When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant and he knew he had nothing to do with it he must have paused and thought a long time about his future.
It would appear that Joseph was no ordinary man. From the text, it is easy to see that Joseph was a man of compassion, integrity, decency and love. He was a man who honored God’s will in his life, and was totally committed to doing God’s will. Joseph was a humble man who was more concerned about what God wanted out of his life than about what he himself wanted. He was a humble man chosen for a heavenly mission.
The fact is, that Joseph could have checked out of the whole thing. He could have walked away and no one would have judged him for it. It was a major issue and there was no practical explanation for why or how Mary was pregnant. Maybe it was the angel’s visit or maybe it was his deep love for Mary that made him stay. What life lessons can we learn from Joseph and his actions? While not facing the same thing he did, there are situations that can test us at our core. They test our resolve to stand or collapse; to stay or run; to believe or doubt. Here are three ideas about Joseph and his side of the story that may be helpful to you and I as we journey through our own story.
- A Tragedy that Marred His Life: Shocking discoveries and shattered dreams
“ 18The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) 19Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.” Matthew 1:18-19
Joseph and Mary had their lives planned and then this happened. What a true portrait of the harsh reality of life! We do our best to make our plans and get things all lined up like they thing they ought to be, then something happens and we see our hopes, our plans and our dreams come crashing down! When these things happen, it breaks our hearts because it isn’t what we wanted or what we expected and it looks to us as though it could be the worst thing possible. There will be things that happen in our lives that make us think our life is over. Sometimes it may be our fault and sometimes it is something completely out of our control. What does the bible say we should do?
8We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. 9We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 10Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 15All of these things are for your benefit. And as God’s grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! 18So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. 2 Cor. 4-18
2. The Task that Marked His Life: Divine revelations and definite requirements
“ 20While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. 21She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus–“God saves’–because he will save his people from their sins.” 22This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: 23Watch for this–a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Emmanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).” Matthew 1:20-23
“While he was trying to figure a way out . . . ” In the middle of this great tragedy in the life of Joseph, God placed a call upon him. God assigned Joseph a task that many would have balked at; but it was a task that Joseph embraced and completed by faith. A great tragedy may have marred his life, but this task marked his life.
Often the way we look at life is like watching a parade go by while standing between two tall buildings. All you are able to see of the parade is that portion that is passing directly in front of you at any given moment. You have a memory of what has already passed, but you have no idea about what is yet to come. You have to wait until it gets to you. But, if you were to climb on top of one of those tall buildings, you would be able to see the parade in its entirety. You could see the beginning, the middle and the end all at the same time. There would be no surprises!
That’s the way we see life, isn’t it? All we can really see is the part that happens to be passing before our eyes at the present time. We have a blurred memory of that which has gone before, but we have no idea about what is coming our way. Our God, however, sits above it all. To Him, there are no surprises! He knows the end from the beginning, because He had planned it all the way through.
The best thing we can ever learn to do is to simply trust Him to bring the best into our lives day by day. Even when our dreams are shattered and our hopes are dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks of reality, we need to trust the truth that our Father is still in control and He will take care of His children! Despite what you and I may think at times, God does know what is best for us!
3. The Testimony that Measured His Life: Unconditional compliance and unwavering commitment
“ 24Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. 25But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.” Matthew 1:24-25
You know Joseph could have said no. I believe that every human has been given the ability to choose the direction of their lives. God will never force you to do anything. Joseph could have said no to this role. He could have turned it down and disappeared from the pages of history forever, but he said yes. He did exactly what God asked him to do.
The real test of maturity is not what a person faces in life, nor is it revealed in what they are called on to do. The real evidence of the depth of a person’s character is seen in what they do with what they are handed. It is one thing to be placed in a trial; but it is another thing altogether to respond to that trial in a proper manner. It is one thing to be called to carry out a task for God; but it is another thing altogether to do it without question.
Let God take your tragedy and show you the task you are being asked to do and you will find it turning into a testimony of God’s grace and purpose in your life.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish author who wrote Treasure Island, was accustomed to bedridden illnesses. Although frequently ill, he remained eternally optimistic. One day his wife approached him after a terrible coughing spell and remarked, “I expect you still believe it’s a wonderful day.” Stevenson confidently replied, “I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.” We can focus on the medicine bottles (or debts, disappointments, conflicts, etc.,) or we can keep our sights set on the horizon of God’s hope.
No matter what is going on around you in your life this December, I pray that the peace of God will fill your heart and mind and that you and I can learn to rest in Him knowing that no matter how life looks to others around us God always has a plan. He even takes brokenness and turns it into beauty that will honor and bring glory to Himself. I have taken an little longer this year to ponder nativity scenes when I see them and I especially have focused on the man on the left of the manger who stands there as a testimony to God’s grace to see us through whatever challenges come our way.