“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
A man once sat with a friend listening patiently as he complained bitterly about the troubles in his life. Finally, he spoke. “Look, Joe,” he said, “this is your life, and these are your circumstances. Now, what’s the opportunity?”
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine just such an exchange occurring at some point in one of ancient history’s most famous stories about a real man named Joe – better known as Joseph – who had every right to complain bitterly about the troubles in his life. Betrayed by his own brothers out of jealousy over the favor shown to him by their father, they sold him into slavery to the Egyptians. And if that were not bad enough, even after finding honest work in that foreign country, once again he was betrayed by the wife of his employer who falsely accused him of impropriety which led to a prison sentence.
It’s at this point where I can imagine Joseph losing it (I surely would have), complaining bitterly to his cellmate about the troubles in his life, and after listening patiently for a while the cellmate issuing a gentle challenge. “Okay, Joe, I get it. But these are the circumstances, now what is the opportunity?” We all know the rest of the story, of course, as Joseph had a unique gift of interpreting dreams, which eventually led to an opportunity to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph went on to become the Pharaoh’s prime minister, the second most powerful person in Egypt, positioning him to reunite and reconcile with his family by saving them from starvation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all ample reason to spend our days like the fictional Joe, complaining bitterly about our troubles. Our lives, after all, have been terrifyingly disrupted. The world is changing, and it is changing us. History is happening before our very eyes. Yet, these are the circumstances, so the choice and the challenge before us is to either complain, or to seek out opportunities – and disruptions always present opportunities. So, let us be “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.” This is our life as it is, and these are the circumstances. Now, what are the opportunities?