HomeFaithDooley Noted: Redeeming the unexpected

Dooley Noted: Redeeming the unexpected

Agitated does not begin to describe how I felt that evening. I was just a week shy of graduating from Bible college. With finals behind me, all that remained on my to-do list was a series of farewell lunches and informal gatherings with friends that I would no longer see each day. A couple from my home church (also students) planned to take me and a few others out to dinner to celebrate. Much to my surprise, however, the entire group left me behind at the prompting of a classmate who insisted that I would catch up later. Because I had no car on campus, I was unable to do so and the celebrative evening occurred without me!

In my frustration, I roamed the campus looking for anyone I knew. While doing so, I met a young pastor who, one year later, invited me to speak before his congregation. It seemed unremarkable at the time, though, and I ended the evening sulking in my room. Soon, I forgot about the disappointment of that moment, but it all came flooding back when I finally showed up to preach at a small, country church twelve months later. On that Sunday, I met the young woman who would soon become my wife.

None of it would have ever happened apart from the lackluster night that seemed like a complete failure. Had I been at that dinner table with friends, I would have never met my new friend. Apart from our brief interaction, he would have never invited me to his church. And if I had not walk through those church doors that morning, I would have never laid eyes on the mother of my children. God’s sovereignty over our lives is the common thread that holds everything purposeful and meaningful together.

Tucked away in one of the Old Testament’s most familiar stories is a similar lesson about how God uses the mundane, and even the painful moments in our lives to accomplish His purposes. Littered with pain and apparent back luck, the narrative of Joseph’s life plays a pivotal role in the history of Israel (Gen. 37-50). As the favorite son of Jacob (Gen. 37:3), his eleven brothers hated him profoundly (Gen. 37:4). Proving to be more than sibling rivalry, their bitterness soon became visible through their plotting to kill Joseph (Gen. 37:18, 20), assaulting him (Gen. 37:23-24), and ultimately selling him into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37:26-28). From a human perspective, Joseph’s life seemed to be forever ruined.

Remarkably, none of these vitriolic injustices would have been possible apart from what appears, at least at first glance, as some of the most boring verses in the entire book of Genesis (Gen. 37:12-17). While the boys were tending their flocks in nearby Shechem, Joseph went looking for them at the direction of his father. Before Jacob’s youngest son arrived, though, the brothers moved on to a new place called Dothan. Yet, while in Shechem, Joseph just happened to meet the right stranger who just happened to know exactly where these older siblings relocated, allowing him to follow after them. Apart from the brief encounter, Joseph would have likely returned home to his father.

Why should we care about these incidental details? Had Joseph not followed his brothers he would have never been sold into slavery. And if Joseph had not been sold into slavery he would have never been sent to Egypt. Without Joseph arriving in Egypt, he would not have risen to second in command over the kingdom by interpreting Pharoah’s dreams. And apart from Joseph being in a position of authority, Egypt would have been unprepared for seven years of famine. Again, how is all of this relevant to Christians?

 Storehouses full of food in Egypt gave them the means to preserve the family of Jacob when they came seeking relief from their hunger. The survival of Jacob and his sons meant the birth of Israel and each of her twelve tribes. That same nation would later birth a Savior who would save His people from their sins (Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:21). Absent Joseph’s presence in Egypt, Israel would have died before becoming a great nation. In the end, no Israel would have meant no Messiah. Those verses about Joseph’s “accidental” encounter in Dothan turned about to be a pivotal moment that changed his life, and human history, forever.

The same is often true in our lives. The Lord redeems our incidental moments in order to accomplish His monumental purposes.

            Every random “chance” encounter.

            Every innocent “coincidence.”

            Every frustrating “delay” in traffic.

            Every unforeseen “change” of plans.

What we see as accidental God often uses as providential. We can trust God to work all things together for our good as we love Him and pursue the noble calling of His purpose for our lives (Rom. 8:28). Even when hardship seizes our blessings and the unexpected disrupts our comfort, we can trust that the Lord is preparing us for His future work and glory, much like he did Joseph.

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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