“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah and the captain of the guard.” (Genesis 37:36) “The following night, the Lord stood by him [Paul] and said, ‘Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” (Acts 23:11)
Joseph’s brothers beat him bloody and threw him into a waterless pit in the wilderness of Dothan. Then they sold him into slavery to Midianite traders headed for Egypt. Things got much worse before he exited that dark tunnel.
Paul went to Jerusalem with the best of intentions, only to be mobbed and beaten and then arrested and imprisoned. His freedom was mostly gone, along with the fellowship with other believers in the Jerusalem church. The Lord appeared to Paul. Jesus only does something like that when there is an urgent need. He spoke to Paul of courage, probably because Paul was not feeling much of it at the time. Then He spoke to Paul of what was to come eventually – witness in Rome. In the meantime, Paul had some writing to do.
Joseph and Paul had a kind of “situational despair” in common in these life events recorded in the Bible. This is not the kind of despair that makes people feel like there is no more hope. A situational despair is a sustained “down” feeling produced by a circumstance that seems to be totally incongruous with what we thought was God’s will and direction for us. Joseph had to have felt it. Clearly Paul did. These sorts of situations raise the question “why” or “why me” or “why this,” and they lead to a feeling of “I don’t understand why God is allowing this to happen to me.” This comes because we cannot see our way through the situation to where everything is clear. To put it another way, we are too close to the situation to be able to see beyond it.
If you find yourself facing a situational despair, you need to respond in several ways. First, understand that, even though it may not seem like it, it is temporary. Second, determine that you will endure the situation and trust God for His direction and fulfillment of His purposes. Third, put your trust into action and just keep moving ahead, watching for God to bring His purposes to fruition.
Lord, May we apply patience and trust to those situational despair times, understanding that You will achieve Your purposes in Your timing. Amen.