Desert Island Paradise?

Diamond Head Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head
Honolulu, Hawaii

Would you pick up a travel brochure that advertised, “Visit the Land of Sorrow”? Perhaps it would at least grab your attention.

Curiosity might tempt you to peek at the inside pages. You’d read:

The Land of Sorrow promises to be both exhilarating and frightening. There will be times of fear, followed by times of fun.

Pass through the parched Desert of Dried-up Dreams. Then, visit the Island Paradise of Joy-filled Living.

You’d quickly return the brochure to its fellow unwanted pamphlets. That kind of trip wouldn’t appeal to you. The destination would sound all-too familiar. Kinda like life which includes raising a child with mental illness (MI)—a rollercoaster life.

Recently Genesis 41:52 grabbed my attention. My daily devotional included the verse, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow” (MSG).

Prosperity in the land of sorrow?

Curiosity tempted me to peek inside the Bible and find out the context.

Genesis 37, 39, and 40 set the stage. Those chapters describe Joseph’s land of sorrow. Out of jealousy, his brothers threw him into a pit and left him to die. Then, they realized selling their brother would be profitable. So, they lifted him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. There, the captain of the guard’s wife lied about Joseph. So, Joseph was cast into prison. While in the dungeon, Joseph interpreted the chief butler’s dream. Joseph hoped that when the butler was released, he’d convince Pharaoh to release him. But, when the chief butler got released, he forgot all about Joseph.

Then came Joseph’s prosperity. Two years later, the butler finally remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret his dream (Genesis 41:1-13). Joseph assured Pharaoh, “God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16b). Joseph’s interpretation pleased Pharaoh so much that he said, “‘You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you … See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:40-41).

That was just the beginning of Joseph’s prosperity. He and the people of Egypt enjoyed seven years of abundant food. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who bore him two sons.

That’s the part of the story which includes the intriguing verse.

“He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, ‘God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow’” [Genesis 41:52 (MSG)].

The context gave me insight. Joseph endured hardship in the land of Egypt. Later, he enjoyed prosperity in the same land. It encouraged me to read about someone who experienced an easy life after tremendous hardship. His God could do the same for me. So I read on.

Just as God had instructed in Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph stored up food during the seven yrs. of plenty to ensure he’d have food during the seven yrs. of severe famine. Genesis 41:53-54 reveals the wisdom of God’s advice.

“Then Egypt’s seven good years came to an end and the seven years of famine arrived, just as Joseph had said. All countries experienced famine; Egypt was the only country that had bread” [Genesis 41:53-54 (MSG)].

Can we relate to Joseph?

He was treated unfairly by his brothers, by the captain of the guard’s wife, and by the chief butler. It can seem unfair that we’ve been charged with raising a child with MI (especially if we’re also dealing with other challenges).

Like Joseph, we’ve gone through times of sorrow. We’ve watched our children suffer losses, experience turmoil, or endure depression and anxiety. Some of us have witnessed our children bear paranoia or psychosis.

Joseph prepared for the oncoming famine by storing up grain. We can prepare for the possible re-emergence of MI symptoms by storing up verses.

Pharaoh told his servants, ““Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).

The same Spirit, which was in Joseph, is in those of us who have received Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and discernment to help our fragile and vulnerable children.

We still may get hung up on the taunting question of why. Why did God allow MI to strike our children?

Joseph’s story offers us an end to that torment. Joseph understood that God had a plan for his life. So, he was able to forgive his brothers. He told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

That presents us with a great challenge. Can we view our circumstances from a heavenly perspective? We may never fully understand God’s purposes for the trials we endure. But, we can be sure His plans are perfect and His love is endless. When life doesn’t make sense, God’s Word calms our fear and confusion. His unchanging Truths help us trust God even if we can’t track Him.

Dear Father,

Help me look past my circumstances that seem so unfair at times. Give me have an eternal perspective. Please prosper me and my family in our land of sorrow. Lead me to verses that I can use during stormy days. Verses that will remind me of Your love and faithfulness. Be gracious to restore joy and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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