Four Biblical Stories That Show Us Life Isn’t Futile

Mon April 10, 2017 · Comments

In the weeks leading up to Easter, we are pleased to offer this blog series inspired by Max Lucado’s book, “Six Hours One Friday.” You can share Hope this Easter by sharing this blog and the accompanying video collection we title “The Hope Collection.” - Erick

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33

Life is hard. Everyone you know has gone through seasons of pain and uncertainty, and most will again. But does that mean that life is pointless? No!  Even in our darkest moments, God is working to turn our mourning into dancing.

We can’t avoid trying and difficult times, but we can choose how we walk through them. By choosing a posture of hopeful expectancy, we develop stamina and perseverance. Not only is this helpful for our own spiritual development, but it’s also a testimony to others who are watching us to see if the gospel is true. 

For moments when life is completely overwhelming, here are four stories to remind you that life isn’t futile, and that God can be trusted. 

1. The trials of Joseph 

Joseph’s older brothers despised him for being his father’s favorite, so they conspired to do away with him. After throwing him in a pit with the intention of leaving him there to die, his brother, Judah, realized that there was no profit in simply killing him. So they sold him to slavers. (Gen. 37)

He was sold to Potiphar, an officer of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and things started to look up. God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph, and Joseph was put in charge of his entire household. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife had designs on Joseph. And when her advances were spurned, she told Potiphar that Joseph had come onto her. Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. (Gen. 39)

Because of God’s favor, the warden put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. During this time Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's imprisoned cupbearer and baker. This led Pharaoh to have his dreams interpreted by Joseph. When Joseph warned him of an upcoming famine, Pharaoh made him the second in command of all Egypt. (Gen. 39–41)

Joseph's brothers were sent to buy food in Egypt, where Joseph was reconciled with his family and his position in Egypt was used to bless and protect Israel from famine.

Principle: Joseph’s early life was filled with suffering, but not because he made bad decisions. In fact, Joseph is one of the few biblical figures without a blemish on his record. He suffered because of the decisions of people around him. But through it all, he remained faithful to God, and God redeemed his sorrow and used his difficulties to bless others. 

Even when we’re being treated unfairly, we can choose a path of obedience and trust in God’s provision. 

2. The Israelites under Egypt 

Generations after Joseph, the Israelites had prospered and multiplied in Egypt. Afraid that they were becoming too powerful, the new Pharaoh made them slaves. Exodus tells us that under Egyptian oppression, the Israelites become even more numerous. The Egyptian response was disastrous:

. . . the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (Ex. 1:12–16, NIV)

In time, God raised up a deliverer named Moses. Brought up in Pharaoh’s own household, Moses was used to display God’s power mightily throughout Egypt. The plagues that Egypt endured were a testimony to God’s might, and the parting of the Red Sea was a compelling exclamation point. 

Principle: In the midst of difficult times, we need to remember that God is always at work. If we wait on him, He will deliver us in a way that proclaims his goodness and power. 

3. Hannah’s struggle with childlessness

In ancient households, a woman’s glory was tied to her ability to bear children. It was a great shame to be unable to provide offspring for her spouse—just ask Hannah. 

She was the second wife of a man named Elkanah, and the only one unable to conceive. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, used this fact to taunt and provoke Hannah for years. The shame of being childless combined with the behavior of her rival took an emotional toll. Hannah’s appetite suffered and she spent a great amount of time shedding bitter tears before the Lord. 

One day has she prayed to God, the priest Eli noticed her lips silently moving and assumed she was drunk. When he rebuked her, Hannah responded, 

“I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” (1 Sam. 1:15)

Eli blessed her, and she went away with her spirits raised and her appetite restored. The very next day she conceived a son who became the prophet Samuel, whose name meant “the Lord heard me.”

Principle: We all go through times when we feel hopeless, and that life is unfair. In those dark moments, we need to pour our hearts out to God and trust that he’s listening. 

4. Elijah and the widow at Zarephath

Elijah was sent to bring judgment to Israel. At his word, no rain fell for over three years. Toward the beginning, Elijah was sustained by a brook and food delivered to him by ravens. But over time, the brook dried up and God told Elijah to head to Zarephath where he would be supported by a widow. 

When he got to Zarephath, Elijah saw a widow out gathering sticks and asked her for some water. As she was going to get it, he called after her, “Can you bring me a little bread, too?” She informed him that there wasn’t any bread. She was just out picking up some sticks to take home and use to cook her and her son’s last meal. 

Elijah told her not to worry, and instructed her to go home and make a small loaf of bread for him and then make something for her son and her. He went on to tell her that the Lord had promised that the oil and flour would not be used up. 

She did as she was instructed, and Elijah’s words proved true. In keeping with Elijah’s prophecy, they lived off of that small amount of oil and flour for some time. (1 Kings 17)

Principle: When Elijah meets the widow, Israel has been in a drought for some time. His first request that she give him some water was pretty presumptuous. Seeing how she was out gathering supplies for her family’s last meal, it’s a wonder that she immediately went to get Elijah some water. 

In light of her revelation, Elijah’s request is crazy. The fact that he tells her to go inside and make him a loaf of bread before she attends to her own needs seems particularly galling, but it’s this widow’s kindness and faith that seems to facilitate this miracle. Because she generously responds to Elijah at every step of the way, God is able to bless them both.

Even in our darkest moments, our willingness to take care of others can be used by God to change our situation. 

The world is watching

As we walk through difficult times, it’s easy to take our eyes off Jesus. As soon as we do so, there’s an instant pull toward hopelessness. It’s in our darkest moments that we need to be focused on God’s faithful and generous character. 

Our lives are being watched by those who don’t know Jesus, and how we respond to trials reveals so much about where our hope and trust truly lie. When we endure adversity by displaying confidence in Jesus, we inspire faith in those around us. 

If you’re interested in encouraging others to hope in Jesus, please download a free copy of "We Are All Missionaries." This 4-week study is a profound look at what it means to share the gospel, and explores biblical examples of how to do it. It will galvanize your Bible study or small group to become bold in sharing your faith!

Erick Schenkel brings a range of experience to his role as Executive Director of Jesus Film Project®. Erick led a church-planting team that established a church and an elementary school in Massachusetts, USA, right after his graduation from Harvard College. While leading this church, Erick earned two masters degrees and a PhD from Harvard in the Study of Religion. During this time, he and his wife, Elizabeth, developed a desire to work in the Middle East.

Erick moved to Central Asia and was director of the non-profit organization, Partnership in Academics and Development, from 1999 until 2012, working in the fields of education and economic development. During that time, the Schenkels also worked alongside Jesus Film® teams in Central Asia. Erick took the lead in starting a Bible school and served as director of a movement of nationally-led churches. Erick then served for five years as Strategy Director for North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia for Campus Crusade for Christ. Erick became the third Executive Director of Jesus Film Project in March 2012, succeeding Jim Green and founder Paul Eshleman.

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