We had not met for close to 30 years. We were students at Regent College in the early ’80s. I remember a spunky woman of faith, tough and with a sense of humour. We met up again a few weeks ago. She shared about some of the struggles she had gone through in the past thirty years—a child with Down’s syndrome and autism, her own battles with breast cancer, a tough marriage, and depression. I was numbed, trying to get my head and heart around what she shared.
And since we were swapping “war stories” I told her about the death of my first wife, the breakdown of a marriage, the loss of my public ministry and my own journey through depression. It was a sombre moment but also a moment of faith. Enough time had passed for us to have seen the redeeming hand of God. We ended our short meet-up praising God for His goodness. We testified to the reality of Romans 8:28.
We also swapped stories of others from our cohort who had gone through unimaginable pain. Our time at Regent was a happy time. None of us could have foreseen all the pain we would go through in our years post-Regent. I guess optimism is our default till we hit some real storms. Yet it is also critical to let our stories run their course to see how things turn out. Often the hand of God and the purposes of our pain can only be seen in the long run.
I think of Joseph going through one injustice after another. He may have been cocky but that didn’t justify his brothers wanting to kill him, or selling him off as a slave. Yet when he had the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers, he shows them kindness instead because at this chapter of his life, he understood the divine purposes behind his tragedies.
When Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15–21 NIV)
Genesis 50 is the last chapter in the book of Genesis. Sometimes we need to wait till the last chapter to understand the meaning of our lives. Which is why we shouldn’t give up in the difficult chapters. We need faith and courage to keep on going till the last chapter. Here is wisdom from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011).
“Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end.”
Hebrews 11:35b–40 reminds us that for some, indeed for all, “the end” means the new heavens and the new earth. But it will be all right in the end for “those who love him (God), who have been called according to his purpose.”
I was chatting with a young doctor recently and she told me she was struggling with depression. I told her I was not worried about what would happen to her in the long run. But she had to survive the present. May the Lord give us all the faith and courage to survive the present.