This week we’re studying Restless Chapter 4 — Places. Honest to goodness, I thought Phew! We’re through suffering! Didn’t you?
But, like Joseph, sometimes our places are really hard places!
Maybe the places God has you aren’t painful or challenging. Maybe you’re exactly where you want to be right now. That’s just gorgeous! But, there’s still a lot to learn through the story of Joseph about God’s sovereignty, what He accomplishes during times and places of suffering, and how He grows and stretches us into the servant-hearted, humble, usable people He wants us to be.
If you’re in the middle of the worst of the worst, if you’re enduring a really heartbreaking season of trial, loss, or suffering, listen up. Right now, in the middle of the pain and hardship, God is doing things that you cannot see. He is using this place to prepare you. He is setting you up for blessing. He is writing your story for His glory and for the benefit of the Kingdom. Even if it is a long, long time before you see it happen, soak yourself in this story of faithfulness.
Our place contains God and the plans of God wherever we are! — Jennie Allen
Last week we learned that Joseph was nearly murdered by his jealous brothers. He was sold into slavery but served faithfully at Potiphar’s and God showed him favor. When the lady of the house relentlessly sexually harassed him, he resisted her. And, when she cornered him and insisted, he spiritually laced up his track shoes and ran right out of his jacket which landed him in the slammer! In jail, true to his track record, Joseph was faithful, and true to God’s, He showed him favor.
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. — Psalm 119:50
This week we read in Genesis 40 about Joseph’s years in prison…
The chief cupbearer (Pharaoh’s head butler) and the chief baker — both of these guys held very high ranking jobs in the palace — had been tossed in the klink because they’d somehow angered the king of Egypt. (As Matthew Henry said, “High places are slippery places.”) Joseph was given the job of being their servant in prison. It’s interesting that he was assigned by Potiphar himself, by the way, which means that by then Potiphar must have realized Joseph’s innocence of attempting to rape his wife, and yet he didn’t dare upset the apple cart at home by giving him freedom.
Sometimes we can be “stuck” someplace rotten even when the very people who could change our circumstances know that we don’t deserve to be there.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” — Jim Elliot
Anyway, one morning after they’d been there for probably a year, both were down in the dumps because they’d had dreams but didn’t have access that they’d had before to Pharaoh’s diviners whose job it was to pretend to interpret dreams. Joseph had great compassion on them as their keeper, their jailmate, and also as a dreamer (Genesis 37:5-9), so he said, “Hey, interpretations come from my God. Tell me what you dreamed.”
The head butler then told him his dream and the Lord gave Joseph the interpretation — in three days time, he’d be restored to Pharaoh’s good graces as well as to his old job. Joseph asked the chief cupbearer,
“Hey, buddy, here’s the deal. I just gave you great news! When it actually happens, please tell the king that I’m innocent and ask him to let me go.”
When the baker heard this positive interpretation, he told his dream to Joseph. But, things weren’t going to go so well for the baker. In three days time, he’d be hanged.
Three days later, on Pharaoh’s birthday (which was probably the anniversary of when they’d ticked him off), it happened just as Joseph had said it would.
The baker was hanged and the chief cupbearer got his powerful job back, but he forgot Joseph… for two. full. years.
Can you imagine Joseph in prison waiting to hear that Pharaoh was releasing him. Waiting. Waiting. One day. Two days. A week? How his heart must have broken! How he must have wondered what the Lord was doing keeping him in jail when all he’d done was serve in faithfulness and point unbelievers to the one true God.
When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful. — D. L. Moody
We have so little control over our circumstances, don’t we?
I certainly never would have dreamed of being in this place. I’m 43, legally separated from a man I’ve loved for 24 years, living at my parents house with my three younger children while my oldest is at college and my older son lives with his father, with none of my own belongings, and not homeschooling after 14 years of living the life of a homeschool family. What??? The brokenness sometimes takes my breath away. It’s so foreign and feels completely off-track from what God surely must have had in mind.
My “places” are all radically different. Even church is different because there really isn’t a place for the separated. Marrieds, singles, youth, men, women, yes. But, married-separated people don’t fit in anyplace comfortably. The church, pastors, and even couples you’ve been friends with a long time don’t know what to do with you. And, I really do understand because I remember as a church leader and as a couple not knowing what to do with separated, heartbroken people.
My “places” are not the places I had hoped and dreamed about.
Not as I will, but as thou wilt. To be able to say these words and truly mean them is the highest point we can ever hope to attain. Then, indeed we have broken out of time’s hard shell to breathe, not its stale air, but the fresh, exhilarating atmosphere of eternity. — Malcolm Muggeridge
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3
On the live-chat last Thursday, I was sharing with Tiffany (who was so beautifully brave and transparent in sharing her story), that I spent the bulk of my marriage feeling deeply alone, and then found myself actually alone-alone. That’s definitely what came out of the Week 3 projects, one word repeated over and over — alone, alone, alone. But, I read Streams in the Desert for 2/27, which is all about how we must get alone with God in order to wrestle with Him, hear from Him, be healed, and to be a blessing to others.
Left alone! What different emotions these words bring to mind for each of us! To some they mean loneliness and grief, but to others they may mean rest and quiet. To be left alone without God would be too horrible for words, while being left alone with Him is a taste of heaven! And if His followers spent more time alone with Him, we would have spiritual giants again.
Our Master set an example for us. Remember how often He went to be alone with God? And there was a powerful purpose behind His command, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray” (Matthew 6:6)
Just look at these giants of the faith and what happened when they were alone with God: Elijah, Elisha, Jacob (Genesis 32:28), Joshua (Joshua 1:1), Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 6:11, Judges 11:29), Moses (Exodus 3:1-5), Cornelius (Acts 10:1-4), Peter (Acts 10:9-28), John the Baptist (Luke 1:80), and John the Beloved (Revelation 1:9).
Earnestly desire to get alone with God. — L. B. Cowman
God cares about our places. He sets us in our places. He does that so that people come to know Him. — Jennie Allen
This place has been the ICU. It’s holy ground. As I said last week, this is where the Lord Himself showed up and started changing me from the inside out. It’s where I’ve clung to His Word and His promises. It’s where I asked Him to clean out my heart and use me.Although in a lot of ways it feels absurd to be in my circumstances at my time of life, just as Jennie shared on the video this week that the theme of Philippians — where Paul was imprisoned — was JOY, that’s a lot of what I’ve learned during this season. Joy. Leaning on God in desperation, pressing into Him in confusion, hurt, anger, and every other emotion leads to a very strange, but solid joy.
God is in control. He is not surprised. He will use me in these places. If I choose Him, cultivate joy, choose a surrendered heart, and allow myself to be used. Right here! Right exactly where He wants me to be.
So, my places — my parents’ home, church, kids’ schools, the avenues given to me for writing, the support groups I am so grateful for — are the springboards for what God wants to do.
I want to do God-things right in the middle of a place that, for now, feels uncomfortable, strange, small, insignificant, broken, and foreign. I know that’s possible because it’s God’s specialty!
This Week: Places (Chapter 4)
Read Chapter 4 of the Restless Study Guide (pages 97-116)
Write your responses in the Study Guide
Watch Session 5 of this week’s Restless video either on DVD or on-demand at Vimeo ($2.99/session)
Coming up: There are now 2 weekly online hangouts for Restless project!
Monday nights: Restless Book Club with Jennie Allen at 9:30 pm EST – starting March 3rd!
Get excited! Jennie is back to lead you through the book, and for this weekly hangout you don’t need the study guide, just the book! Jennie talks more about this new weekly book club event here on her blog. All you need to access the weekly book club is this link:
Thursday nights: Restless Bible Study with Laurie and the Bible study group at 10 pm EST
Did you see our Week 4 live-chat on Suffering? If not, here’s the replay! (Yeah, that’s me cracking up at the beginning again.)
YOU can join us, too! Contact us if you’d like to be a live-chat guest for our chat this Thursday on Places. Enter your information here if you’re willing to be on camera for the chat or you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Share Your Story
What are your places? For some of us, this topic brings up more pain if we’re not in the places we want to be, or if life has turned upside-down-inside-out. I am praying for you. For some of us, it brings up confusion and/or fear if we don’t know where we’re supposed to be, if we’re supposed to move, get a new job, or change churches or school. I am praying for you, too! Leave your comments below and share with us! I would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie
Also, join us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using #RestlessProject. Join the conversation and ask questions!
Father, we love you. Thank You for placing us exactly where we are, even if those places are tough. Thank You that You have a plan for us to be usable right here. We pray that You would expand our understanding of our influence and the people we can reach for you. Help us to see the beauty in the mundane, the difficult, the frightening, the challenging places and that You have stuff for us to do right here! Help us to dream about the ways we can connect with others in the places you’ve given us. We are so grateful that You entrust us with the people you put in our paths. We love You, Lord. Amen.
Have you missed any of our previous weeks’ posts or weekly Bible study hangout replays? Here are the links:
Author Chat Replay. Watch the 1-hour video with Jennie that kicked off our online Bible study!
Restless Study Week 1, What’s Holding You Back from Dreaming?
Restless Study Week 2, God’s Story
Restless Study Week 3, Gifts
Restless Study Week 4 Suffering