There’s an old Gospel song I remember from my youth: “If heaven was never promised to me; even God’s promise to live eternally; it’s been worth just having the Lord in my life. Living in a world of darkness, He came along and brought me the Light.”
People of faith have always been secretly envied by people who just can’t seem to believe. I guess that’s why others have treated people of faith so badly at times. There’s something liberating about trusting that God will bring about what is best for us if we will only stay faithful to Him. Of course, the faithless slander and ridicule such a notion as being foolish or “pie in the sky” thinking. And it certainly can be that. But there are also ample examples of the peace and freedom of a person whose life is governed by faith rather than the constant clawing of someone who lives like everything only depends on themselves!
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 46:1-7:
So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their cattle and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.
Our old deceiver, Jacob (God changes his name to “Israel” which means God Prevails), is an old man now. Years ago, his dear son, the son he loved, had been betrayed by Jacob’s other sons and sold into slavery in Egypt. And Jacob’s sons had lied to their father and said that Joseph was dead. But now their deception has unraveled as God had exalted Joseph to a position of power in Egypt and a deadly famine had come to Canaan where Jacob and his family lived. After years of grieving his son, Jacob learns the amazing news that Joseph is alive. And Joseph doesn’t want revenge or payback. Joseph is bringing all his family to Egypt to save them from the famine. Of course, the Jews going to Egypt will have a downside later on, but that’s not part of our story today!
No, today, we see the benefits of the “long view” of life and not the temptation of the temporary to cause us to try to fix things our own way. Today we see God and His wisdom prevail in the face of betrayal, fear, jealousy, envy, and even the threat of physical death. And it all grows out of a choice in a moment to stay faithful no matter what the cost.
But that’s the message of our entire Faith, dear ones. A life of confidence in God and a trust that He is guiding His world to His ends set a wise man free from the fear that drives short-sighted choices that ultimately cause more harm than good. All you have to do is look at too many political or foreign policy choices of too many nations to see the unintended consequences of immediate relief that carries long-term bad results.
What’s true for foreign policy is also true for our individual lives as well. No wonder the Church gives us the wisdom of “patron saints,” godparents, fathers, and mothers in the Lord, all in an attempt to arrest the all too easy short-sighted choices that cause long-term pain. Ultimately, God will prevail. This world is His world, and history is His Story!
So, today, in spite of momentary pain; in spite of the hard choices to forgo immediate gratification for long-term wisdom; we, the faithful, are called to play the “long game” and not sell our lives short by giving up too soon! When you can face even the most terrifying moment with the peace of a joyous eternity you are able to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, give me patience when life tempts me to overreact with fear and worry when life is difficult. Help me not to try to save myself when it is You Who defends me and You Who saves me. Your Church holds such a treasure house of wisdom and strength that there is no reason for me to rely only on my own insight and strength. Amen