I used to get really mad when I was lost while driving. My poor wife has had to suffer through several of my ‘which way do I go’ meltdowns. I really hate the feelings of fear and confusion that wash over me when I don’t know where I am and which direction I should be going in. But I have found a way to defeat these feelings. I try to replace them by filling up my head with the idea that I am on an adventure. Instead of cursing myself and the world, I try and think about how I’ve never been to this place before and the houses are really interesting and maybe we’ll stumble onto a new and wonderful place that we may want to return to again and again. Strangely enough this strategy has worked. I am much calmer when we are wandering around. We are not lost, we are experiencing an adventure. The thing is, by their very nature, adventures can be very stressful.
The story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50 is one huge adventure. It is such a compelling story it was made into a Broadway show and Movie. I call the Joseph story an adventure because it has all of the classic elements of one. It has heroes and villains. It features the suffering and possible death of the innocent. It has God coming to the rescue of our troubled hero just in the nick of time. The guilty are brought to justice and then forgiven. It all ends in a wonderfully happy ending. Who could ask for more?
The story of Joseph and his fabulous coat does point out to us some sobering aspects of the adventurous life. Joseph is left to die in a well. Joseph is left to rot in prison. Joseph suffers in anguish over his family reunion. It’s not all a bed of roses for the man is it? Most adventure stories in the Bible are the same way. Ruth’s faithfulness causes her to face poverty, Jeremiah’s preaching causes him to be thrown into a cistern, and Daniel’s stubbornness gets him a date with some pretty big kitty cats. The apostle Paul was thrown into prison so many times he could have written a cookbook on Jailhouse Cuisine. And don’t assume that adventures end happily. Jeremiah was forced into exile in Egypt; Stephen the evangelist was stoned to death and the last we see of Paul, he is under house arrest awaiting a death sentence. No happy endings in any of these stories.
The problem I see is that many people demand and/or expect that the adventure of faith never have any downside and always has a happy ending. Joel Osteen has a new book out; “Every Day a Friday, How to be Happier 7 Days a Week”. What a bunch of baloney. There is nothing in the Bible that promises the faithful 24-hour-7-day-a-week happiness in this lifetime. Instead, the Bible promises those of us who are willing to take the leap of faith that God will be with us as we struggle through a life of adventurous ups and downs.
Consider the words of Jesus;
The upside: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
The downside: Be on your guard against men; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:21-22
More upside: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1
More downside: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. John 15:18
Get the picture?
Like Joseph we are on an adventure of faith. Also like Joseph, it is not going to be easy. The only promise of happiness and victory is when we leave this world and enter the next. In the meantime the faith that God gives us will help us to face the ups and downs of this life. That same faith gives us the surety that no matter what we face, God is with us in the struggle.
So the next time you feel like you are lost, just embrace the adventure.
God bless you,