Have you ever had one of those situations where you felt a positive outcome was impossible? Have you ever asked, “How could anything good come from this?”. I’ve had my fair share of these moments by way of various illnesses, injuries and layoffs. I remember those times praying to God and feeling like I’d be better off without those troubles.
When I read the Christmas story I can’t help but wonder if Joseph was feeling the same frustration with his circumstances. He was a young man pledged to be married to a girl named Marry. Undoubtedly, he had a good opinion of her and was looking forward to their upcoming marriage. But then the innocent bliss of the upcoming wedding was crudely shattered when he found out that Marry was pregnant. That news probably ruined his day.
The narrative in the gospel of Matthew notes that he, “had in mind to divorce her quietly so Marry would not be disgraced”. A pledge to be married during that time in history was not easy to break off and Joseph was trying to figure out how they could both avoid disgrace. If a woman was found pregnant outside of marriage in the Jewish culture the man was within his rights to publicly leave her and disgrace her. The man had no remorse in letting her face the shame of her immoral actions. And yet, we see something about the character of Joseph that he cared about Marry’s reputation.
The truth was however, that breaking things off with Marry would leave her alone and exposed. Have you ever been left alone and exposed?
The only disgrace Joseph could avoid by leaving would be his. If he stayed with Marry he knew he’d have to bear the shame and burden of the accusatory rumors and gossip over her “early” pregnancy. That’s when God stepped in.
God sent a message to Joseph by way of an Angel but it wasn’t the message Joseph might have expected. God’s will was for Joseph to stick with Marry. There was something big going on in Marry’s belly, pun intended, that would changed the world. The Angel explained that the baby had been conceived by the Spirit of God and would save people from their sins! That’s no ordinary baby. God wanted Joseph to know that no matter how bleak the outcome looked that He had a plan and His plan would change lives. I think God was inviting Joseph into something that was worth the cost.
Following Jesus is much the same. It doesn’t always make sense to me but when I listen to God’s purposes and His promises I believe seeing even the most difficult circumstances through as worthwhile. If Joseph hadn’t stuck it out with Marry he would have missed being part of the greatest rescue mission of mankind! Joseph couldn’t predict the future but He could count on the past. He could count on all he knew about God. God had proven Himself to the ancestors of Joseph numerous times. God had shown his compassion for His people, His faithfulness to His promises, and His displays of power.
So what do we do when the future looks bleak and the circumstances are uncomfortable? We think of Joseph and we do what He did. We trust God. We trust His word. We trust His promises. We trust His plan.
Standing in the mess of animals and circumstances in the stable there on that night in Bethlehem I bet Joseph thought, “Well, here we go. No turning back now.” And yet, I think that was a fleeting moment as the glory of God entered into the world and a new feeling emerged in the heart of Joseph, “He is absolutely beautiful!” and he fell to his knees and worshipped God.
God has made a habit of bringing good things, even magnificent things out of less than ideal situations. He can bring beauty out of mess. In fact it was into a giant mess, our world, that he brought His beauty and redemption: Jesus Christ the light of the world and the Savior of mankind! If God can bring such beauty and redemption out of our messy world, don’t neglect His ability to bring beauty out of your mess too!