In Genesis we see a contrast between a father's response and a son's response. When Joseph's brothers tricked their father into thinking Joseph had been killed by wild animals,
Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "I will go to my grave mourning for my son, " he would say, and then he would weep.I have been there. Like Jacob, I have been inconsolable. Shortly after Anna died I wrote, "How can I pray that things will get better? Anna is not coming back so things can never get better." I thought I would grieve until the day I died and I was hoping that would be sooner rather than later.
But the reality for Jacob was that his son was alive and well in Egypt. What he could see (a bloody coat, an empty place at the table) did not tell the whole story. What he thought was true was not. Not only could he not see the truth, he could not even imagine it. The reality for me is that Anna is alive in a place I can't imagine. What I can see (a grave, an empty chair) does not tell the whole story. What I can see is not all there is.
I know someone who went to his grave mourning for his child. He grieved for years and in his obituary were the words, "He never got over the death of his daughter." He died with a broken heart. What difference would it had made if he knew where she was? What if he had hope that he would see her again? What if he had trusted God?
While Jacob was weeping over his loss, Joseph was wailing over his situation. When he was thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery he wasn't thinking... "I bet this is my dream coming true." (Earlier in the story he had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him.) He was screaming and begging his brothers not to do this terrible thing to him. He was fighting against the very thing that God was using to fulfill his purpose.
When bad things happen to us, do we say, "Lord have your way and fulfill your purpose in me"? I know I didn't say that. I went down the cancer road kicking and screaming--just like Joseph. I remember saying, "I don't want to go down this road, but I have no choice." Joseph didn't have a choice either. He walked down that road to Egypt against his will. He could have been bitter/angry/despondent/inconsolable. He could have been like his father. But somewhere along that road Joseph accepted what was happening to him as being allowed by God. He lost everything--his family, his home, his language, and his freedom-- but at some point he stopped fighting and started trusting. His understanding of God's hand in his situation is evident later in the story when he tells his brothers, "What you meant for evil God meant for good." (Gen. 50:20) I wonder how long it took for him to come to that conclusion? Was it while he was being dragged down the road to Egypt? Or perhaps when he was a slave in Potipher's house? Or maybe when he was in prison after being falsely accused? The point is, he didn't wait until good things started happening to trust God. He trusted him before he could see God's plan to use him to save his people. He trusted him when he didn't know how things would turn out. He trusted him when things weren't going well. Wherever he was, and whatever his situation, the Lord was with him--and Joseph knew it.
How about you? What road are you on? Do you want to be there? Do you have a choice? Are you fighting or trusting? Are you refusing to be comforted or are you trusting in what you cannot see?
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
I have a good friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. She doesn't want to go down that road, but like Joseph, her choice is not in whether or not she goes down that road. Her choice is how she will respond while she is there. Will she refuse to be comforted or will she seek out the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)? Will she be like Joseph and trust God when she can't see his purpose? Will she trust that what she can see (chemo, surgery, sickness) is not all there is?