. We cannot fight temptation by our own strength. We cannot fight Satan alone. This is spiritual warfare that requires the spiritual weapons, armor and presence of our Holy God.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:11-13 ESV
In letting God in we let Him take control, let His Spirit indwell, and let His Word speak truth to our soul. Letting God in lets Him refresh, restore and refill us. He is the solution to temptation. It is by His strength, truth and grace we are healed, comforted and saved. He gives us all that we need, which includes His own armor to fight off the schemes of the devil and resist the temptation of sin and the lies Satan wants us to believe; to resist letting Satan in.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 ESV
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 ESV
When we are faced with pain, discomfort and uncertainty in life, we have a choice. We can choose to believe the lies and let Satan in, let him destroy us from the inside out, or we can choose faith - even faith the size of a mustard seed - fight through each test and trial, resist the schemes and temptations of the devil, and grow through our circumstances like we see Joseph do.
Throughout Genesis 37-50 we see Joseph suffer greatly, but through it all he trusted God. He knew God would provide, and even if he doubted every once in a while as people do he remained diligent in his faith and we later see him rise to a position in which God used him in unimaginable ways. Joseph went through heartbreaking betrayals and painful circumstances that seemed to make no sense at the time and later in his story we get to look back and see how each step was an opportunity for Joseph to make a choice. God gives us opportunities to trust him, to keep faith in His plan even when we can’t see past our pain, to grow through the discomfort.
No matter the pain you are going through God is not far from you. He sees you, He hears you, He is still providing for you, protecting you, and loving you. God is still good even when our circumstances don’t feel good. Trust in Him to carry you through this and stop trying to do it in your own power, with your own ideas, in your own time. Lift up your worries to the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 ESV
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 ESV
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV