On a recent morning, I woke up at my usual time and ate some breakfast before I went to help Johanna. I sat on the couch upstairs, thinking about the strangeness of my life. I looked outside to the yellowing ash tree in our front yard and thought about the massive upheaval that has turned our lives upside down over the past years. I pondered how I was about to walk downstairs and step into an airlock and specially pressurized space to care for my beautiful, ill wife. None of this was out of the ordinary for me. Yet I realized just how very strange it all was and I marveled at God’s plans. “How did I get here?” I thought to myself.
My thoughts wandered to the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, which I’ve been recently reading. His life was upheaved over and over. He was thrown into a well by his brothers and sold as a slave. He rose to prominence in the house of his master, but then was falsely accused and sent to jail in a ‘pit’ (probably not akin to a modern-day prison). After two years in prison he rose to sudden, immense prominence in the kingdom of Egypt, after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. I suspect that at some point, Joseph, too, sat on an ancient Egyptian equivalent of a couch (was it a couch?) and marveled at his weird Egyptian life. “How did I get here?” he might of asked. Although my similarities to Joseph likely terminate with this simple question, I nonetheless pondered the pervasive realities of upheaval in the scriptures.
I thought of Paul being accused in Acts 17 of ‘turning the world upside down’ as he taught about Jesus’ death and resurrection. I thought about his own conversion from breathing out murderous threats against Christians to becoming one himself. Paul’s whole life was turned upside down. Jesus’ life and ministry were marked by upheavals too. When he called his disciples and followers to renounce everything they owned and leave everything to follow him, he was asking for their personal upheaval. But Jesus set the example for what he asked of them. Jesus’ own life was upheaved, given as a sacrifice in our stead, and it was a chosen upheaval – not one forced upon him.
Upheavals change everything. They cause you to examine your life in all its aspects and ask big questions. They help you quickly find where your priorities lie and what you love most. They make you cry out to God and seek help from those around you. They change, bend, stretch, and mold you. They can even serve a greater good as God uses them to bring about his plans. The story of Joseph shows this when, at its end, Joseph tells his brothers that although they had meant their actions for evil, God had meant it for good. The upheaval of Jesus’ own life stands as an even clearer picture of this. Although Jesus’ life was upheaved, God used it to accomplish the greatest good, paving a way for us to know Him in this life and in the life to come.
Seeing upheavals so commonly in the scriptures reminds me that not only are Johanna and I in good company, but that it is serving a greater purpose. These difficult circumstances we are going through are not a cosmic accident. They are serving a purpose I don’t fully see, but one that I believe will lead to good. The upheaval of the past years has not upheaved my relationship with God. Instead, it has helped me deeply appreciate the upheaval of Jesus’ life and its lasting impact on the world.