I vaguely remember as a child learning to ride a bicycle. What I do remember is falling, scraping my knee, and wanting to quit. Like many children, it didn’t come easy to me, but I did finally get the hang of it.
In a world full of quitters and complainers, our Heavenly Father values endurance, purity, and generosity. Today, I want to encourage you – when life is complicated, don’t give up; when your temptations overwhelm you, don’t give in; and when you’re troubled, focus on the blessings of life and give back.
The experiences of the patriarch Joseph teaches us that life is full of moments that make you want to give up and temptations so wonderful that not indulging upon them would be a mistake. His circumstances allow us to see a way out when life is tough and it seems obvious to me that the unfortunate series of events can help us overcome similar circumstances in our lives.
Paul told his friend in Second Timothy 2:3 that, “you must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Peter tells us in First Peter 2:14 that suffering shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus didn’t promise an easy life, instead, He promised to be there for us. Why is it, then, that we’re still shocked and overwhelmed when bad things happen? Do we really believe it won’t happen to us?
Unfortunately, bad things happen and when they do, it’s easy to give up on God. When your family betrays you, life seems unfair, and those you rely on the most become your enemies. At those moments, it can be easy to forget God and move on, but trust me, you won’t be the first or the last to face that dilemma. In Genesis 37:23-28, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. After stripping him of his beloved coat and throwing him into a cistern, one of his brothers asked in 37:26-28:
“What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
While it’s not recorded in the text, can we assume Joseph’s spirit was beaten down on the way to Egypt? Can we assume he asked them “why,” as they imprisoned him and transported him? Can we honestly believe he was okay with the events and took them in stride? I think that moment affected him greatly. I’m sure he was hurt, bewildered, and emotionally drained as the caravan traveled to Egypt. Thankfully, Joseph found himself in the house of Potiphar, a man who (from all the evidence we can see in the text) treated him well and promoted him rather quickly among his servants. Not everything was as awful as possible, but would it surprise us if Joseph had simply said, “woe is me!” No, of course not.
I’m sure someone in your family has hurt you. For that, I am sorry. I’m sorry you had to face it, overcome it, and move on. I’m sorry families aren’t always what they’re created for. I’m sorry, but they’re not always a haven from trouble and encouragement to troubled souls. While I doubt the betrayal you faced was comparable to Joseph’s, I’m sure it felt like it at the moment. While it may not have been so extreme, that fact doesn’t mean you’ve forgiven them or even moved on. Because I’ve been there, I plead with you today, don’t let the foolish actions of a family member shake your faith in God. Don’t use it as an excuse to give up.
Sometime later, Joseph found himself in another perilous situation. Due to the inappropriate actions of Potiphar’s wife, he was falsely accused of betraying his master’s trust and thrown in jail. Once again, he was promoted, and a blessing to those around him. Then, two extraordinary prisoners (both high-ranking officials from Pharaoh’s palace) found themselves in the very same prison. They had peculiar dreams and asked Joseph to interpret them. Eventually, they found the interpretation to be true and Joseph’s pronouncements accurate. Before the butler was released to resume his duties, Joseph asked him in 40:14, “to remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.” However, upon the fulfillment of Joseph’s message, the butler, “did not remember Joseph, but forgot him,” (40:23).
Just like earlier, it would have been easy for Joseph to give up after a friend forgot him. It’s almost unbelievable that once again he remained resolute in his faith. Two years later, the same Pharaoh who released and reinstated the butler had a dream that needed interpretation. The butler remembered Joseph and opportunity soon came knocking on the prison door. Eventually, Joseph stood before Pharaoh with a message of blessing and peril. That message would lead to Joseph’s exaltation and advancement in the Egyptian kingdom.
Today, I want to encourage you, don’t give up when family and friends let you down. Don’t blame God for the misfortune they bring into your life. Instead, hold on, endure, and prepare yourself for the day all can be made right. While it’s not easy to remain steadfast, it is something God respects. James 5:10-11 says:
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
Also, don’t overlook Second Timothy 2:11-12 and the promise that comes with it. It says:
If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
Don’t give up. Life is tough and people will let you down, but God is faithful to eventually reward those who endure with peace. If you quit, the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7) just might elude your reach prematurely. At the end of the day, that would be a greater tragedy than anything that might befall you on the way.
Don’t give up. Learn to ride your bike and trust in God.
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.