Dear church,

When we encounter things we don’t understand, we can become troubled. Think of all the times you have been anxious about something – about your job, about your marriage, about your health, about your kids, about your parents. So much in this life stirs our spirits in a negative way, and we are troubled as we wonder what is the meaning of these things that are happening and that we don’t understand. 

The dreams of the butler and the baker put them in a position where it was obvious to Joseph that something was amiss. He’d been with them every day since they had been thrown in prison. He had learned some of their habits and their personalities, and he couldn’t help but notice they weren’t themselves that morning. “Why are your faces downcast today?”

They’d had some dreams they didn’t understand. And they had asked around. No one else seemed to be able to provide any meaning for these dreams. Pharaoh would have the same problem a little later in the story. “So in the morning, his spirit was troubled” (Genesis 41:8).

I once knew a man who was troubled by the things of life, the things he had seen and the things that had happened to him. His wife struggled with brain cancer. It was enough to cause her to undergo a range of therapies, chemo and otherwise, but it was not enough to kill her. This couple had two wonderful children, a boy and a girl. The husband and wife were in love. All was very good – except for this inexplicable cancer. 

The man cast God aside because God was giving no answers about the cancer. What was the meaning of it all? What was the point of being so close to so much happiness and yet being weighed down by this evil thing that could wreck it all at any moment? God did not seem to be providing answers. So the man gave up on God. Surely God is not good, he concluded. 

Joseph seemed to know otherwise. And he leaned into God when he encountered things that seemed to escape human understanding. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Joseph carried with him a brash confidence that simply knew God had the answers to the questions that trouble our spirits. 

We might give this confidence another name – faith.

Joseph started with the expectation that God knew. God is the one who can interpret the times. He knows the meaning of it all. Interpretations “belong” to God. He is the rightful owner of them because he is the rightful owner of all of reality.

Needless to say, we ought to seek him out when we encounter things in life that we simply do not understand and that cause our hearts to be troubled and our faces to be downcast. The interpretation – the answer – will come from him. It belongs to him.

In those hard cases where answers do not seem to come, where God perhaps remains silent in the face of our honest questions, we ought not to lose faith. This is heart-wrenching to say, and much grace is required. But if the interpretation belongs to God, we need to keep looking to him. He will give us the answer in due time. Perhaps he is refining us, or even testing us, by way of his silence.

If we turn aside from God in the face of that silence, we never really believed he had the answer to begin with. We never really believed all interpretations belong to God. The person of faith never loses hope in God and never requires God to act according to our own timelines (Daniel 3:16-18).

Chris

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