One summer evening of 1996, I was driving up the first main incline of Highway 50 from Sacramento to Placerville, when I saw it ahead of me: black, bluish gray smoke pouring out of a tailpipe of a car that was struggling to maintain its momentum up the hill.
As I got closer, what I saw was the ugliest car I'd ever seen. A couple of its doors were literally wired together with baling wire just to keep them closed. I couldn't tell the original color of the car because of so much paint that had been painted over the years in so many different colors. Besides, I'm not sure it mattered, because the rust had eaten away with so much of the paint that what was left was gaping holes in the wheel wells, the doors and the undercarriage. It had a large gash in the side of the car where it had obviously scraped on something and the person just kept driving. Several of the windows were broken, with black plastic and cardboard taped over them. The tailpipe and muffler were so loose that, with every bump, they would hit the street and send sparks in every direction. The bumper was loose and hanging cockeyed. But what was most interesting about the car was a bumper sticker that said simply: This is not an abandoned car.
We live in a broken world that at times looks as ugly as that car that I saw. Almost everywhere we look, we see tragedy, heartache, political turmoil, division and all of this in the midst of one of the worst pandemics to ever hit our country, with 23.8 million cases of COVID and 396,000 deaths*, it feels like our world has been thrown into a pit and abandoned.
The Bible teaches us that God not only offers us encouragement when we go through the difficult parts of our life, but He actually enters into the pit with us.
Life is tough, facing difficulties is as common as breathing. The question is not if but when we'll find ourselves in the painful pits of this life. But the Bible teaches us that God not only offers us encouragement when we go through the difficult parts of our life, but He actually enters into the pit with us.
Imagine what Joseph felt right after his brothers beat him and threw him into the pit. Then they took him and sold him to human traffickers of the day, the Israelites, who then sold him to an Egyptian, separated from his family, his homeland. I'm sure Joseph felt alone, cut off from what he knew and who he loved.
Joseph found himself in the pit of his life, and I believe the writers of Genesis want us to see and feel the bleakness and the loneliness and the hopelessness of his situation. But Joseph was not deserted. He was not abandoned, Genesis 39:2 simply states: "The Lord was with Joseph."
God did not abandon him in the pit. Far from it. God was actually with him. He was there showing His amazing love, strengthening his faith and molding him into his providential purposes that God had in mind specifically for Joseph.
Here's what we really need to know:
First of all, we never sink lower than Christ can descend. We cling to the same God that Joseph clung to. He speaks to us through His word and His promises.
He says, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5), and the same God promises to work through our circumstances for His glory and our good. "All things work together for good," He tells us, "for those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
We can never sink lower than Christ can descend. That's the first thing we need to know.
But in addition, we can never outrun His purposes for our life. Joseph learned this, and he told his brothers in Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." When tragedy has buckled our knees, God is with us to buttress our faith. All difficulties are not pointless, but purposeful in His hands. God is more than with us in the pit. He enters into our struggles; He encourages us with His presence; He sympathizes with our weaknesses and refreshes us with His word; He makes sure that every tear that is shed, every difficulty that confronts us, every pit that darkens our life is a tool in His hand to shape us for His purposes. When trials of life envelop you and you feel like you're rushing uncontrollably down a river of despair, hold on to the presence and purposefulness of God.
He has not abandoned you. God is with you in this pit for His glory and your good.
*at the time of recording