Tuesday, January 5, 2010

live by feelings, or by faith

How we respond to difficulties will determine whether we are a winner or
a whiner. One of Satan’s first temptations when our life appears to be on
hold, like Joseph, is to tempt us to live by feelings instead of faith.
~ Michael Youssef

It's not just when your life is on hold, it's also when your life is in conflict. Satan uses both circumstances to tempt you with feelings of discouragement, inadequacy, frustration, anger and other awful feelings.

Feelings that make us want to whine.

On hold: You want change and it isn't happening.

In conflict: Something changes that you don't want, or is in direct opposition to your desires, needs, or interests.

Joesph's situation kind of fits both cases. He was sold into slavery, and later sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit (conflict). He was in prison for at least two years, forgotten by someone who had promised to help him (on hold). Through all of Joseph's trials it says many times that "the Lord was with him" and "Joseph found grace in His sight" but it is interesting that the Bible makes no mention of how Joseph FELT until he faced what might have been the biggest trial, encountering his brothers again. At this point in his life, he is on top of the world, overseer of all of Egypt. When his brothers who had sold him into slavery suddenly show up on his doorstep, Genesis 42 shows that Joseph did not at first receive his brothers kindly, but roughly. It also says several times that Joseph wept. He was probably struggling with conflicting feelings: overjoyed to see familiar faces again, but also tempted to take revenge on them for what they did to him over 20 years ago.

Joesph was 39 when his brothers came to Egypt. Being 39 myself (and exactly in one month I'll turn 40, so I am a bit sensitive about age at the moment), I have to admit it's good to know I'm not the only one still struggling with my feelings, at this age.

The culmination of Joseph's story is here:
Genesis 50:15-20

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they 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."

A classic example of how God works "all things for good of that love Him, that are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). God intended it for good...

So, I just mentioned the famous verse, Romans 8:28. Less well-known is the verse that follows it: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son."

What does it mean to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus? This is surely related to the previous verse, where God works all things for our good. He orchestrates difficulties in our lives, allowing conflict or making us wait, for our good, to conform us the likeness of His Son.

I just finished reading Donald Miller's latest book, A Million Miles in Thousand Years. Details of how this book unsettled me (and inspired me) will be forthcoming in another blog soon, but for now I have to end with another quote. This book talks a lot about how we love stories, and what makes a great story.

Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller... If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation.... In nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet.
We love to go the movies and watch ordinary people become heros by facing conflict and overcoming it, and in the process learning, changing. Yet we whine when we have to face conflict in our own lives. We let our feelings take over: fear, anger, etc. Faith is where we trust that God is working all of these difficulties for our good, to transform us, make us more Christ-like. We trust God that we'll be able to look back on our own story someday, and cry with joy to see the culmination of it all.

The quote by Michael Youssef was chosen by the contributers to "In Other Words". Each Friday a new quote is shared on http://writingcanvas.wordpress.com/, along with the host site for the week. Anyone wanting to participate can ponder on the quote and write about about it on their blog, then link your post to the host blog.


  1. Wow, this was a great illustration!

    Enjoyed this and meeting you too.

    Thanks for joining us today~

  2. It's not just when your life is on hold, it's also when your life is in conflict. Satan uses both circumstances to tempt you with feelings of discouragement, inadequacy, frustration, anger and other awful feelings.

    You hit me in the gut with this one. Just today I was expressing my feelings of discouragement, inadequacy and frustration with a friend. Satan is doing a number on me.

    My feelings say I can't do it. FAITH says I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.