One of the most heart-warming experiences of teaching a Sunday school class is asking a question and hearing the children unanimously shout “Jesus” as the answer. Often, Jesus is the correct answer, and they know that. And when it’s not? They know they will be met with a warm and approving smile from their teacher.
Whether you have a wall calendar or desk calendar or use your phone calendar, if you’re like me, there are a lot of little blank squares. Each blank square is a day that has yet to be scheduled, planned, or prepared for, a visual reminder there may be more uncertainties for the new year than certainties. There are more unknowns than knowns. And more questions than answers.
But when we recall the lesson from the Sunday school room and remember the answer to all of our questions is found in Jesus (and His Word), we discover we can walk into an unknown future with the confidence that comes from a known God.
Focusing On What We Do Know
After Joseph’s father died, his brothers were filled with anxious apprehension, wondering if Joseph might retaliate against them for the trouble they had caused. In response to their fears of the unknown, Joseph replied: “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done: the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21 NIV)
Joseph’s response reveals five truths we can hold on to as we face our unknowns.
1) God is God and rules over all.
Joseph asked, “Am I in the place of God?” He knew God was God and therefore ruled over all, including himself and everything that happened in his life. This was settled in his heart first and foremost, and it affected his view of everything – and his treatment of everyone – around him.
As we enter a new year filled with uncertain days, we can be confident that God is God, and we are His. What a difference it would make if we viewed everything that happened this coming year through the lens of God’s sovereignty.
2) God’s plan, not people’s, will come to pass.
Joseph acknowledged his brothers’ intent to harm him, but because he knew God was God, he knew God’s plan superseded the plan of others. No one and nothing could thwart His purpose.
We, too, can be confident that God’s plan will come to pass this year. What happens in our lives is not haphazard or left up to chance. We serve a God who loves and cares for us and who is involved in the details of our days.
3) Remember the “but God” moments.
Joseph recognized what God was able to do: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” Since Joseph knew God ruled over all, it was no problem for him to believe that God could, and did, overrule all.
This is our testimony, as well as Joseph’s. When the fears of the unknown future threaten to overwhelm us, let’s take a moment to look back. How has God intervened in the past? How has He been faithful? How has He displayed His power? The past “but God” moments we’ve experienced can encourage and comfort us when we face the unknowns of a new year.
4) Redefine your definition of “good”.
Joseph adopted God’s definition of what was good. Notice the good he spoke of involved the saving of many lives, not just what was “good” for Joseph but what was suitable for many.
As we recall the promise of Romans 8:28 (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”), we can be certain the things that will fill our current empty calendar squares – the delightful, the difficult, and everything in between – will eventually be woven together for His glory and our good.
5) Recall what you have received.
As a recipient of grace, Joseph became a vessel of grace. He was able to deal kindly with his undeserving brothers because he knew he was first a recipient of the immense kindness and abundant grace of God.
There may be a lot we don’t know about the year ahead, but one thing we do know is we have received, and will continue to receive, the abundant grace and mercy of our loving Savior. How can we not freely give what we have freely received? Such a view will allow us, like Joseph, to be a vessel of His kindness, which is who we are always called to be.
These lessons from Joseph remind us we know more than we may have thought regarding the unknown year ahead: we know enough about God, what He has done, and who we are called to be to settle our anxious, wondering hearts. When faced with uncertainties and questions, let’s follow the Sunday school children’s example, knowing He is always the answer.