March 4, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Today is my mother’s birthday. In her honor, I want to tell a story about her life that illustrates what we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion. As you may recall, we reflected on Joseph’s speech to his brothers, which he delivered after revealing to them his true identity. In this speech, Joseph acknowledged that his brothers had sold him into Egypt. Yet, by this means, God sent him there for God’s good purposes. God has a mysterious, marvelous way of redeeming the bad things in our life, bringing astounding good out of them.
God can redeem even the hardest things in life for his purposes. What a wonder!
My mom is a case in point. She and my dad had forged a wonderful life together, focused in faith, family, friends, and service to others. Yet, when my dad was in his early fifties, he got terminal liver cancer. After a couple of terribly difficult years for our family, most of all for my mom and dad, he died at the age of 54. As you can imagine, this was devastating for all of us, but mostly for my mom. It was by far the hardest thing she had ever experienced.
But God used this experience for unanticipated good, a case of his mysterious, marvelous ways. Shortly after my dad died, the children’s director at my mom’s church, the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, resigned. As church leaders searched for an outstanding, highly experienced new director, my mom helped out a bit because she and my dad had been deeply involved in the children’s ministry as lay leaders. When the search committee had a hard time finding the right person, church leaders asked my mom to become the interim children’s director, but only until the right professional could be hired. For months, as the search lagged, my mom served as the interim director. It was truly a gift from God that she had something to do that she cared so much about. Sure, she grieved the loss of my dad, but her life was full and meaningful during that difficult season of life.
For the better part of a year, my mom did her interim work with excellence. At some point, it dawned on the church leaders that the children’s ministry was flourishing in a way it had not for years. Though my mom did not have a degree in Christian education or experience as a paid children’s director, she was doing a fantastic job. So, at some point, the church leaders approached my mom, wondering if she would be willing to become the full-time director. After much prayer, she accepted the offer.
The fact that my mom had a full-time job answered one of the big questions we faced after my dad’s death: How is mom going to support herself? But, even more importantly, my mom had the chance to serve the Lord and serve people in a way that gloriously used her gifts and talents. She ended up serving as the children’s director for seventeen years, making a difference in the lives of literally thousands of children and their families. The children’s ministry of the church flourished. My mom loved lavishly and was greatly loved in return.
Though we’ll never know for sure, I think it’s highly likely that this would not have happened if my dad had been alive. Her life with him would have been full and rich. No doubt they would have continued volunteering in the children’s ministry at church. But I don’t think she would have been the full-time children’s director.
Now, I’m not saying that God took my dad so that my mom could have such an amazing ministry with children. But it is clear that, in God’s mysterious and marvelous ways, he used the most painful experience in my mom’s life for great good, blessing her and so many others. God can redeem even the hardest things in life for his purposes. What a wonder!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you had experiences like that of Mark’s mom?
Can you think of similar experiences in the lives of friends or family members?
How do you respond when you think of God’s mysterious, marvelous ways?
Gracious God, thank you for your amazing grace in our lives. Thank you for redeeming that which is painful and difficult. Thank you for using every part of our lives for your purposes if we seek to follow you. Thank you for the fact that you are working all things together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Rom 8:38).
When I am going through difficult times, help me to trust you, Lord. To be you be all the glory! Amen.
Image Credit: Photo used by permission of Mark Roberts. All rights reserved.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.