In our Restless study so far, we’ve looked at our restlessness, our discontentment. We’ve looked at God’s Story. Our gifts. Our suffering. The places in our lives. The people in our lives. This week we’re looking at our passions. As Jennie conveys in her teaching, in our culture, we’ve totally stripped that word passion of its depth, richness, and color as we’ve co-op’d it to mean our drives, desires, bodily lusts, etc. But, those meanings are not the original roots of passion at all!
Have you heard Easter week called Passion Week? Easter week, the week that Jesus was betrayed, sold, abandoned, stripped, tortured, mocked, and slaughtered… Why did He do that?
Passionate love (platonic as well as romantic) requires suffering. Agony.
Passion = Pain and suffering
As we’re studying the life of Joseph, let’s look at what aroused his passion.
We’ve learned about Joseph’s complicated and messy family story, the favoritism by his dad Jacob/Israel which led to strife with and jealousy from his brothers and ultimately to the evil abandonment he endured at their hands. We’ve learned how God used that history to perfectly place him in Potiphar’s house, then how God used him to minister and serve in prison, and ultimately placed him standing before Pharaoh interpreting dreams which led to him becoming second in command over the whole nation of Egypt for the saving of a generation of people. What a story! His life went so sideways, but not sideways for God. God foreknew the hardship, He foreordained the story from beginning to end (even the years of waiting and suffering), and was with him every day along the way.
And through these long years of loneliness, emotional duress, and hardship in a foreign land, Scripture tells us Joseph was faithful to God. He served. He submitted. He was changed from a arrogant, braggadocious brat to a faithful servant of God who leveraged every single relationship he encountered for the glory of God. That’s not something you learn to be and do without God pounding selfishness out of your heart through suffering.
With ease and comfort, human beings, because of our sin nature, would be completely unconcerned about the needs of others. If I had abundant wealth, smooth sailing day in and day out, a clear path without troubles, easy-peasy relationships, comfort, and everything going my way, I would be a nightmare of self-indulgence and arrogance.
It’s only in discomfort, pain, difficulty, and want that we can share in and care about the suffering of others.
I’m so glad we have that example of Jesus Christ to study. How could we ultimately relate with a God who didn’t know what troubles are like, temptations, difficulties? How could we trust ourselves with a God who hadn’t been betrayed? Who didn’t know the crushing blows of being hated and maligned, who didn’t feel the sting of bitter words and actions from those who are supposed to love you? Who didn’t have to settle petty arguments among others, deal with difficult, manipulative, or prejudiced people? Who hadn’t felt sexual temptation, physical exhaustion, emotional fatigue, hunger, fevers, food poisoning, sandal blisters, sunburn, congestion, sore muscles, bumps and bruises, hangnails, and the flu?
What were Joseph’s passions?
After hearing these dream interpretations from God, Pharaoh made him second in command of all of Egypt, gave him a new name (Zaphnath-paaneah which most interpret as “revealer of secrets”), and gave him a wife, Asenath. Blessings were dumped on him beyond his wildest dreams. This was the beginning of Joseph’s “double for his trouble” (Isaiah 61:7-8) blessing. He and Asenath had two boys. His older son’s name, Manasseh, sounds like the Hebrew word for forget “because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41:51). His younger son’s name, Ephraim, sounds like the Hebrew for twice fruitful. “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52)
Even though the Lord brought a season of great blessing on Joseph, the years of pain, loneliness, difficulty, mistreatment, wrongful accusation, unfair imprisonment had permanently molded and shaped his heart. God gave him compassion, leadership skills, the heart of a servant, and supernatural wisdom in those dark seasons of his life. He had learned obedience, faithfulness, and God-reliance and he’d learned to trust in God’s provision and goodness in the school of suffering. So much so that later, when faced with the brothers who had sold him into slavery, he could say to them in Genesis 45:5“Guys, I forgive you 100% so don’t beat yourselves up about selling me. It was God who sent me here, not you!”
Joseph was able to see past all those years of pain and the ones who had inflicted them upon him to God’s goodness, mercy, and wisdom is letting Joseph endure it for the sake of saving lives.
Part of my passions have been aroused not just in experiencing the breakdown of my marriage and financial abandonment, fear about how I was going to provide for my family, etc., but also in meeting other single mamas who found themselves in the same predicament.
Just as the Lord allowed Joseph’s pain to teach him compassion (which in the Latin means “suffer with”), He has done the same for me. Out of his own pain grew a deepsuffering-with for others who were going to be faced with financial devastation, famine, and displacement from their homes. Out of my own circumstances, a burning passion for other single mothers (a suffering-with) has grown. My thinking about money is radically different. I have a heavy burden for those in desperate straits and as I wrote last week, I have no doubt that God will direct my future helping financially devastated mothers.
This week I listened to Francis Chan preach about radically following Jesus. He shared about the early church in the book of Acts selling whatever they needed to sell so that no one went without. It was the attitude of “None of this is mine. Whatever I have, if you need it, it’s yours. If your family has a need, we’ll find a way to take care of it.” It wasn’t a cultural norm as some people have excused that portion of Scripture, it was this strange and different phenomenon that was noticed among Christians… They didn’t care about hoarding their stuff and their money. They shared. They gave. They provided. Because that’s what Christ had taught them to do! It was about God!
Francis talked about how he and a group of men had decided that that’s how they were going to be with one another – guaranteeing that they’d take care of each other financially no matter what. They made that commitment because they love Jesus so much, and because as Christians we are family, and because money doesn’t matter, and because it’s about God and His glory!
This Restless study has been tough for me because it’s required a level of authenticity and vulnerability way outside my comfort zone. It’s challenged and stretched me to be willing to share my story – the good, the bad, and the ugly – for the purpose of calling other women out to be brave along with me and to be used for the glory of God.
So, although it’s weird to share this part of my story, I’m where Francis is. I want to live that kind of seriously radical Christianity. I see single mamas around me who either are going through what I’ve been through and know that there are so many mamas whose marriages are crumbling and will go through marital, emotional, and financial abandonment… And, my passion (pain) and suffering-with are ignited. I’m mad at the injustice and deeply passionate about the Church (starting specifically with me) rising up to emotionally care for, support, provide child care, jobs, resources, counseling, friendship, food, sanity and safety for the abandoned.
The tension is that I have no idea how God is going to use me to do that. It’s scary. It sounds like an absurdly bold dream. But, then again, I’m (sort of) ready to be absurdly bold!
What are your passions? What are your suffering-with‘s? What have you been through that has permanently molded and shaped your heart and left you with a burden to serve others? Will you share with us? If you don’t feel that, or you have no idea what your passions are, don’t worry! God will lead you and guide you. Leave your comments below and share with us! I would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie
Abba, we love you. Thank You for the suffering and hardships You have allowed in our lives – even if those are still so painful and agonizing. We thank You ahead of time for the redemption of those difficult, scary, trying seasons. Thank You for turning our suffering into passions/ sufferings-with for the sake of others. Thank You for allowing us to serve You and glorify You through our hardest and worst pains. You are so good, God! For those of us still in the fire, bring healing, Lord. Bring the season of double-for-our-trouble. We trust you and we long to be faithful servants. We love You and we want to honor You and give You all the glory. Amen.