I had been a Christian for a long time, but nothing made me doubt God’s word more than burying my son. Once your child is gone, every inch of your body yearns to be reunited with that child again, and it is all you think about. Thoughts began to float through my head like, “What if he wasn’t saved and I never see him again?” “What if God really isn’t real and when we die we just die and there is no heaven or hell and I never see my son again?” Deep in my inner being, I know TJ was saved, and I know that God is real and none of these thoughts are true. I have seen countless evidences of Him throughout my lifetime. He’s laughed with me through the good times, held me in His arms through the hard times, and carried me through the really hard times. “Why am I struggling so much with this?” I thought to myself. I began praying for God’s help to conquer these relentless thoughts that were causing me to doubt.
At the beginning of this year, I was asked to be in a Bible study with some friends. It was a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year study, and I eagerly said yes. We started reading at the very beginning in Genesis. Shortly thereafter, we came to the story of Joseph, my favorite story in the Bible.
Jacob was Joseph’s father and he had 12 sons. Joseph was the favorite, and his other brothers were very jealous of him. One day when Joseph was 17 years old, the brothers decided they had had enough of this spoiled kid, and they plotted to kill him. Reuben, one of the older brothers, did not want the boy killed and persuaded the other brothers to throw him into a pit. Reuben’s plans were to rescue him from them and take the boy back to their father, but shortly thereafter, a caravan of Ishmaelites was traveling by, and the brothers sold Joseph to them.
“Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, ‘We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.’
He recognized it and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.’
Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.’ So his father wept for him.”
Meanwhile, Joseph spent the next 13 years as a slave and then as a prisoner, but all the while the Lord was with him and showed him kindness and granted him favor. After many twists and turns in the story, Joseph was eventually miraculously brought up out of prison by Pharoah and put in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Through another series of events, Joseph and his brothers were eventually reunited and Joseph extended forgiveness to them. And then the great reunion between father and son took place.
In years past I have always been astounded by the timing of God in this story, by the patience of Joseph and his trust in God through his suffering, and by his amazing forgiveness toward his brothers. But as I was reading the story this time, I had a thought that I had never had before, “I wonder if Jacob regretted being sad all those years he believed Joseph to be dead? I wonder if he had regrets of not enjoying his life more and not enjoying his other children and grandchildren because of his all-consuming longing to be reunited with Joseph?” Joseph had been alive the whole time, but it didn’t matter what the truth was. What mattered was what Jacob believed.
I pondered this more, and I then asked myself, “If I believe that my son is dead and in the grave and I will never see him again, then how will I live?” After thinking about this for awhile, I decided that my answer would be: I will waste my life. I won’t be able to get off the couch most days, and I won’t be effective in winning the hearts of man toward God. I won’t enjoy my life or the family or friends God has blessed me with, and I will probably one day have many regrets.
I then asked myself, “But if I believe that my son is alive with Christ in heaven like God’s Word says he is and that I will see him again one day, then how will I live?” My answer: I will continue the work that God has given me to do, knowing that I will receive eternal rewards for my perseverance through suffering. I will have joy and fullness in Christ despite my suffering, and I will enjoy all of the many blessings He has given me on this earth as I eagerly look forward to heaven.
In what area of your life are you having a hard time believing God’s Word? What we believe determines how we will live.
Hebrews 11:11 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”