A numbing economic winter has fallen on our land. But unlike the normal temperature fluctuations that are part of any thriving economy, there’s no sign that this present freeze has any intention of thawing soon.
There’s hardly a family that hasn’t experienced some frostbite. Savings and retirement accounts languish as the Dow hits new lows while unemployment hits new highs. Across the country people are driving away from mortgages in cars they can no longer afford. Probably the most telling sign of how bleak things may be is the number of head hunter executives who are out looking for jobs … for themselves!
I can’t think of a better time to be raising kids for true greatness.
Nor can I think of any time in my lifetime when families have been handed such a golden opportunity to represent the heart of God to the people who surround them. Our homes are called to be the headwaters of every low spot in our culture.
To support my point, I invite you to leaf to the front pages of your Bible—and learn from a man who knew what it was like to be thrown headlong into an economic, relational, and emotional winter … without a coat. His name was Joseph (Genesis 37-50). Let me set the scene for you.
Great kid, father’s favorite, a dreamer who was envied by his older brothers. His brothers rejected him, abused him, and ultimately sold him into slavery. He was purchased by an Egyptian official who happened to have a lonely and unfulfilled wife. Joseph spurned her advances. She reacted by falsely accusing him of sexual assault.
He was pink slipped, unemployed, and thrown into prison all at the same time. Through a series of events, he got a chance to use God’s insight to interpret a dream for one of Pharaoh’s handlers. But he was forgotten in prison for two more years until Pharaoh had a dream that stumped his own wise men.
Things moved quickly. Joseph was taken from the prison, given a bath, a shave, and a change of clothing before he was whisked into Pharaoh’s presence to see if he could interpret his dream. From this humble position, Joseph heard the dream and then immediately gave its interpretation from God. And what a revelation it was! Egypt was going to experience seven wonderful years of bounty and blessing. But these were going to be immediately followed by seven years of abject famine that would be so severe that Egyptians were going to forget any of the blessings they once enjoyed. Sound familiar?
Now here’s where we need to pay close attention to the story. What happened next revealed the heart of Joseph as well as the true face of grace. Joseph had endured a prolonged season of back stabbing, rejection, humiliation, and pain from his family as well as the Egyptians. He’s just hear that God is about to destroy his oppressor’s economy and possibly see the bulk of their population die of starvation. Based on the way they’ve treated him, it would be easy to be excited that they are getting their just desserts.
But Joseph was ruled by the power, presence, and compassion of God, which gave him an immediate concern for the Egyptians’ welfare. Once he explained the meaning of the dreams, his superb problem solving skills, as well as his sophisticated administrative skills, kicked in as he volunteered a plan that would enable Pharaoh to leverage this news in a way that could save his people. It’s what you do when you live your life for others.
You probably know the rest of the story. Pharaoh made Joseph the equivalent of Prime Minister of Egypt. He gave him a beautiful wife who gave him two fine sons. And in the process of all of this, it put him In a position to save his own family from starvation as well as relieve his brothers of the heavy weight of guilt that they had been carrying for selling him into slavery so many years before. When he had the chance to even the score with them, he instead offered grace.
“Don’t be afraid, for am I not in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:19-21)
Economic winters are not excuses to show fear but opportunities to live by faith. Our response can’t be strategies that only take into consideration our own survival. These are not times when we lessen our commitment to the spread of the gospel but rather ramp it up. These are not times when we limit our concern for the poor, the lonely, the sick, the helpless or the hopeless but compound them many fold. During economic summers we give from our surplus. These are times to give from our sacrifice.
These tough times are perfect opportunities to step forward and speak up with a clear hope; to roll up our sleeves and get involved in bringing substantive help to the hurting; and to give our children a walking, breathing example of what God’s grace looks like covered in compassionate sweat. Your commitment to practicing grace in the midst of this harsh economic winter may be the only warmth the people closest to you will be able to enjoy.
The good news is that the coldest winters set up some of the most abundant spring times.
So let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).